We have made it to October and many athletes are beginning to transition into winter sport mode and the start to their wrestling season. A majority of our wrestlers have been competing in other sports or activities during the summer and fall and now need to start spending some time getting ready for the specialized demands of the wrestling season. I have a few tips on how to best prepare for the start of the season that will ensure the athlete is ready to go when the full practice schedule gets started.
Strength and Conditioning:
Hopefully, your aerobic base is relatively set from summer and fall work, but all athletes should use this time to start working their muscle endurance systems. Priority should be given to longer sets of exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges, and running or conditioning activities in 2-3-minute bursts. Athletes should continue to work on strength, power, and explosive training on a regular schedule, but volume work in October and November should be a priority.
Wrestlers also need to prepare the body for some of the isometric demands of wrestling (maintaining position, stance, or base building). Some specific time should be spent on plank holds, flex arm hangs, wall sits, or yoga poses. Distance or time-based animal movements like bear crawls and crab walks are great tools for building isometric, core, and positional strength.
Wrestlers should also specifically focus on neck strength and flexibility during this time of year. When practice starts postural demands of the stance, coupled with constant pulling on the head, can cause stiffness and soreness, if an athlete is not properly prepared for this time of year. Various bridging activities, and isometric band work should be used on a regular basis to build appropriate strength levels for the sport.
Athletes should begin spending time on the mats or at home working on the array of shadow drills that are staples of practice during the season. These would include:
- Stance, motion, and body fakes – focusing on direction changes and circling.
- Penetration steps – with assorted simulated set ups and finishes
- Down blocks and sprawling
- Base building and knee slide drills for recovering from belly on the mat positions.
- Hip heists
- Stand ups, sit outs, rolls, Granbys
- Assorted gymnastics
- Assorted Calisthenics
- Combo of all the above
Parents and coaches can really help in calling out specific shadow drills for the athlete to complete during set periods of time. Athletes should perform a mix of perfectly executed holds at slower speeds and should also work on their shadow drills at full speed.
When in the wrestling room for open mats specific work should be spent on generalized technique work focused on attacking and defending body quadrants:
- Attacks to an opponent’s Right leg (both head inside and outside)
- Attacks to an opponent ‘s Left leg (both head inside and outside)
- Defending your Right leg (both head inside and outside)
- Defending your Left leg (both head inside and outside)
- Missed shot positions (both offense and defense)
- Top and bottom positions focused on specific situations
Here is a sample of an at-home workout that can be used as a training template for wrestlers of any age:
Warm up – 10 minutes. Combo of general running movements with calisthenics.
- Jog 25 yards – 20 jumping jacks
- Backpedal 25 yards – 20 air squats
- High shuffle facing left 25 yards – 5 squat jumps
- High shuffle facing right 25 yards – 5 squat jumps
- Kareoka shuffle – 10 Burpees
- Sprint – 25 yards x 2
Muscle Endurance circuit
4 rounds for time of:
- 15 pull ups
- 25 push ups
- 35 air squats
- 25 sit ups
- 15 Superman’s
Shadow Drills (focus on maintaining stance and not coming out of position)
- 2 x 3 min go’s at 50% speed
- 3 x 2 min go’s at full speeds
- 2 min of static bridging or banded neck work
- 2 x 1 min of plank holds (prone or use gymnastics tabletop position)
- 2 by max effort flex or extended arm hangs (on bar or rings). This will work grip strength.
Other pre-season considerations:
- Bodyweight – all wrestlers should get an idea of their current weight and restarting the habit of regular checks.
- Training Gear – Don’t wait until practice starts to get new shoes, headgear, or knee pads. They should be purchased now and adjusted for size. Spend some limited practice sessions in your new shoes in order to minimize chance for issues when practices fully start.
- Physicals (if required).
If you are competing in another sport that will overlap with wrestling, make sure you talk to both coaches to ensure priority practice and competition scheduling that works for your family, your priorities, and the needs of both teams.