WRESTLING: What to do in the Off Season

Unless you were at the state tournament this past weekend, your wrestling season has been over for at least a week. During this last week you could have spent your time doing any number of postseason celebrations. Eating large dinners with no concern about weight, staying up late and sleeping in later, as well as going straight home after school to relax. All that is good and necessary for the body and mind to regather themselves from the several long months of intense training. This time of rest does not last forever though. For you wrestlers who are serious competitors, chances are this feeling did not even last more than a week. You are already thinking about how to avenge losses, what camps to go to, what freestyle and greco tournaments you want to do, etc. This article will help you identify your weaknesses, find proper places to train, how to eat, and ultimately, how to make the most of out this offseason so you can be an even greater wrestler next season.

Before you even take your first steps back into the wrestling room, you need to clearly set and identify your goals. Visualize what you want to achieve next season. Maybe it is to stay on the Varsity line up, or never get pinned, or qualify for Masters. The goals you set for the next season, build the framework for how you tackle this off season. Do not go into the wrestling room without a purpose. Do not go into the weight room without a purpose. Set a goal, visualize yourself achieving that goal while you put in the work to get there.

  1. WRESTLE

The first thing you can always do to become a better wrestler is to actually wrestle. Get some friends who are experienced wrestlers together and wrestle at the park, or in the living room. Having a training partner you can practice technique with will make you both better and give you an edge against the competition. Practice all the moves you suck at or want to get better at. Look at technique videos and drill, drill, drill. Carey Kolat is a legendary wrestler and has a vast technique library on his YouTube channel.

Some schools have a wrestling club that practices and competes in the off season. I am located in Sacramento, and there is just about a wrestling club at every high school in the area. I am a strength and conditioning consultant, and JV wrestling coach for Roseville High School who has over the years developed a very experienced and large wrestling club that practices and lifts weights several times a week in the off season. If you are in the Roseville, CA area feel free to reach out to me on how you can join the wrestling club.

Another option is to attend wrestling clinics and wrestling camps. I had the pleasure of attending several camps and clinics over the course of my wrestling career. Some of my bread and butter techniques that I still use in BJJ today were learned at these clinics or camps. Camps and clinics do cost a decent amount of money to attend. If you don’t have to money, you can WORK. Working won’t kill you. If you are in high school, you are plenty old enough to get a job. Mow lawns, wash cars, walk dogs, etc. Someone is always willing to pay a young kid to do the work they are too old to do.

2. LIFT

In addition to refining your technique and wrestling more, you need to get stronger. No matter what your weight is, your skill level, win/loss record, you still need to get stronger. Mark Bell has a very famous quote that I wish I applied to my off season training. Bell famously says, “Strength is never a weakness.” You can never be too strong. Sure you can be short on conditioning, but you can never be too strong. Get STRONG. Lift heavy weights several times a week. Do squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pull ups, bent over rows, farmer walks, push ups, dips, etc. That being said, don’t skip out on your conditioning maintenance. Do some sprint intervals about 1-2x/week. Keep in mind how I said sprint. You wrestle for six minutes, not 30. There’s little need for you to go on these crazy long runs if your main goal is to get as strong as possible this off season. Do anywhere between 10-20 rounds of sprint work per workout/week. This is actually my favorite part of training wrestlers. My ultimate passion is to help them get stronger for the next season. I train wrestlers to become stronger and bigger season after season, while still being in a competitive weight class. Just like you should find a training partner to drill with, find a training partner to lift with. You can push each other and keep each other accountable to stay disciplined and train.

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You want to find a gym that has Olympic barbells and dumbbells of varying weights. Using only machines will never make you as strong as REAL weight. I have trained out of my garage for many years and I do not have any weight machines. I have barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, rings, pull up bars, bands, etc. All my clients use this equipment and get stronger. No machines needed. I am in no way saying machines are bad for you. Machines are great for other sports and training needs. But if you want to get strong, use the tools that give you the biggest bang for your buck.

I specialize in training wrestlers both in season and during the off season. For more information on programs, 1-on-1 and group training sessions at my facility, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com for schedule and pricing.

3. EAT

In addition to all the wrestling and lifting you need to be EATING. You are no longer in season so there is no need to stay in your weight class. Do not gain an excessive amount of body fat, but gain some weight. Put some some quality size and muscle. To do that you need to eat. You can’t build a tank out of aluminum foil, and you can not build a strong and powerful wrestler with junk food. Eat lean meats, eggs, drink milk, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit. Stay away from soda, breads, pastas, chips, fast food and processed sugars. It will take discipline. It will be difficult at first, but if you are serious about becoming a better wrestler next season, you will need to sacrifice things like junk food to do it.

When I train wrestlers in the off season, I also provide them specific nutritional guides to help them build the muscle they want to build, develop the conditioning they need, and put on the size they are looking for. For more information on eating clean for size and strength, you can look at some of my other articles in regards to nutrition, or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com for further questions.

