Wrestling is a combat sport in which two opponents with the help of different grappling techniques like throws and takedowns, clinch fighting, pins, and joint locks try to obtain and maintain a superior position (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014). Wrestling is a form of ancient martial art that was very popular in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. It is believed that the ancient Greeks developed wrestling in order to prepare soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. After the Greeks were defeated by the Romans, wrestling was borrowed by the Romans who modified the sport by eliminating much of the brutality of the Greek way wrestling. With time, wrestling spread across nations evolving into different styles and became very popular in Japan, France, and England (Athnet, 2014). The American settlers continued with the wrestling traditions even after they migrated to the USA from England. Today, many forms of wrestling exist in the world. The rules and scoring systems in wrestling vary from one regional variant to another. Some popular wrestling kinds are Greco-Roman wrestling, Sumo wrestling, Catch wrestling, Professional wrestling and collegiate wrestling (Dale, 2014). Collegiate wrestling is a very popular amateur wrestling played at the college and university levels in the USA. This essay will discuss the importance of speed in wrestling, various types of speed workouts and chalk out an 8 week long speed training program for the wrestlers.
Before moving onto the discussion on collegiate wrestling, it is important to know about the basic styles of wrestling that are in use today. There are three very basic styles of wrestling; catch-hold, belt-and-jacket, and freestyle. In catch hold wrestling style, participants need to take prescribed hold before the beginning of the combat, and often this hold must be maintained through the whole duration of the combat (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).
Catch-hold wrestling (Mysnyk, 1994)
In belt and jacket wrestling style, the clothing of the participants is the main means of taking a hold on the opponent.
Belt and Jacket Wrestling (Dale, 2014)
In free styles of wrestling, the wrestlers remain separated at the beginning of the combat, and they have the freedom to seize any grip they prefer except the forbidden grips such as using a life-threatening grip like stranglehold or taking hold of the clothing of the opponent (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).
Freestyle Wrestling (Dale, 2014)
Collegiate wrestling is an amateur wrestling style practiced at the colleges and universities in the USA. Collegiate wrestling follows the style of freestyle wrestling, though it is slightly different from the freestyle wrestling played in the Olympic Games in terms of the scoring systems. The ultimate goal in the collegiate wrestling is to pin the opponent down to the mat, and that will result in an immediate win. This wrestling style allows the use of the legs of the wrestler himself or of his opponent in offense and defense. The four moves that are used in collegiate wrestling include 1) basic skills in which the seven basic skills of proper stance, movement, level change, penetration, back step, back arch and lift are used; 2) take-downs in which the techniques of double leg, high-crotch, and single leg are used; 3) escapes and reversals, and 4) breakdowns, rides and pins (Mysnyk, 1994).
The Importance of Speed
In order to excel in this sport, it is important to develop an accuracy of the techniques used. However, once the techniques are well-learnt, it is important to put more focus on increasing the speed of the movements rather than maintaining the accuracy of the techniques, because in the intense level of physical competition such as wrestling, developing mastery of accurate techniques is not enough. It is important to nurture a blend of optimum physical strength, superior speed, physical endurance, technical skill and mental fortitude (Kelliher, 2014). In wrestling, it is impossible to win against an opponent, especially if the opponent is heavier and stronger, by trying to match his strength or use techniques that involve strength primarily. In order to defeat an opponent, regardless of how heavy and strong he is, it is important to obtain a superior level of speed and technical skill to give more forceful takedowns and holds the opponent will not be able to counter.
Since collegiate wrestling is a grueling type of sport, it requires a balanced combination of athleticism, conditioning, discipline and technical ability (Kelliher, 2014). If the wrestler lacks in one area, then he will have his weakness quickly exposed to the opponent on the mat. If the opponents are even and equal in all the parameters, speed could be an advantage to break the draw. Because of this, speed workouts are very important for the collegiate wrestlers. According to Carl Adams, a wrestling coach, speed training programs are the must-have in the workout regimes of a college wrestler. The seven wrestlers, who were chosen for 2004 US Olympic Freestyle Team, were the fastest wrestlers of that time in the USA (Kelliher, 2014).
