IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING DIET: The most important meal of the day is your POST WORK OUT MEAL. After you finish a strength training work out, you have what is called an “Open window of opportunity.” This window lasts 30 minutes. In this time period you must eat a quality meal, balanced with protein and carbohydrates. If you do not get this meal within 30 minutes (45 minutes max!) your muscles start to eat off other muscles to repair themselves. This is a break down process that we do not want to happen! Remember, you just tore your muscles down from strength training and now you must feed your muscles to help repair them. The benefits of strength training only occur AFTER the workout if rest and proper nutrition are taken care of.

Here is an example of what you want to do after your work out. Start by having a glass of juice to get some simple sugars in your body. A glass of apple, cranberry, grape, orange or raspberry juice will be perfect! This simple carbohydrate drink lets your body easily absorb some of the nutrients that have been drained from your body during the tough work out & kick starts the recovery process. Afterwards it’s time to sit down and eat your post work out meal. If you are far from home, pack food with you or have a protein shake ready to go. Get plenty of water to drink right now, as this is a key part of keeping your body systems moving smoothly & transporting the nutrients.

In addition, soda is just a bunch of empty calories and does nothing good for your body. Eat a small salad, a chicken breast, and a serving of rice (or another carbohydrate rich food such as pasta or a baked potato).

For the athlete in need of gaining more weight (often the case incoming high school wrestlers at a lighter weight class), eat a calorie dense post workout meal: -

  • Glass of grape juice
  • Steak
  • Baked potato Salad

This meal kick starts the recovery process by replacing all the nutrients that were lost from the work out and takes care of much of the recovery process. The next portion occurs during rest / sleep. If you skip this meal, your work out has just been wasted!! A sample for someone who is not close to home would be a protein shake mixed in water or juice, and having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread plus a piece of fruit. There are no excuses if you want to improve. So take nutrition & rest as serious as you take your wrestling and watch your gains improve at a much faster rate.

Some meal replacements that you can use are Lean Body or Myoplex. Try a few others out and see which has the best quality nutrition. Do not simply buy what is the cheapest. Many of the cheap ones have empty calories and a ton of sugar. Do not confuse a weight gainer for a protein shake or a meal replacement shake. So remember, learn to eat regularly, especially breakfast and post work out meal. These two meals are key and get you functioning at a quality level. Force yourself to rest in order to reap the benefits from strength training. Cycle the intensity of your workouts to keep your body responding as opposed to adapting to doing the same thing day in and day out. Never strength train two days in a row if you have just done a full body workout, unless you are performing a GPP day (again, lasting no more than 20 minutes). If you are still sore after a day of rest, then take another day off or perform some active rest activity which helps alleviate soreness and speeds up the recovery process.

Soreness is a sign of muscles that were torn down. This is resolved through rest, proper nutrition, and active rest. Active rest keeps the body active and moving. This helps loosen up the body and reduces soreness quicker than if you were to be a couch potato!

Laying around and doing nothing can prolong the soreness. Then again, if you were a couch potato you would not have purchased this book! Swimming, bike riding, GPP work or light drilling can all be of great help.

Mental Preparation

This is where many wrestlers fail to train. Perhaps I should simply say they do not know how to train their mind. Wrestling is highly psychological. I was always floored when I saw some major slackers place top 3 in the county and sometimes qualify for the states! On the flip side, I have seen some of the most dedicated, hard working wrestlers never make it out of the first round of the districts! The difference here was that one wrestler was confident in their ability and had no fear of losing. They went out on the mat and layed it all out on the line. The other wrestler placed insane amounts of pressure on him self & ultimately would perform at a level below their true potential.

