If you want your strength to increase you need to grow your muscles. To grow your muscles you need to put them through stress. Wrestlers want strength with as little bulk as possible unless going up a weight class.
If you are a wrestler or just an athlete you want the exercises you’re doing to involve as much of your body as possible. Leave single or small muscle group workouts to the bodybuilders whose most athletic move is a pose. We need our bodies to be strong in dynamic motion.
In general, the more strength that is developed the more size that will be added to you frame. But building muscle for strength is very different that building it for size and show. Everyone is different but it has been my experience through the last couple of decades that the more intense (less time between a lift) the workout the more strength (mental & physical) is gained with the least amount of bulk.
Here is a simple way to think about the type of lifting that you’re doing. I’m a fan of the Kettlebell but many of you are resistant. For people using bars this is a quick guideline.
- Build muscle mass 4-6 sets x 8-12 reps
- Strength gain 3-5 sets x 4-6 reps
- Power gain 3-6 sets x 1-3 reps
- Endurance/cardio 2-4 sets x 15+ reps
I think that High Intensity Varied Exercise give the best general benefits to building strength and Kettlebells fit nicely into this approach.
There are other factors involved as well. You should be training in cycles or periods. Looking for a type of peak at the end of each cycle. I don’t think that it’s possible to be at peak strength at the end of a wrestling season. There is too much other stuff that needs full attention and wears a wrestler down. Peaking strength prior to the season and then trying to maintain during the season is more common. I can hear you saying what about Kyle Snyder. Yes, senior level and pro athletes have much more time on their hands and can be more aggressive during their seasons.
If you do only 50 pushups a day for a year you will not be as strong after the year. The body gets used to it and adjusts and cheats; it knows what’s coming so that it doesn’t have to think/adjust and therefore it doesn’t have to work as hard.
There are so many factors that affect how effective your training is: body type, metabolism, nutrition etc. Here is a catalog of things that have worked for people who have built muscle successfully
- They added weight to the bar or bell, increased total volume, and approached failure with their training. Going to failure seems to have a greater impact than the amount of weight that you are lifting in gaining strength.
- They did years of regular weight lifting, not just prior to the season or only when they felt like it.
- They trained with intensity. Short intense workouts are far more productive than extended leisurely workouts.
- People have changed up their program over time to address weak areas, injury or to help more specific wrestling styles. The change in programs or focus helps to provoke new muscle growth. It also helps to avoid mental and physical ruts, injuries, growth and body acclimatization. High Intensity Varied Exercise is my highest training standard.
- They track their growth and can tell you specifically the kind of changes they experienced since they started. Not just numbers increasing on the kettlebell or bar but how the growth has helped them on the mat.
A word on intensity. The shorter your rest period between sets the better the cardio benefits but also the easier it is to get to failure. Supersets: 2 or more exercises that focus on different parts of the body done with little rest between them have shown the highest level of benefit to wrestlers. A 6-minute superset during the season is a great cross strength and conditioning activity. It pushes mind and body to a high level, failure and doubt. Off season it is a great way to stay fit with only a small window of time needed. The mental toughness to do these types of sets sharpens every wrestler mind that I’ve ever worked with.
Go get some.