According to Adams, the wrestlers trying to work on their speed must focus on timing, positioning, power, anticipation, coordination and precision technique in training. If the functional strength and power can be increased, then that will automatically translate into an increased level of speed. If a pre-wrestling training routine consisted of pushups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, plyometric jumps and core-stabilizing exercises can be incorporated, then that will condition the wrestler's body to support itself through awkward positions and make it maneuver into any position (Kelliher, 2014).
Shadow drill is an important part of the training program. In a two hour practice, 7-14 minutes would be for shadow drilling. Shadow drilling is very useful for developing skills, speed and conditioning. It teaches the wrestler to control his body. According to Kendall Cross, an Olympic gold medalist, shadow drilling improves the takedown quickness, and by practicing this type of drill, the wrestler would be able to take a hold of various types of takedowns as quickly as possible (Hass, 2014). Shadow drill trains the muscles for making quick reaction to specific wrestling moves. According to Ken Chertow, an American Olympian wrestler, the 10 shadow drills important for improving takedown quickness include 1) Inside Step Attack Drill, 2) Knee Spin Sweep Attack Drill, 3) Back Arch/Back Step/Sag Drill, 4) Sprawl Drill, Sprawl and Spin, 5) Random Attack Drill, 6) Stand Up Drill, 7) 1 & 2 Drill, 8) Hip Heist Drill, 9) Granby’s and 10) Combination Bottom Drilling (Chertow).
Sprawl Drill (KJR, 2014)
Plyometric, also known as 'jump training', is extremely useful for increasing speed and acceleration of movements. It is a system of rapidly and repeatedly stretching and contracting the muscles in a combination of exercises like squat jumps, box jumping, skater jumps and so on (Crawford, 2014). Plyometric workouts increase the ability to contract muscles rapidly after they have been stretched partially. As per the American Council on Exercise, plyometric workouts improve muscle power, acceleration, balance, vertical jump height, agility, and leg strength. Some useful plyometric workouts to increase speed include box jumps, hurdle jumps and hops, standing long jumps, skater jumps, and bounding. All these plyometric workouts increase the leg strength by helping leg muscles transition from an eccentric contraction like shortening to concentric contraction like lengthening more speedily, improving thereby the leg speed and the ability to produce powerful pushing force with legs (Crawford, 2014). Only one or two box jumping sessions a week, lasting for a few minutes each, will improve the acceleration and speed of the wrestlers.
Plyometrics (Better Trained, 2014)
Wrestling requires the wrestler to be in different types of positions. It is not only important to show acceleration while attacking, but also acceleration is important for defensive stances. Wrestling is a typical sport with specific body muscle strengths and acceleration requirements. More common acceleration techniques like plyometric and shadow drill may be helpful to improve the overall speed of the wrestler, but situational drilling is very important for improving the speed of the wrestlers under specific situations. For instance, when a wrestler starts from a defensive stance, the muscle acceleration requirements are completely different from the acceleration requirements for a freestyle start. Situational drills like two point stance drill and get up and resistance takedown drill are some of the most effective drills that improve speed in specific situations (Kelliher, 2014). Two point stance drill improves the reaction of the wrestler in the case of takedown situations, whereas get up and resistance takedown drill significantly improves the explosion time in defensive stances. Both the drills require a partner and should be performed for three sets with 10 repetitions per set.
It is a common misconception cherished by people that increasing the muscle buildup slows down the overall muscle reaction of a person. Therefore, many wrestling coaches avoid weightlifting trainings for wrestlers. However, famous wrestling coaches like Ryan Lee and sport psychologist Phil Davies opine that heavy and slow weight lifting drills improve the muscle mass and do not improve the speed, but explosive weightlifting not only improves the muscle mass, but also improves the overall speed of the wrestler (Kelliher, 2014). Wrestlers should be cautious not to overdo explosive weight lifting as it may damage or rupture the ligaments or muscles. A set of two to five with five repetitions should be performed every alternative day. Explosive weightlifting becomes more effective when squats and leg presses are performed between two sets of explosive weight lifting.
