I'd appreciate any help you can give me with programming for a high school wrestler. I know the basics like flexibility, core strength and stability and balance training. I also assume that multi-plane functional movements would help him. Can you give me any other advice or ideas or any specific exercise ideas?
Here are some thoughts and considerations for training wrestlers:
- Wrestling requires an incredible amount of anaerobic endurance, so plan your rest intervals and set durations to develop the appropriate energy systems.
- Absolute strength is also very important. Since you are dealing with weight classes, strength per pound of bodyweight is important. Train for absolute strength (if the athlete is developmentally prepared and healthy) and try to avoid adding excess body mass unless the athlete desires to change weight classes.
- A wrestler must be explosive in multiple directions, not just vertical. Training for increased impulse is also very important. Examine the athlete’s sport and determine what types of motions seem to be explosive (take downs, throws, lifts, repositioning, etc). Try to safely recreate these movements in the weight room.
- Strength endurance (static and dynamic) is important. Holds, bridging and other long effort “controlled” types of motions require the ability to control a significant amount of dynamic loading for extended periods of time.
- Most efforts rendered during a wrestling match involve a lot of rotation, are unbalanced and involve pushing or pulling a moving load. Be creative and recreate these types of efforts.
- There tends to be excessive spinal hyperextension in this sport. Make sure the athlete has appropriate core strength and mobility/flexibility.
- Three types of injuries are unfortunately common:
- Cervical spine injuries: Wrestling requires a lot of bridging, which places tremendous stress on the neck. These athletes must have strong balanced neck musculature that can handle shifting loading patterns, not just straight line forces.
- Shoulder subluxations and dislocations: These tend to happen during falls and wrenching activities while in holds. Therefore, stabilization under dynamic loads and explosive stabilization are important. (i.e., can an athlete land from an explosive knee push up and appropriately cope with the loading in the shoulders?). The athlete must have strong shoulder/scapular stabilizer and movers.
- Knee injuries: Whether it’s from a planted rotation during a throw, accepting a take down or a leg lock, there is a propensity for torque related connective tissue injuries in the knee. Although you cannot adequately train the knee to efficiently accept torque, you can condition somewhat using unilateral cable rows, presses and chops and unilateral med ball tosses and catches, along with general “proprioceptively” enhanced leg strengthen exercises.
Although not extensive, here is a short list of exercises I like to use with my wrestlers. For examples of some of these exercises, visit the PTN Exercise Library.
- Stability Ball Pike Push Ups - Assume a pike position with the feet on the ball and perform a push up using different hand positions (in-line, staggered, etc). You can also start in the bottom of a push up position and move into the pike.
- PB Hip Turns – Knees on the ball, hips flexed to 90 degrees, hands on the ground, rotate laterally until the thigh is on the ball. Return to start and repeat on other side.
- 1 Arm Rotational Body Row – Place a barbell in the rack at the athlete’s waist height. Have the athlete’s hand under the bar holding on with only one hand. With the knees bent to 90 degrees, the hips neutral and the supporting arm straight, have the athlete maximally rotate down with the shoulder of the free arm. Reverse and maximally rotate up while rowing the body toward the bar with the supporting arm. Slowly lower and repeat. You can move the feet out to make the drill harder.
- Stability Ball Lateral Rolls – Have the athlete assume a push up position on the ball with a neutral spine/pelvic alignment. Maintaining this posture (very important), have the athlete role the ball laterally five to 10 yards and back.
- Zercher Squats – Holding the barbell in the crook of the arms (at the elbow), have the athlete set the hips back and squat down. Once parallel (or more or less depending on mobility), round the back and take the shoulders in front of and between the knees (staying flat footed). Return to a neutral spinal alignment and stand back up. Repeat.
- DB Hand Walks – Assume a push up position on dumbbells. With the feet at approximately twice biacromial breadth, lift one dumbbell up into a full rowing motion without rotating the hips. Step over the opposite elbow and place the dumbbell on the ground in front of its starting place. Toe walk forward slightly and repeat on the other side. Cover five to 10 yards.
- Seated Barbell Rainbows – Start in a seated position, lean back, with the feet flat on the floor, knees and hips flexed. Hold the end of a barbell (on the sleeve) over head with the other end resting on the floor. Have the athlete rotate his shoulders, arms and end of the barbell down toward the ground on the side. Return to the top (under control) and repeat on the other side.
- Loaded Push Arch – Have the athlete assume a push up position. Manually apply pressure to the athlete’s shoulders. At a moderate speed, move the pressure around, changing the angle of your pressure. Have the athlete perform a push up. Keeping the athlete’s hands in place, have him step his feet one step to the side and perform another push up. This will place the athlete’s torso at an angle from the hand placement. Have the athlete step another step to the side and perform another push up (he may be able to do this three to four times) Stepping back one step at a time and performing a push up each time, have the athlete return to the center and repeat to the other side.
- Banded Sprint Starts – Attach bands (light intensity) to a low stable anchor. Have the athlete place the opposite ends of the bands over the shoulders like a back pack. Place a DB bench four to five feet in front of the athlete. Have the athlete assume a three point stance, explode forward one step and chest first onto the bench. Under control, he should slowly return to the starting position.
- Rope Pull Ins - Have the athlete sit and/or stand facing you. If he is sitting, you may want to place some heavy dumbbells in front of him for foot blocks. Using a 30+ foot piece of rope, have the athlete drag you in with a hand-over-hand rowing motion.
- Neck Drills - These drills are above and beyond the traditional weighted neck flexion, extension and lateral deviation exercises. Have the athlete lie supine on a bench or ball or hold a push up position, lateral pillar bridge, etc. Next, have him try to maintain a neutral neck alignment and a static body position while you apply force in changing directions against the sides, front and back of the head. Start with five second pushes and work up to half second pushes as the athlete demonstrates control. You should also push for random directions, not creating a pattern.
- Sandbag Work - Take an old green military duffle bag and fill it full of sand (according to desired weight). You can do some of the following or be creative and come up with some of your own:
- Bear hug the bag and perform squats, twisting squats, good mornings, lunges, twisting lunges, get ups, chops, etc.
- Straddle the bag, grab it with a hand on each side, squat, explode up, twist and throw it over the shoulder.
- Lay supine on the floor with the bag at arms length, bridge up and perform a bench press motion. Return to the start.
- Lay supine on the floor with the bag lying over head on the floor, bridge up and pull the bag to full arm extension over the chest.
- Lay supine on the floor with the bag at arms length, bridge up and move the sand bag in multiple directions.
- Start by hugging the bag and laying face down. Quickly turn over and pin the bag. Quickly reverse it back.
I highly suggest that you practice these drills and experiment some before you coach them (if you are not familiar with them).