Training your mind is equally important as it is to train your physical self. How can you train your mind? There are countless ways, and everyone must come up with a way that is good for them. Of major importance is letting go of your fear to lose. All the wrestlers lose, no matter how great they are. Once upon a time they lost, and sometimes when they are ranked as the best in the world they lose as well! If you can learn to approach each match knowing that you are going to fight for every inch of that mat you increase your chances of winning greatly. If you enter a match focusing on how difficult it will be & how tough your opponent will be then you are going to have a tough time capitalizing on your own ability & strengths. Start giving it all you have no matter who stands in your way. Someone has to be the champion, why should it be someone else?

Another factor regarding your mental preparation is being able to recover from a setback, which might include a loss when you were expected to win or perhaps an injury mid way through the season. I recall Dan Gable and his athletes getting very emotional when losing. Often times they would cry and be overwhelmed with negative feelings. If you lose in a big tournament you need to let any negative emotions work to motivate you, especially if you have a chance to return and place in that tournament. Focus on the negative too much & you will bury yourself in a hole so deep that you will not be able to get out & refocus your energy towards winning again.

I have watched state champs and national champs lose to relatively unknown wrestlers. How could this happen? Someone demanded more of themselves and took a stand to bull doze through any & all obstacles that stand in their way. First timers in the states pinning defending state champs or walk ons beating defending national champs are no longer a shocker to me. I have learned how powerful the mind can be and have witnessed some amazing feats by those who possessed a powerful attitude.

Champions have made a solid choice to become a champion. They train hard and they also believe in their ability to accomplish what so few can attain. The bottom line here is that you can train as hard as you want, harder than anyone else – go to a wrestling club all year, workout all year, etc – but, this will be of no use if you walk on the each time not believing in yourself.

Take a stand & blaze a winning trail for yourself. Only a few athletes can do this & you must have absolute belief in yourself. Confidence comes through training regularly, even daily! Visualize yourself achieving your goals every day. Put yourself on the line by competing regularly. Some athletes train very hard but avoid competition because of their fear of testing their abilities. Let fear work for you, not against you. Fear can help you perform at a higher level when you learn to control your fear. Make sure you train with wrestlers who are successful, drill with them at high intensities and push them so that they start seeing how hungry you are. Surrounding yourself with positive, motivated people will have a likening effect on yourself. Hang out with people who dwell on the negative & complain about everything will only bring you down and literally suck out all the positive energy you once had!

Create an environment that is conducive for becoming a champion! Leave no regrets to be had! The possibilities are endless if you so choose to take the path of being a champion!

THE TOP 5 BASIC FREE WEIGHT EXERCISES

The following exercises are the best for adding muscle mass, strength & power.

Exercises such as the dead lift or the barbell squat may be too difficult for a beginner due to weak muscles, especially the posterior chain. This can be corrected by addressing weak muscles and bringing them up to par with the stronger muscles when you first start a training program. Once you have brought up your weaker muscles (the posterior chain) you can then begin to regularly perform the top 5 lifts.

Make sure that you include unilateral training / exercises when focusing on weaker muscles. This helps shift a greater amount of stress to those muscles, forcing them to come to life!

Examples of unilateral exercises for the posterior chain can be:

1. walking dumbbell lunges (or bodyweight)

2. barbell or dumbbell lunges (forward or reverse)

3. barbell or dumbbell step ups

4. Russian Kettlebell swings w/ 1 arm

5. sled dragging with strap around weight belt (upright or forward lean)

6. Sand bag lifting – walking on flat terrain or up stairs

7. 1 arm DB row

8. 1 leg squat w/back foot elevated

Here are the top 5 Lifts:

  1. Deadlift (trap bar, straight bar, bent leg, sumo style or stiff leg (RDL – Romanian dead lift) – trap bar DL’s have shown to be easiest for young athletes to start with. Progress to a straight bar when form is perfect.
  2. Flat barbell bench
  3. Bent over barbell row
  4. Barbell squat
  5. Standing over head military press

These 5 lifts are basic and allow the athlete to attack a large number of muscles in a relatively short period of time. Training wisely means choosing exercises that allow you to get the most bang for your buck. This can also be called “training economy.” The beginner as well as the most advanced lifter can benefit greatly from these lifts. Learning to do them correctly is also a critical factor, as it is for every exercise. If you perform an exercise wrong, the benefit is wasted & you open yourself up for injury.

