Knowing how to train in-season will mean more wins

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Updated: December 7, 2021

Photo: The Power Clean is one of the exercises that could really be beneficial during an early-morning workout. (Zach Even-Esh photo)

By Zach Even-Esh

There is a massive mental component to training because it boosts confidence tremendously for the wrestler. 

With the college season fully in swing and high school wrestling about to start, I will break down how to organize your in-season training. 

At the college level, I worked with starters twice a week and the redshirts / non-starters three times a week. At the high school level, training once or twice a week is best. The advantage to college athletes is we separate the strength training from wrestling by training in the morning. 

In high school, our wrestlers go home after practice for a quick bite to eat and a shower, and then we train 30 to 45 minutes depending on the intensity of their high school practice. Some of our wrestlers come from very competitive high school programs where the coach also incorporates a lot of running and live wrestling. The more volume they experience at school, the more we adjust training volume when we train them at The Underground Strength Gym.

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Conditioning is not something we address in season as the best conditioning is wrestling practice. Adding more conditioning on top of conditioning is a recipe for getting wrestlers weaker. Instead, think about aspects that need to be addressed in the weight room that are not addressed in wrestling practice. 

A common misconception is that strength training will cause the wrestler to build muscle in season, making it difficult for him/her to make weight. This is never a problem as the wrestler is consuming less calories in season, burning a ton of calories through practice and the volume of training is not enough to build size. In addition, we don’t do higher reps often enough in season as this is already worked through drilling and live wrestling. 

Here is a sample high school training session for the in-season, to be performed after some calisthenics and light dumbbell / kettlebell work:

1A) Zercher Squat 4 x 4 / 1B) DB Snatch 4 x 4 / 4

2A) DB Floor Press 3 x 8 / 2B) Rope Climb or Weighted Pull-Ups 3 x MAX 

3A) DB Row 2 x 8 / 8 / 3B) Bulgarian Split Squat 2 x 8 / 8

4A) Sled Drags 2 x 100 ft / 4B) Farmer Walk 2 x 100 ft 

In between exercises, we perform various abs and band shoulder health exercises. For the college wrestler, we have a bit more volume and intensity. And even though the wrestlers train in groups, I like to individualize the training within the groups. This is done with slight changes for the heavier/bigger guys who might want to lift heavier. Sometimes lighter guys like to train for speed so we might add jump/plyometric variations as well as medicine ball throws for power. 

Here is a sample college wrestling training session which would be done in the morning, approximately six hours before wrestling practice. 

1A) Power Clean 3 x 3; 1B) Speed Pull-Ups (Chest Touches Bar) 3 x 3; 1C) Squat Jump Holding Light Dumbbells 3 x 3 

2A) Sumo Deadlift 4 x 2 / 2B) Flat DB Bench 4 x 6

3A) Med Ball Rotation Throw 2 x 8 / 8 / 3B) Back Extension 2 x 8 

For both high school and college athletes, I let them finish with extra work of their choice. This might be arms, grip, stretching/recovery work, etc. The key is to teach the wrestlers how to manage themselves and then guiding them in the right direction. 

As a final word, I’d like to share my experience with training wrestlers for 20-plus years now. The wrestler who consistently avoids in-season strength training OR trains incorrectly, most often will consistently fall short of winning during the toughest matches when it really counts. 

(With 25 years experience, Zach Even-Esh is a strength and performance coach in New Jersey, the founder of The Underground Strength Gym and author of The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength. Zach also serves as a consultant for coaches and teams who seek elite performance. You can connect with Zach at https://ZachEven-Esh.com and @zevenesh on social media.) 

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