Lifting for Wrestling

By Richard Choueiri

Wrestling is one of the most grueling sports in the world. To be competitive, wrestling athletes must not only be mat-savvy, but they should also be strong and agile. To build up their strength levels, wrestlers need to engage in weight training. If you have never lifted before, then it is best you stick to the basic compound exercises, which will allow you to work a large number of muscles simultaneously.


Walk into any gym and you will find a combination of barbell, dumbbell and resistance-machine equipment. Some gyms may also have cable-pulley systems, resistance bands and even kettlebells. For the purposes of your strength-building program, start off using just free weights and maybe a few machines here and there. Using primarily free-weight equipment will allow you to work the most muscles simultaneously and allow you to make the fastest gains in strength possible. This is because, unlike with machines, you have to stabilize the entire weight on each side of your body during each and every repetition, causing a lot more muscles to be activated and contract more forcefully.


Knowing that you should stick to free weights is not enough since you must perform the appropriate exercises to make the greatest strength gains possible. Powerlifting movements such as the flat barbell bench press, barbell back squat and barbell bent-leg deadlift should make up the bulk of your workout program. Other exercises that can benefit you as a wrestler are overhead barbell presses and bent-over barbell rows. Performing all five of these exercises will allow you to build strength from top to bottom since you will target all the major muscles of your body.

Sets and Reps

Doing a specific number of sets and repetitions is just as important as using free weights and doing the right exercises for achieving the strength gains you seek. During the first 2 weeks of your lifting program, do three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise. This is to accustom your body and muscles to the movements. Doing this slightly higher-rep number also will allow you to learn how to correctly do each exercise and build your motor skills for maximum results and minimal risk of injury. After the 2 weeks, lower the reps to six to 10. Do 10 reps during the first set, eight during the second set and then six during the last set, in an all out effort to reach muscular failure. In between each set, take a brief rest for up to 3 minutes so your muscles can recover.


Before each exercise session, perform a 10-minute warm-up. This cannot be stressed enough. Injury in the weight room will keep you off the wrestling mats and have you sidelined, wasting away precious practice sessions and possibly active competitions. But your risk of injury while lifting can be minimized if you just do a warm-up. Examples of warm-ups you can do include light jogs, jumping jacks, jumping rope, burpees or a combination of any of these, as long as the warm-up lasts no more than 10 minutes. After you complete your warm-up, do your workout and then finish off with a 10-minute cooldown, which should be something at low intensity, such as a slow walk. Doing this will cool your muscles and return your body to a more regular state.

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