Once again, do not expect to start performing these exercises immediately. They will take time to build up to. I do not have my athletes perform a flat bench press until they can perform 40 perfect reps in the push up. The squat & deadlift take even longer for them to start doing because we focus big time on the posterior chain in the beginning, performing a lot of the unilateral lifts listed above.

One side not regarding the dead lift (DL); the beginner and intermediate benefit greatly by using a trap bar before using the straight bar. The trap bar will place greater emphasis on the glutes, quads, and hams – where as the straight bar places a lot of tension on the lower back. Mastering form is much easier using the trap bar and is a great alternative for the young athlete.

THE GOAL OF A STRENGTH PROGRAM FOR YOUNG ATHLETES

We want to reduce injuries, strengthen tendons and increase bone density. From here, we can progress safely and correctly. It is not necessary to go below 5 reps for young athletes. Unless on a bodyweight exercise like a pull up or dip and you can only do 2 or 3, that is fine. But, doing flat benches for 1 or 2 max reps is ridiculous and a waste of time and does nothing to improve your athletic ability. Always train with safety in mind. If you are unsure, seek the help of a professional and learn to do things correctly.

Why is reducing injuries the main goal? Simple. You can not perform or participate when injured. Reducing injuries is addressed by bringing up the lagging muscles and building a balanced physique. The use of free weights & BW exercises strengthen the bones, tendons & ligaments because they force the athlete to balance the weights or their own body while simultaneously pushing against a resisting load.

As I have mentioned previously, the young athlete who is new to resistance training can make improvements by following the simplest exercise programs. Make sure each workout is short & intense enough to reap the benefits, but not so grueling where you do not want to come back for more. I like to leave my athletes wanting to train a little bit more. This keeps them coming back with great energy each workout. A strength training program is not going to make you feel like you just finished a wrestling practice. We are training for strength & power, so the workout will obviously be different! Do not approach strength training like a marathon.

THE OLYMPIC LIFTS

A quick note on the Olympic lifts: they are very complex and difficult to learn. For a beginner and even an intermediate, they are not necessary. I would rather see beginners & intermediates performing the basic exercises, focusing on the top 5 lifts mentioned above as well as bodyweight strength exercises & kettlebells if you have access to them. In addition, the Olympic lifts are often done incorrectly by the young athlete and take a long time to learn. I would rather spend 45 minutes doing (dead lifts) DL’s, pull ups, push ups, barbell lunges, sled dragging and sand bag carries, as opposed to having a youngster learning the clean which could take 45 minutes.

If you have a solid year of strength training under your belt and have been receiving qualified coaching from a strength coach, then I would recommend practicing one Olympic lift as a warm up using the empty Olympic bar. Practicing the hang clean for 5 – 8 minutes is a great warm up and gets you focusing on form before piling on weights.

Often times I have noticed that for a young athlete, it is easier to learn the Russian Kettlebell lifts than it is to learn the Olympic lifts. Usually, the young athlete is too weak to properly do the Olympic lifts.

College athletes can begin using Olympic lifts. Still, even at the early college level, there are many athletes performing them incorrectly. Seek a certified Olympic lifting coach to get the best instruction here. This is key as they are very complex to learn!

A good warm up can be done using the empty bar, practicing the clean & jerk, or just the cleans for 5 – 8 minutes. This raises core body temperature and allows for the athlete to focus on form. As mentioned before, the Olympic lifts are out for a beginner, use them as a warm up for the intermediate, and if you have been training with weights for a few years, you can become trained in the Olympic lifts to do them properly. Still, you should stick to the other exercises listed in the manual. Why? Because too many young athletes and even coaches, have the athlete train too heavy on the Olympic lifts sacrificing form for technique. So before you do something, know why you are doing it & have proper coaching! The Olympic lifts are better suited for the college athlete, who is more advanced, and is being trained by a professional strength & conditioning coach.