Explosive Weightlifting (Hass, 2014)
Offensive Agility Drill
In Greco-Roman, freestyle, and collegiate wrestling, the wrestlers start from a normal standing position. It is, therefore, important for the wrestler to start with higher reflex and speed to get an advantage over the opponent. For this, the wrestler must have quick hand and leg speed while maintaining the body balance. Many wrestlers show extreme agility during combats, but they lack the balance due to which they are beaten by their opponents. Offensive drills focus on explosiveness, foot speed, hand speed, agility, and balance. Exercises like agility shuttle and line hops help improve reflex actions and balance in times of offensive attacks. Offensive agility drills are designed in a way to engage the wrestler in a drill for one to two minutes and with a resting period of 60 seconds in between (Hass, 2014). This tries to simulate the actual wrestling match situations where each round is 2 minutes long. Offensive drills, in general, improve the speed of the wrestlers and are recommended to be included in the daily exercise regime.
Designing the Speed Training Program
Rationale and Assessment
As discussed in the above paragraphs that different types of speed drills help a wrestler improve the speed of different types of muscles under different situations. It is, therefore, important to design a training program that is well-balanced combination of speed and reaction drills. Before designing the speed training program, it is important to understand the reaction abilities of the wrestler and his or her weaknesses (Newell, 2014). For example, a wrestler can be extremely reactive on a standing offensive position, but may lack speed from a defensive position. In such cases, designing a reaction drill program with more emphasis on defensive reaction drills will be more effective. The speed training program designed during the off-season of a wrestler should be different from the reaction drill programs designed during the wrestling season. Off-season programs put more focus on the long term improvement goals and more heavy drill routines, whereas on-season drill programs should be aligned towards keeping the wrestler fit and at the peak of his form without creating too much fatigue in the muscles and the body (Newell, 2014). This will help them stay fresh before and during the actual fight. For instance, if a wrestler lacks hip and lower leg muscle strength and speed, it is recommended not to include the reaction drills to improve those during the wrestling seasons. Those can be improved using rigorous reaction drills during the off-season.
Design of the Routine
The positive side of speed training is that with regular practice, the speed of a wrestler can be significantly improved. A well-designed wrestling workout program should focus on multiple parameters. Firstly, the exercise program should include general exercises like squats, pull-ups, pushups, fits, and lunges to maintain the basic agility and fitness of the body. Secondly, the exercise program must include exercises that will improve the power and strength of the wrestlers. However, in this essay, we will not cover the power and strength exercises as the design of the current workout program is geared towards increasing the speed and acceleration of the wrestler. Finally, the workout routine should include different types of speed and agility workouts to allow the athlete move his body through space in a faster and balanced way during a combat.
The workout program will also include two basic types of exercises. The first set of exercises can be performed by a persona alone, whereas the second set of exercises requires a partner to simulate the actual reaction with the body weight of an opponent.
General Exercises. The general exercises for wrestlers are slightly different from that of other sportspeople like athletes, soccer players, and tennis players. A typical general exercise regime for a wrestler should include pull-ups, uneven pushups, partner squats, tire flips, lunges, barbell shrugs, altered grips, and normal pushups (Newell, 2014). These exercises should be included in the workout plan every day and should be performed at the beginning of the exercise session.
General Speed Training. There are several speed training programs recommended by different training coaches around the world. General speed training increases the overall speed of the hand, leg and body movement while still maintaining the body balance. Shadow drills like inside step attack, knee spin sweep attack, random attack, and stand up drill are the most effective ones to improve the general agility of the body. Plyometric exercises are also important for increasing the leg strength, speed, and balance of the wrestler. A combination of box jump and standing long jumps will improve the speed of leg muscles and the balance of the body. Explosive weightlifting should also be included as part of the general speed training program to increase the upper body strength and speed. However, this weightlifting training should be limited to once or twice per week only and should be performed when the body is heated up.
