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Off-Season Activities

by Bill Welker, EdD

     The dedicated wrestler does not stop learning and training when the last practice of the season ends. He is continually looking for ways to improve his wrestling skills, muscle tone, and cardiovascular endurance. These objectives can be accomplished through a variety of activities during the postseason months. The following are off-season priorities for the aspiring state champion: summer wrestling clinics, postseason wrestling tournaments, weight training, and off-season sports or running.   

Summer Wrestling Clinics

To improve technique, the sincere wrestler should attend summer wrestling clinics, prepared to take notes. He should not try to learn all the moves taught during the weeklong clinic, especially those so-called “clinic moves.” These are maneuvers that look fancy but are rarely used or successful in competition. They are not founded on sound fundamentals. Clinicians present them to catch the eyes of the campers in order to teach the truly worthwhile moves.

The wrestler’s prime objective should be to learn one or two new moves in each area of wrestling (takedowns, escapes/reversals, and rides/pinning combinations). They should be maneuvers that suit his wrestling style and body type. For example, if a wrestler is tall and thin, he should pay special attention to novel leg-wrestling moves.

Finally, the wrestler must consider the moves that he has had the most success with in past competitions. With this in mind, when the clinician demonstrates the wrestler’s favorite moves, he should write down those subtle additions to the maneuver that make it even more effective in a match.

Clinics can be very worthwhile in perfecting wrestling skills if the clinic participant lives by the following two guidelines:

  1. The wrestler must keep focused on the preceding suggestions.

  2. The wrestler must approach the clinic as though it were a classroom. It is not to be perceived as a place for competition but as a place for learning. Therefore, he should never be afraid to ask questions!

In abiding by these guidelines, the wrestler will find the clinic experience to be of great personal benefit on the mats.

Postseason Wrestling Tournaments

Of course, there is no substitute for experience when it comes to developing wrestling skills. So, if a wrestler is determined to be a state champion in today’s highly competitive athletic world, he will need to compete in postseason tournaments.

On the other hand, there are some very important concerns that must be addressed regarding the advantages of postseason tournaments for the wrestler. Following are recommendations for participating in open wrestling competitions after the regular season:

  1. First and foremost, the wrestler should join a well-coached wrestling club that stresses conditioning as well as the basics of the mat sport. The surest way to get seriously injured at a postseason tournament is not being in sound physical condition. It would be a tragedy to miss in-season action due to a long-term injury sustained at a postseason wrestling tournament.

  2. The wrestler should not be concerned with weight reduction when competing in postseason tournaments. Year-round weight watching will lead to wrestling burnout. This loss-of-desire phenomenon has ended the careers of many fi ne wrestlers.

  3. Do not wrestle in too many postseason tournaments. Five highly competitive wrestling tournaments would suffice. You don’t want to peak at the end of summer but at the end of the wrestling season . . . at the state championships!

The wrestler’s goal for wrestling in postseason tournaments should be threefold: First, he should continue to use successful moves previously learned in an effort to perfect them.

Second, this is the time of the year to attempt new moves. It doesn’t cost the wrestler or his school’s wrestling team anything if he fails to complete a new maneuver. The key is that the wrestler learns from the experience and makes the appropriate adjustments.

Finally, the wrestler should be constantly evaluating his progress with the assistance of his club coach. Summer wrestling tournaments must be viewed as a means to an end, preparing the wrestler for competitive action during the season.

Remember: college coaches pay far more attention to where you placed at states than where you placed in postseason tournaments.

Weight Training

The three prime components of successful wrestling are skill development, conditioning, and strength. When opposing wrestlers are identical in skill development and conditioning, the deciding factor often becomes strength.

Weight training is a year-round endeavor if a wrestler aspires to be a state champion. Furthermore, the wrestler’s priority should be to lift weights for muscle endurance strength—more reps with less weight, and not for explosive strength—few reps with more weight (see chapter 8).

The wrestler’s first step in initiating an off-season weight training program is to talk with his wrestling coach, strength coach, or weightlifting trainer from the local fitness center. One of these individuals will see to it that the wrestler starts his weight training program at appropriate weights (and with the correct amount of time at each station) for his body type. Not knowing the proper weight or number of sets and repetitions to do for beginning weight training can cause serious muscular injury.