Russian Kettlebells

The use of Russian Kettlebells have proven to be highly effective not only for my training my own athletes, but combat athletes world wide! The benefits of Russian Kettlebells are countless. They improve flexibility while simultaneously increasing strength & power. They also place heavy emphasis on the posterior chain which is a very weak muscle for all young athletes as I have mentioned before. Kettlebells will build what is called “functional” muscle. Often described as building “smart muscle” as opposes to beach muscles.

Anyone can learn to use Kettlebells, no matter how heavy or light, big or small you are, etc. A large factor that I love training with kettlebells is their versatility. I can take them to the park with me, the back yard or to a football field and combine them with sled training. The locking out of many of the movements help improve joint strength & stability making us wrestlers less prone to injury. And, as many of my athletes tell me, “These are fun!” They truly are. There is so much variety available with Kettlebells in addition to the unusual movements incorporated with them that all athletes remain stimulated physically & mentally.

In my DVD I did not show these exercises but I will explain them here. These are a few favorites that give an overall conditioning effect on the body. The Rack Walk: clean two Kettlebells to the shoulders, and walk with them. This exercise will put a lot of loading on the upper back and abdominal muscles. Overhead walk: Clean & press two Kettlebells overhead and walk with them. This exercise places you in a very vulnerable position. Vulnerable in a good way though! It strengthens the overall trunk as well as improves shoulder stability and flexibility.

The best way to see how great Russian Kettlebells are is to get your hands dirty and take a few lessons with them. It might take 2 or 3 classes to feel comfortable with them. After a few classes watch your strength, power & flexibility sky rocket!

No Rules Strength Training

These are some of my favorite workouts. I call them “No Rules” b/c I set no limits on the sets, reps, rest patterns, exercise selection, frequency of training, etc I am sure you get the idea by now. I have emphasized variety often times in this manual & this certainly applies to variety. Why else do I like No Rules training? It keeps training fresh & entices the athlete to want more. The total time of these training sessions often last 10-30 minutes.

These workouts lend themselves very well for wrestlers b/c they aid in the development of strength endurance & power endurance. To make things easier to understand, let’s jump in & talk shop. I might decide to use the double kettlebell clean, squat & push press. This can also be done one arm at a time. I will choose a moderately heavy weight, and do 2, maybe 3 reps. Put the weights down, rest approximately 30 seconds and repeat the same exercise for a total of 10 minutes, maybe even 20 minutes! Every minute my goal is to perform 2 or 3 reps. Your rest will obviously have to stay short to ensure you complete 2 or 3 reps every minute. After accomplishing your time goal, you can either finish the workout right then & there, or perform perhaps one or two exercises. An example here would be to go and do 5 non stop supersets of pull ups and dips for max reps. Or, I might perform 5 minutes of non stop sled rowing & pressing, alternating movements after doing 8 reps per set.

You can choose the reps to be 1 per set on your “main” exercise or up to 5 per set. I prefer lower reps here b/c I will go for an extended time period. Another idea might be to keep doing pull ups and chin ups until I have completed a total of 50 reps. Finish right then & there or maybe follow this up with farmer carry holding heavy dumbbells or pushing a heavy wheel barrow for 10 minutes w/some short rest to regain grip strength and catch your breath.

These workouts can be repeated for a few days or you might want to follow “No Rules” workouts for 5 days in a row, creating a new workout every day. Make sure each workout is short in duration to keep you mentally & physically feeling the urge to do more. A long work out is not a better workout. We want a healthy combination of quality & quantity.

As you can see, “No Rules” strength training can be very creative and can be done in a large variety of ways. Setting rules for a workout can cause mental limitations that lead to physical limitations. I spoke to a college strength coach and he told me about how he had some of his football players perform 50 sets of 2 reps of the hang clean using a heavy weight. This had to be done in 50 minutes (1 set per minute)! They were not done just yet though! After that they would perform 3 sets of sled pushing using a heavy weight, somewhere around 260 lbs. This weight was chosen b/c it was the average weight of a D 1 lineman! Talk about a tough workout!