Special Speed Exercises. The special speed training drills focus on the specific parts of the body and improve the speed of some particular muscles for specific wrestling situations. Two point stance drills should be included in the training regime in order to improve upon the hand eye coordination and speed during defense in an upright position. The tennis ball drop will help increase the speed and balance while attacking the leg of an opponent from an upright position (Newell, 2014). Other specific exercises like get up, turnovers, hand-eye ball drops, and takedowns will help improve the speed of different parts of the body. The table below provides an 8 weeks long speed workout plan:
Workout Plan for Weeks 1 to 4 (No workout on weekends)
Cardio (5 days a Week)
- Light Jog -5 mins
- 50 Yards Sprint – 5 Times (30 seconds gap)
- 20 Stair Sprint – 5 Times (30 seconds gap)
Body Weight and General Speed (5 Days a Week)
- Push up Drill – 1 minute
- Sit Out Drill – 2 minute
- Sit up Drill – 1 Minute
- Stand up Drill – 2 minutes
- Partner Core Twists – 15 each (3 sets)
- Partner Flip Over – 15 each (3 sets)
- Towel Pull ups – 3 sets.
- Single Leg Hops – 15 (3 sets)
Special Speed Training (Odd numbers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Odd numbers Tuesday and Thursday)
- Get Ups and Roll Over – 20 Yards (4 sets)
- Line Hops – 60 seconds
- Agility Shuttle – 30 yards Sprint (2 sets)
- Box Jumps – 15 (3 Sets)
- Speed Roping – 1 minute (3 sets)
- Two Point Stance Drill – 10 (3 sets)
- Tennis Ball Drop – 10 (3 sets)
- Get Up with partner – 10 (6 sets)
- Turnovers with partner – 10 (3 sets)
- Hand Eye Ball Drop – 10 (3 sets)
- Take Downs with partner – 10 (3 sets)
Wrestling is a highly competitive sport, which demands excellence in the techniques, strength and speed. Often many coaches and wrestlers ignore the importance of speed training for wrestlers, and they concentrate more on perfecting the techniques and improving the overall strength of the wrestlers. However, a highly technical and strong wrestler will lose wrestling matches easily if he is not quick in his movements. Speed training can be of different types; shadow drill, plyometric, offensive agility drills and situational drilling. General speed drills like ball drop, plyometric, and two point stance drills help improve the overall reaction time and balance of the wrestler, whereas for special speed requirements of the wrestlers, various other speed drills are available. Explosive weightlifting and offensive agility drills help wrestlers increase the hand-eye coordination and the leg movement in offensive situations, whereas defensive workouts like get ups, turnovers, takedowns and hand-eye ball drops help improve the muscle speed in defensive situations during the combat. It is, therefore, important to create a balanced workout plan for wrestlers to improve both the offensive and defensive and the general speed.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2014). Wrestling. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/649438/wrestling>
Athnet. (2014). The Origins of Wrestling – Facts and Information About the Sport. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.athleticscholarships.net/history-of-wrestling.htm>
Dale, P. (2014). Different Kinds of Wrestling. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.livestrong.com/article/455593-different-kinds-of-wrestling/>
Mysnyk, M. (1994). Winning Wrestling Moves. Human Kinetics.
Kelliher, S. (2014). Speed Workouts for Collegiate Wrestling. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/speed-workouts-collegiate-wrestling-17670.html>
Chertow, K. Shadow Wrestling. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://kenchertow.com/pdfs/training_tips/shadow_wrestling.pdf>
Hass, R. (2014). Speed Workouts for Collegiate Wrestling. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.livestrong.com/article/420563-speed-workouts-for-collegiate-wrestling/>
Crawford, B. (2014). Does Jumping Boxes Get You Faster?. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/jumping-boxes-faster-4591.html>
Better Trained. (2014). Plyometrics - An Explanation. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.bettertrained.co.uk/plyometrics-an-explanation.php>
Newell, K. (2014). Wrestling Workouts - Exercises To Increase Speed and Power. Shape Fit. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://www.shapefit.com/wrestling-workouts-speed-power.html>
Kettle Jitsu Revolution (KJR). (2014). Featured Exercise: The Sprawl. Retrieved on 16th October 2014 from <http://kjrevolution.com/?m=201401>