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Weight Training and Wrestling

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As a former college wrestler, I found weight training to be largely worthless and often detrimental activity during the season. What little strength gains were made (nearly impossible to do while on a measly diet) were more than offset by increased risk of injury and mental fatique/burnout. Additionally, when I would try to score during practice and failed, I wasn't sure if it was my technique that was poor, or because of the soreness from the 5 sets of leg squats from that morning's lift. Perhaps this is a better topic for another section, but I figured I would put this out there and see if any former wrestlers or coaches have had the same experience/thoughts.

 

Should I have titled this "Why I don't put much stock in weight training?"

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I'm no expert on this but from what I've read and experienced, for the most part you should only be lifting during the season to basically "maintain" what you gained during the offseason. Meaning two to three days a week. We didn't lift during high school season but we did during college. I believe most colleges hit the weight room during the season. I'd love to see some in-season programs that they use.

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On a related but separate topic, I wonder what is better, weight training, or bodyweight-based gymnastics and calisthenics training?

 

The Russians do a lot more of the latter than the former, while we as a country do much more of the former than the latter. The Russians don't just use calisthenics and gymnastics movements for warmups and conditioning as Americans do. It seems to me that's the core of their strength programs. I've met guys who came up through the Russian system that barely lifted by American standards but had really surprising functional strength, the only kind that matters in wrestling. Strict one-arm push-ups (especially for time), rope climbs, handstand walking and pushups, all types of pull-up variations, pistol squats, etc. are actually hard to do even if you can bench and power clean 300 lbs for reps.

 

I used to volunteer at a local HS and one of the assistants was a guy who placed at Russian nationals but never made the team, then immigrated to the US. This guy was built a lot like Aaron Pico's coach, lean and dense muscle, and didn't look particularly strong from a distance, but he had an insanely strong grip, brutal hips, and even at almost 50 years of age, he had a ridiculous amount of body control, i.e. he wasn't just strong, he was strong from every position: upside down, seated, from a tripod, etc. I could outlift this guy lb for lb by 25%+, but he was much stronger than me on the mat.

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Sounds like you were not doing the right weight training. I find it sad that some D1 schools are still doing the old school, bigger faster stronger weight training. This is the same stuff we were doing in the early 90s. We have learned so much more about athletic performance, especially in relation to combat athletes.

 

During the season weight training should focus on maintaining strength and increasing explosiveness. Things like power cleans, box jump, etc should be the focus. You are not trying to be a body builder. You are trying to be a wrestler.

 

Along those lines, the insistence on extensive running is ridiculous at best. Is it a cross country team, or a wrestling team? The wear and tear of the college season is enough without further breaking down the body with 5 mile runs.

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On a related but separate topic, I wonder what is better, weight training, or bodyweight-based gymnastics and calisthenics training?

 

The Russians do a lot more of the latter than the former, while we as a country do much more of the former than the latter. The Russians don't just use calisthenics and gymnastics movements for warmups and conditioning as Americans do. It seems to me that's the core of their strength programs. I've met guys who came up through the Russian system that barely lifted by American standards but had really surprising functional strength, the only kind that matters in wrestling. Strict one-arm push-ups (especially for time), rope climbs, handstand walking and pushups, all types of pull-up variations, pistol squats, etc. are actually hard to do even if you can bench and power clean 300 lbs for reps.

 

 

The Russians freestyle team warms up exactly like the USA freestyle team warms up. They dont do anything magical.

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Sounds like you were not doing the right weight training. I find it sad that some D1 schools are still doing the old school, bigger faster stronger weight training. This is the same stuff we were doing in the early 90s. We have learned so much more about athletic performance, especially in relation to combat athletes.

 

During the season weight training should focus on maintaining strength and increasing explosiveness. Things like power cleans, box jump, etc should be the focus. You are not trying to be a body builder. You are trying to be a wrestler.

 

Along those lines, the insistence on extensive running is ridiculous at best. Is it a cross country team, or a wrestling team? The wear and tear of the college season is enough without further breaking down the body with 5 mile runs.

 

I think you're right. It seemed as if many of the weight training coaches at the college level have been taught how to train the football team, and then take the same approach with the wrestling team. It's a different sport that requires different training.

 

It's not just the cc running thats ridiculous. The buddy carry stadium stairs could have been the most moronic training they ever put me through. I think my knees and lower back are still recovering, and in the long run I'm sure I will need some minor surgeries.

 

D1 wrestling is a grind. There needs to be some sort of balance between training hard and also having a functional body after graduation. Both of my head coaches in college had 10+ knee surgeries, and these were not old men either (20's and 30's).

