Incorporating weightlifting into a busy fighting season can be tricky and should be done with caution. A program designed to produce strength gains often involves heavy lifting and should include at least a few individual rep maxes as tests. Due to the high demand on the athlete’s nervous system and the potential for injury that comes with heavy lifting, this type of program should be avoided while in the midst of a strenuous competition program. Weight training programs during the fighting season should be used more to maintain muscle size and strength than to develop them. In addition to all the heavy lifting, building muscle also requires extra calories; most wrestlers try to get as skinny as possible during the season to gain weight and don’t eat to get bigger and stronger. In the off-season, wrestlers don’t have to worry about being a certain body weight, can eat whatever they want, and have more time to recover from heavy lifting. This is the best time to build muscle. To maintain muscles and stay in good condition, rep schemes for fight season weightlifting programs need to be higher; 8-15 with sets of 5 reps as low as they should be.
For a good and safe in-season weightlifting system for wrestlers, consider the ’30 Second Program’. This is a program that requires a fully equipped weight room, but does not rely on specific equipment. It is designed for a team of 6-10+ athletes to train all at the same time and should take no more than 30-35 minutes maximum. The program consists of a series of exercises, each performed at different stations in the gym. The athlete will perform as many repetitions as possible in a 30-second time frame and then switch to another station. Choose at least 6-8 stations for athletes to visit with minimal rest times between stations. The coach should use a stopwatch to time the 30-second intervals and tell the athletes when it is time to move on to the next stop. Athletes should be given just enough time between sets so that they are well prepared for the exercise they are about to perform. If there are more athletes than stations, add 1-2 non-activity rest stations for recovery time; however, no more than this will alter the conditioning aspect of the program.
One of the best things about the 30 second program for in-season wrestling is the fact that only light weights can be used. This reduces the pain factor (if athletes are in good shape) and virtually eliminates the chance of injury. The amount of weight used for each exercise should be something the athlete can do for 20 repetitions. Each round this number should get harder and harder to achieve, however the weight should stay the same throughout the cycle. If the reps drop dramatically after the first round, the weight is too heavy and needs to be lowered. This means that the athlete chose the wrong weight to start with or is seriously out of shape. The selection of exercises is also very important to make the program possible. If you want more conditioning, mix upper and lower body exercises in the same cycle. To build/maintain size and strength, separate upper and lower body exercises into their own cycle. Ideally, if you have chosen the correct exercises, participants should be able to perform a full cycle 3 times. This is a good volume for athletes who are in shape during the wrestling season.
For upper body day, choose opposing exercises so the athlete pushes one set and then pulls the next. For example, don’t choose two back-to-back bench moves; this will lead to burnout and the athlete will most likely not be able to get the correct rep scheme on the second exercise due to fatigue. Also, don’t schedule isolation arm exercises into the mix. The arms are small muscle groups, they fatigue quickly and will make the athlete too tired to complete more cycles of the program. Here’s an example of a good 30-second upper body program. With each athlete at a station, perform as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Hang Cleans (reps of 12, not 20)
Lateral laterals DB
Inclined DB Press
low cable rowing
As a warm-up, perform several sets of high reps on a bench, side lat, lateral push-up, or push-up with very light weights, training bands, or both. For lower body day, you can program various types of squat movements, however, only use the bar for one exercise if possible. Also, do not use any type of barbell deadlift in the program. Here is an example of a good 30 second lower body program. With each athlete at a station, perform as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Kettle Bell Front Squat (Front Squat Holding a Kettlebell or DB at Chest Level)
Deadlift DB (reps of 10-12, not 20)
Seated Band-Only Leg Curl (Seated Leg Curl Using Only One Training Band for Resistance)
Kettle bell swings
The 30-second program training can also be used for basic development. Choose exercises that include abs, obliques, lower back, and hips. Try to hit the core from numerous different angles for the best strength and performance result. With each athlete at a station, perform as many reps as possible (or for planks, hold) for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Hanging Leg Raises + Side Bends
Kettle bell swings
Side Bends DB (30 sec each side)
Mountain Climbers or TRX Pikes
Again, when choosing exercises to complement your program, avoid working the same muscle group (or a very similar movement) back to back. For example, don’t do Roman chair crunches and then rotate to another type of crunch that works the front abdominal wall again. Consider trying the 30 Second Program as a good safe lifting method during wrestling season. It’s also effective to use for strength training and to get in shape during a strength conditioning phase in your pre-season workouts.