With these three tips in mind, go attack and take advantage of this off season! I made the biggest improvements during the off season, not during the season. I made a lot of mistakes during my off seasons, which I will talk about in the next article. For more information on strength and conditioning for wrestling athletes, follow me on Instagram at @settlagestrength. To see my daily workouts and lifestyle focused around #dailydiscipline, follow my personal account @joshuasettlage.

For personalized wrestling training programs, nutrition guides for both strength gain and fat loss, 1-on-1 and group training sessions, feel free to email me at settlagesac@gmail.com for a consultation.

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My Three Favorite Back Exercises for Grapplers

The following are my three personal favorite exercises to strengthen and develop the back for grappling athletes. Let me make clear that these exercises are my favorite. This does not mean they are the only exercises I do for back. I utilize many different exercises for back (a full list of exercises will be at the end of the article), but of all of them, these are my favorites and why.

Pull Ups:

Franco Pull Up

The pull up is the king and staple of old school body weight wrestling training. Not only does is help establish grip strength (which is a crucial component of wrestling and jiujitsu), it requires you to be strong with your own bodyweight. This is very important when you are competing with other athletes who are competing at the same weight as you. The exercise is simple. Hang on the bar with both arms lock out, then pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Then lower yourself ALL the way down. There’s one correct pull up. Pull ups help develop the lats which make up the major vertical pulling muscles in your back. I know what you’re thinking, “When am I ever going to do a pull up in competition?” How about a snap down in wrestling? Since last i checked there was no “snap down” machine at the gym, pull ups are the next best developer of the muscles used to pull things down, and or close into your body. You can add these at the end of your workout, or if you have a pull up bar set up in your home, every time you walk by you can bust out 5-10 pull ups.

Sample Pull Up Finisher:

5 sets of sub max reps (if you can do 10 max, only do 7-8)

Deadlifts:

franco deadlift

If the squat is the greatest strength building exercise, deadlifts come in a close second. Deadlifts assist in strengthening your posterior chain (the chain of muscles running from the base of your neck, down to the bottom of your hamstrings). A strong posterior chain, traditionally means a safe back. When you’re in your wrestling stance, or in constant flexion having someone in your guard, or being in someone’s guard, having a strong posterior chain will protect your back. Deadlifts are also a great measure of strength. For grappling athletes, if you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight, and your opponent can only deadlift 1.5x his bodyweight, you are superiorly stronger. With all the lifting, throwing, and tossing in wrestling, the deadlift will help you handle your opponents with ease all while still being able to protect your spine. Take folkstyle wrestling for example. Say you start on top in referee’s position and your opponent is quick to stand up. If you want to pick him up and return him back to the mat, you need to lift him off balance and off the ground. The deadlift in all variations is just that movement. The practice of picking up objects (barbells, DB’s KB’s, atlas stones, sandbags, etc.) off the ground.

Sample Deadlift Workout:

One of the easiest ways to incorporate deadlifts into your strength training is a simple, 5×5 set up. Starting at one day a week, do five sets of five reps for deadlift and try to make each rep with perfect form, slowly adding weight each week. This works with both sumo and conventional stance.

Bent Over Barbell Rows:

Franco Bent Over Row

I should preface this by saying, any horizontal rowing motion is a fantastic exercise for the back in regards to grappling. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be the bent over row. The bent over row not only focuses on strengthening the muscles of your back responsible for pulling things to you in a horizontal plane, but also requires you to stay tight and in good position. This activates the muscles of the lower back isometrically (staying in a static position), and works the rowing muscles of the upper back, both eccentrically (lowering of the weight) and concentrically (actually lifting of the weight). Bent over Rows can be used with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sand bags, etc. You can ever do them on a elevated surface to let the weights down even lower to get a stretch in the muscles during the eccentric portion of the lift. Not only is this exercise for back development, but also helps eliminate imbalances in the back. I see a lot of people do a lot of vertical pulling (pull ups, lat pull downs, etc.), and not enough horizontal pulling exercises. Imbalances in the body lead to injury and time away from rolling.

Sample Bent Over Row Workout:
Superset:

Any Chest Exercise: 4×6-8

Bent Over DB Row: 4×6-8

This can be thrown in at the beginning of a chest and back workout.

You can also apply the 5×5 method to the bent over Row to focus more on developing strength in the mid and upper back.

Current List of Back Exercises I’m Using Right Now:

Pull Ups (Use many different grips)

Deadlifts (Conventional and Sumo stance)

Goodmornings

Bent Over Rows (DB, KB, and Barbell Variations)

Banded Reverse Hypers

GHR (Weighted and Bodyweight)

45 Degree Back Extensions (Weighted and Bodyweight)

Seated Rows

1 Arm DB Rows

RDLs (DB’s, KB’s & Barbell Variations)