One time-tested approach is circuit training with one set of 10 repetitions for each of three weightlifting exercise cycles. The amount of weight for each exercise should be enough that the wrestler strains to accomplish the last two or three repetitions. The ideal weight-training program should occur three days a week (for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Safety is another important factor. To begin with, it would be wise to work with a partner of similar body size so that one can spot while the other is lifting. Note also the following basic safety tips for free weights and weightlifting machines.

Free Weights

  1. Take great care in putting the weights on the bar evenly; otherwise the bar could tip, potentially causing injury.

  2. Make sure all weights are locked securely.

  3. Watch out for bars that are shoulder height or above. Athletes could get serious facial injuries by walking into the bar.

  4. Put barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates away when you are finished so that nobody trips over them.


Weightlifting Machines

  1. See to it that the selector keys are inserted all the way.

  2. Place levers and seats at locations that suit your body size.

  3. Establish a stable sitting and foot-support base when performing exercises.

  4. Keep hands and fingers as far as possible from any moving objects on the weightlifting machine.

 Always remember that off-season weight training is just as important to the dedicated wrestler as in-season weight training.

Off-Season Sports

A final concern for the wrestler in the off-season is to be actively involved in enhancing his cardiovascular endurance. This can be accomplished via many avenues of physical activity. We will begin with off-season sports.

In the spring, the wrestler could compete in track and field. The wrestler who is sincere about his physical endurance should compete in long-distance events, such as the 1500- or 3000-meter events.

Baseball is another great spring competition; it is outstanding for short sprint training but not for endurance workouts. Should a wrestler choose to play baseball, great! However, he should also consider doing extra running.

Two great autumn activities that are conducive to cardiovascular effi ciency are cross-country and soccer. The diligent wrestler would be wise to compete in one of these two sports before wrestling season.

Finally, the most popular American sport of the fall—football—is another athletic prospect for the wrestler during the autumn months. Like baseball, this extremely physical sport also requires brief bursts of physical activity during competition, but not stamina. So the serious wrestler who plays football needs to add running to his daily routine.

Off-Season Running

If a wrestler is not competing in off-season sports that promote physical endurance, he must design his own running program (see chapter 8). Following is an off-season running plan that has worked for many champion wrestlers. It coincides with the weight-training schedule prescribed in the previous section.

Because the wrestler is lifting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he should run on alternating days—Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Sunday would be a day of rest. These recommendations will maximize the effectiveness of a running program:

  1. The wrestler must first perform flexibility exercises for the legs and arms before running.

  2. During the summer months, the wrestler should run in the mornings and carry water to beat the heat.

  3. The wrestler should run four to six miles.

4           Interval training is an outstanding strategy for running (see chapter 8). This method involves alternating running and sprinting. For example, the wrestler’s initial pace could involve seven- to nine-minute miles, depending on his body build. If in doubt, he should ask for his coach’s advice. While running, the wrestler would sprint 30 seconds every two minutes, using a stopwatch. Substitutes for sprinting include running up hills or steps during the workout.

  1. When the wrestler’s run is completed, he should cool down by walking for 10 to 15 minutes. At this time, he should also hydrate himself by drinking enough water to make him feel comfortable.

Off-season activities are very important for wrestlers who want to succeed in the mat sport. Summer wrestling clinics, postseason wrestling tournaments, weight training, and off-season sports and running are prerequisites for such achievement. As their coach, you are responsible for guiding them in such a positive direction.

About the Author: An award-winning writer and one of the country’s foremost authorities on Folkstyle wrestling, Dr. Bill Welker has published a national best-seller: The Wrestling Drill Book.  Most recently, his novel, A Wrestler’s Curse, was declared the winner in the Sports and Personal Growth Categories by the Beverly Hills Book Awards judges.  

     A former Pennsylvania State Champion, Dr. Welker is a member of five wrestling halls of fame, including the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (West Virginia Chapter).  He has been named twice as the National Wrestling Sportswriter of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine.

     Dr. Bill Welker’s books can be purchased on

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