Functional Power Training For Wrestlers by Jason Hanisak

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Over the past eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to train with many different athletes from all over the country who come from many different backgrounds and all different skill levels. The one thing that seems to remain the same is the common training mistake that many high school and college athletes make time and time again. For some reason, everyone wants to train like a bodybuilder.

As much as I admire bodybuilders for their hard work and dedication, I understand that their goals are different than that of a conventional athlete. And the difference is this. A bodybuilder trains the muscle. He trains for muscle size and symmetry. An athlete needs to train functional movement. The goal is to enhance sports performance. What can I do to make myself better at my sport? A wrestler is not a bodybuilder, and therefore, should not train like one.

As a strength and conditioning coach for college wrestlers, there are four goals that must be accomplished with my strength training program. These goals include:

            1. Increase maximum strength

            2. Increase explosiveness

            3. Enhance functional movement

            4. Prevent injury

As a professional powerlifter and world record holder, I understand that the best way to increase maximum strength is by training with a basic powerlifting routine. My training program incorporates maximum effort lifts and dynamic effort lifts for the main movements. These exercises are done in the 1–5 rep range and are performed explosively, usually between 70–80 percent of a max. The assistance exercises are done for higher reps in the range of 8–15 (but sometimes as high as 50) in a steadier pace to incorporate endurance into the program. A good powerlifting program must incorporate all aspects of strength in order to achieve absolute strength. Every week, the exercise, weights, and reps will be different because change is the key to any strength training program. Once the body starts to recognize something as routine, it will no longer respond in a positive way.

 

Explosiveness is achieved in two ways. The first is through the dynamic effort lifts of my powerlifting program. The second way I train for explosiveness is by incorporating plyometrics into my programs. For example, I may have the team do a round of box jumps or long jumps for 3–5 repetitions. The key is to keep the repetitions low so that each one is very explosive. Once the speed of the movement begins to slow down, it defeats the purpose of the exercise. The purpose of the dynamic effort exercise is not to wear the muscle down but to train it to be explosive. If the athletes feel worn out after the workout, they have done too much.

Once you have achieved maximum strength in the weight room, you must then be able to apply it to the wrestling mat. This is done through functional training. Enhanced functional movement is achieved through exercises that relate directly to the movements that my wrestlers will use on the mat. Wrestling involves a lot of core movement, especially in the hips. To improve strength in this area, we do a lot of medicine ball work. Woodchoppers are not only a great way to increase functional strength but can also act as a good warm up.

Another exercise I like is tossing the medicine ball against the wall from a side stance. This is great for increasing the effectiveness of takedowns from the tie up position. Another favorite of mine is the reaching lunge. Sometimes we will use light dumbbells and other times we use just body weight. We will do 3–5 alternating lunges, touching down in front of the toe on each one and then lateral lunges for the same number of reps followed by a set of reverse lunges. If we do that exercise on day one, then for the next strength workout, we might do walking lunges with a twist while holding a medicine ball (rotating lunge). Any type of rotational movement is great for wrestling-specific training programs.

Last, but certainly not least, is the most important part of our program—injury prevention. Our wrestlers can be the strongest, most explosive in the country, but if they are injured, they can’t compete. Don’t get me wrong. All wrestlers are a little banged up when they compete. However, I’m talking about preventing serious injuries that could keep them off the mat. The way I go about this is again by using functional training techniques but in an unstable environment. A very effective exercise for injury prevention is the one-leg squat. Not only does this exercise increase functional strength, balance, and stability, but more importantly, it strengthens the stabilizers in the ankles, hips, and knees. They are very common areas of injury in wrestling. When using exercises like this, an athlete is 50 percent less likely to become injured, and if they do happen to get injured (because it is always a possibility), their recovery time is more than twice as fast as those who are not involved in functional training.

Now, let’s take a look at the program. An off-season program is typically three days per week of total body workouts. Two days are strength and one day is for speed work. Here are some examples of the lifts we use:

Strength day #1

Main lift #1: Pick one

  • squat (any variation)
  • deadlift (any variation)

Main lift #2: Pick one

  • bench press (any variation)
  • push press

Choose three assistance exercises:

  • dumbbell row
  • lat pull-downs
  • rotating shoulder press
  • one-leg deadlift

Speed exercises include:

  • cleans
  • snatches
  • box squats
  • box jumps
  • long jumps
  • chest pass with medicine ball

Remember, every athlete has his own individual strengths and weaknesses. Typically, every wrestler who comes into our program is coming with a different level of experience with strength training. It’s very important that each wrestler be evaluated on an individual basis and his program is based on that evaluation. The basic format of the program remains the same, but what works for one will not always work for another. The best way to decide how to train your wrestlers for strength and performance is to sit down with all the coaches and discuss the areas that each coach feels needs improvement. Once you figure this out apply some functional power training to your plan and watch your wrestlers dominate the physical end of the sport.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.









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Submitted by DMorgan on Fri, 04/25/2008 - 11:59am.

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