12-Week Periodized Training Programs for Wrestling
Wrestlers follow a periodized training program in order to prevent plateau and to peak athletically at the right time. Instead of completing the same type of workout day in and day out, a periodized program is broken up into separate phases, with each phase focused on one particular training goal. Muscle-building is the main goal. Building strength in the newly-acquired muscle and eventually building power so that the wrestler has more athleticism when it’s time to compete on the mat are other aims of this exercise strategy.
The off-season for wrestlers is a time to increase muscle mass and recover from any injuries they may have suffered during competition. Training during the season is limited, so it’s likely that the wrestler has lost some muscle during competition. Wrestlers aren’t interested in building significant amounts of mass; the focus is on weight class and the competitive benefit of being lean. However, for the first four weeks of the training program, focus is on building some muscle size. Three days of full-body workouts are scheduled per week, with each workout consisting of exercises that are done for two to three sets of eight to 10 repetitions. This is often referred to as the hypertrophy training phase.
For the following four weeks, focus is on taking that newly-acquired muscle mass and increasing its force production for strength. As a result, workouts continue to be focused on the full-body and are scheduled three days per week, but training volume decreases and intensity increases. Two to four sets of each exercise are completed, with each set consisting of six or fewer repetitions. Because you’re only doing up to six repetitions, the amount of weight lifted increases, which in turn builds strength.
By the time you hit week nine, you’ve built a strong foundation of muscle and strength. It’s time to then make your training more sport-specific to wrestling. Wrestling is a power sport that requires athletes to perform movements with explosiveness. Therefore, the last four weeks of a wrestling periodized training program are considered the power phase. Primarily all of the exercises should be done explosively. For example, squats, which would be done slowly and under control during the hypertrophy and strength phase, now involve lowering down slowly and then exploding up out of the squat as fast as possible to build power in the glutes, quadriceps and calves. Workouts are scheduled twice per week with two days off in between each session. Exercises are done for a volume of three to five sets of one to four repetitions each. Plyometric exercises, like squat jumps, bounds and box jumps, are also incorporated into workouts in the power phase.
The periodized training program for wrestling is structured in a particular order and it’s important to follow the program to maximize benefits and prevent injury. You wouldn’t want to jump right into the power phase without first building muscle and strength. The weight training exercises that wrestlers should incorporate into their periodized program should focus on full-body, compound movements. Quality exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press, lunges, pull-ups and squat to push press.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.