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On a related but separate topic, I wonder what is better, weight training, or bodyweight-based gymnastics and calisthenics training?

 

The Russians do a lot more of the latter than the former, while we as a country do much more of the former than the latter. The Russians don't just use calisthenics and gymnastics movements for warmups and conditioning as Americans do. It seems to me that's the core of their strength programs. I've met guys who came up through the Russian system that barely lifted by American standards but had really surprising functional strength, the only kind that matters in wrestling. Strict one-arm push-ups (especially for time), rope climbs, handstand walking and pushups, all types of pull-up variations, pistol squats, etc. are actually hard to do even if you can bench and power clean 300 lbs for reps.

 

 

The Russians freestyle team warms up exactly like the USA freestyle team warms up. They dont do anything magical.

 

I don't really believe in warming up much, at least not stretching. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't studies show that stretching before exercise does not decrease the risk of injury. Additionally, I've read that static stretching decreases muscle strength and power. A light jog might be beneficial to get the heart rate up and blood moving, but thats certaintly nothing that couldn't be done through a light drill or some wrestling related exercise.

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On a related but separate topic, I wonder what is better, weight training, or bodyweight-based gymnastics and calisthenics training?

 

The Russians do a lot more of the latter than the former, while we as a country do much more of the former than the latter. The Russians don't just use calisthenics and gymnastics movements for warmups and conditioning as Americans do. It seems to me that's the core of their strength programs.

 

 

The Russians freestyle team warms up exactly like the USA freestyle team warms up. They dont do anything magical.

 

And where did I say they do anything magical or that different during warmups?

 

My point was not that they strength train during warmups. My point is that they do more bodyweight exercises for strength training. Obviously, nobody does their strength training during warmups, since warmups are meant to warm you up for the actual workout.

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Intensive yoga, I say! Nothing better for a wrestling body (nothing better for ANY body), and, oddly enough, Moza Fay is the only one that I know that does this.

 

I highly doubt that the claim, there is nothing better for any body than intensive yoga, is widely accepted, which is probably why it's not common among athletes, excluding Moza Fay. Why are you making such an unfounded claim?

 

Loving the Kenny Powers quote though Jaroslav. Wish I could leave work right now for Shabooms.

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I can't speak for most programs because I have no inside info but I do know Cornell lifts hard and HEAVY throughout the entire season and they always seem to wrestle exceptionally well come tourney time. I know this because Koll discusses it in depth in the inside the Cornell practice videos.

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I can't speak for most programs because I have no inside info but I do know Cornell lifts hard and HEAVY throughout the entire season and they always seem to wrestle exceptionally well come tourney time. I know this because Koll discusses it in depth in the inside the Cornell practice videos.

 

Yes, IMO, Cornell uses the best weight lifting science for combat athletes. They lift heavy weights for few reps and focus on explosive lifts (cleans, deadliest, etc). This is the currently accepted method for maximizing strength without adding unneeded size.

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I can't speak for most programs because I have no inside info but I do know Cornell lifts hard and HEAVY throughout the entire season and they always seem to wrestle exceptionally well come tourney time. I know this because Koll discusses it in depth in the inside the Cornell practice videos.

 

They could probably add mass and strength just by schlepping that team trophy around every March.

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It has been widely reported that Aaron Pico strength trains with E.J. "Doc" Kries. During the Cold War years Doc was allowed to travel into the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Turkey where he observed the best wrestlers & weightlifters in the world.

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There is a paradigm shift in wrestling. And proper strength training is proving to be necessary in this sport.

 

For too long, wrestlers have bucked any notion that scientific evidence is better than "wrestling is different." Look no further than my Iowa Hawkeyes. Those guys are behind the times in adding muscle mass. Its the great equalizer to the "Cut Weight" mythos. Because wrestlers have been so stubborn on the subject of strength training, "making the cut" has been ethos in terms of being a strength equalizer.

 

Is it no wonder Phil Keddy and Chad Beatty had their best seasons after lifting with football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle?

 

And guess what? Wrestlers SHOULD be lifting like the football team - only with less rest. Please refer to Nick Heflin. Didn't cut a pound, ends up in the national finals, and literally, is LESS THAN A SECOND away from a national title. The difference? He lifted with the football team (is now a strength coach for them) and applied it to wrestling.

 

The old ways of ONLY circuit lifting are being scientifically proven to do almost nothing for the sport of wrestling. Yes, it makes you tougher, yes you move those muscles and burn them out, and make your conditioning better. But it is far more important to lift, lift heavy, lift explosively and do it with less rest.

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