Do you need to do 50 sets? No, but, you can create your own crazy workouts that are fun and challenging and will surely lead to gains in performance! I remember that when I would travel to my Grandparent’s & spend 1 month with them during the summer, there was no gym in site. Every other day I went to the playground & did anywhere from 15 – 20 sets of pull ups and chin ups. In high school I was able to crank out 30 pull ups in perfect form even when I weighed 160 lbs.

Create a few of these ‘No Rules” workouts and do this at least one each week.

Make sure that they are different in nature. Perhaps one workout revolves around Russian Kettlebells, another workout might revolve around sled training and another revolves around bodyweight exercises. I like to leave room for my athletes to be creative enough to do some training on their own as opposed to having me dictate every single workout and exercise selection for them.

As a coach, we do not want to run our athletes into the ground b/c this will make training a tedious task for them. Make it enjoyable, and this means finding the right balance between difficulty, duration and exercise selection so that each workout is fun for them. Remember, we want longevity with our athletes. We want them to come back and improve on a regular basis!

Training Like a Farm Boy

Training like a farm boy may not be the proper title. We can call this archaic training or gladiator training. This type of training builds serious strength, power, endurance & mental toughness! A lot of these ideas have come from watching The World’s Strongest Man competition as well as Larry Jusdanis, a strength coach in Canada who uses this style of training year round for his athletes.

This style of training is great for adding confidence in the wrestler, or any athlete for that matter. I encounter a lot of athletes who are very talented but lack the confidence because they know they are not physically strong. Moving heavy objects and straining yourself under tough conditions can have a dramatic increase in an athlete’s confidence.

The best part is that most of this equipment can be purchased from Home Depot or you can make them yourself. The pulling sleds I own were welded by a welder. You can always improvise, as this training is not supposed to be pretty. Making sure your equipment looks cool is the last thing anyone should care for.

Here is a list of equipment you can choose from. Once again, you can buy all, some, or none of this equipment. It all depends on your goals my friend.

  1. Work Gloves
  2. Wheel Barrow
  3. Sledge Hammer
  4. Pulling Sled (welded together or improvise by using an old snow sleigh)
  5. Heavy Duty Rope – 50 ft.
  6. Sand Bag
  7. Contractor Bag
  8. Army Navy Duffel Bag
  9. 2 Buckets
  10. Old Car or Truck Tire

Now, a lot of this stuff can be purchased for dirt cheap or often times for free.

Junk yards give tires away so they don’t need to pay recycling fees. A sand bag costs about $3. A 50 ft. rope from Home Depot will cost about $ 10. I’ve seen guys get behind a car while it is in neutral and push it across a parking lot! This built up their legs and shoulders and triceps tremendously! Carrying a sand bag up & down stadium stairs for one minute is an awesome overall strength & conditioning exercise. Pushing a heavy wheel barrow up a slight hill for 1 minute will work your entire body. The balancing of the wheel barrow will put extra work on your abs, shoulders, upper back and grip!

Farm boy style training should be creative & fun. It’s a great way to break away from the regular weight training that most people do. The movements also force the entire body to work together b/c you are involving so many movements at once: pushing, rotating, pulling, balancing, level changes, etc. Spending 10 – 20 minutes on these training methods will make you much stronger in a short period of time. So stop playing it safely, get out of the weight room, and get out to a field and tear it up!

There are sample programs in the workout section as well, just to give you an idea ©

DISCLAIMER: This post on our site is not responsible in any way, shape or form regarding any injuries that may result from following the training programs outlined here. It is advised that all readers get a full medical check up and clearance prior to performing this or any exercise program. The workouts listed may be too strenuous for some individuals and should only be done under the supervision of a trained professional.

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