This is meant to be an introduction to offseason strength building for high school wrestlers.

Note: you will need to adapt this to create a program that is right for you, based on the equipment you have access to, and the number of days each week that you can lift and wrestle.

Introduction to Offseason Strength Training for Wrestlers

  1. First, don’t do the same lift two days in a row. The muscles need to recover, and your program needs to follow a “lift/rest/lift” pattern each week.
  2. Focus largely on compound lifts: Bench Press, Squats, Pullups, Dips, Barbell Rows, Cleans, Overhead Press, and Deadlifts. 
  3. If you have an injury, MODIFY your lift so that you don’t feel pain. This means, if your knee hurts, you should NOT simply “lift through the pain” — focus on finding a range of motion and and angle that does not hurt, and if this is not possible, you may need to do a completely different lift until your injury is healed.
  4. Aim to hit the following lifting targets per week: 
  5. Bench Press 2x per week
    • Squat 2x per week
    • Deadlift 1x per week
    • Overhead Press 1x per week (you can rotate 2x per week on OHP and 1x per week on bench)
    • Pullups 2x per week (aim for 50 pullups per week spread across as many sets as necessary. Multiple hand positions. Add at least 1-2 pull up reps per week.
    • Farmers Walk 2x per week (work up to 50% of bodyweight) and aim for 2 minutes of walking.
    • Pushups 2x per week (aim for 400 pushups per week) – as many sets as necessary
    • Running: 1 mile at 7 minute pace 1x per week
    • Running: 3 miles at 7:30 pace 1x per week
    • Jump Rope: 250 jumps per day
  6. Note: you can alternate Dumbells and Straightbars for bench press to give variety. 
  7. For EVERYTHING, you should incorporate progressive overload. This means you should add 1 lbs to 5 lbs per week for your major lifts each time you lift (bench press, overhead press, deadlift, etc.).  OR you should add an additional set. This is why variety is helpful — you will have a different PR for each variation of the lift. You will not be able to lift as much with dumbells as you can with a straightbar, for instance. As you get more and more advanced, you’ll need more and more variation of movement. 
  8. Sets + Reps + Weights
    1. For week #1, everything should be 3 sets of 10. The weight should be light, but it will get heavy in the following workouts. Add weight the next session, but keep hitting sets of 10 as long as you can.
    2. For week #2, keep adding a little weight to the bar but keep the sets + reps to 3 sets of 10. 
    3. For week #3, keep adding weight – you are getting close to figuring out what your max strength is for sets of 10. 
    4. For week #4, you will likely need to drop down to sets of 8. This process is called “block periodization.” You start with sets of 10, and then over an 8-12 week period, you will go from sets of 10, to 8, to 6, to 4, and then perhaps to your sets of 3-2-1. This is a proven method for young men and women to get very strong in a short amount of time. 
  9. Listen to your body! It is critical to listen to your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.  Your plan may call for you to do a heavy bench press with a straightbar on Monday, but if your shoulders are sore, or your elbow is hurt, or your feeling bad, you may need skip bench that day, or lighten the weight and use Dumbells instead of the straightbar.  
  10. Rest times. If you are trying to get stronger, you should be taking 2-3 minute breaks in between sets if you need to. As the weight on the bar gets heavier and heavier, the rest times will matter more. 
  11. Nutrition.  The best things to eat for building muscle mass are: eggs, whole milk, red meat.  That said, the key thing is to eat lots of protein, as well as to maintain a slight caloric surplus. 
  12. Sleep. Sleep has a massive impact on all aspects of your performance. Do everything you can to maximize sleep. Many of the greatest athletes in the world get 8-10 hours of sleep per day. 
  13. Wrestle at least 1-3x per week. 2-4 days of lifting and 2-3 days of wrestling is ideal, but if you ONLY lift weights, your wrestling performance will NOT improve. Typically, wrestling 1x per week is sufficient to drive improvement, but the more time you can spend on the mat, the better. We recommend treating your technique training as the top priority, and then building a strength program around your practice schedule.