07 May How To Program For Training On a Budget: Insight From a College Wrestling Strength Coach
How To Program For Training On a Budget: Insight from a College Wrestling Strength Coach
Life’s not fair. Plain and simple. But taking the back seat and weeping about one’s petty struggles is for the fragile man.
In a collegiate setting the major three (football, basketball, baseball) always get priority when it comes to quality of facility and training resources. However, depending on the school, this doesn’t necessarily mean they get the highest caliber of athletes. So what happens when you as the strength and conditioning coach are responsible for improving the performance of a handful of stud athletes while being restricted by a low team budget and a facility that often gets mistaken for “the maintenance shed that sits on the end zone?” Here’s my story.
I wanted to brief on this before mentioning anything about the facility and team budget because the wide range in experience within my group of athletes had a major impact in how I was to design a pre, in, and post-season strength and conditioning program.
For two years I was the strength and conditioning coach for a collegiate club wrestling team that was formerly a division 1 program on the rise. When the wrestling program was cut from the university’s NCAA D1 athletic department due to Title IX, the majority transferred out to finish their athletic career elsewhere. However, a handful of wrestlers decided to stay and finish their education. Some of these wrestlers were peeking into the top 20 in the NCAA D1 rankings.
Now because the team was demoted to club level, that scrawny geek from your dorm who sat around all night playing Call of Duty could be part of the team, if his heart so desired. There were no try-outs, no required designated years of experience, or expected competitive merit. Literally anyone could be part of the team. And how did this effect the way we ran our training sessions? It effected it a lot. With limited time in a facility to run training, I had to construct a program that would allow us to elevate the level of performance in this big melting pot of experience and work ethic.
It is important to note that club level teams had access to a facility. However, this facility could fit no more than ten athletes per session. In the pre-season, we would start off with forty plus. On top of that, we would have to schedule training sessions at unrealistic hours (5 am, 6 pm, etc) as the school’s club hockey team was priority when it came to access with the weight room (the facility was above the hockey rink, on the opposite side of campus from the wrestling room).
There was no way I would split the team into two and ask the athletes to train at the hours mentioned above. After all, I understood that if the program was not done at normal practice hours, attendance would be an issue, considering the requirements weren’t as when the team was division 1. And though I could send the more advanced athletes on their way with a program to do on their own, it would be an irresponsible act as the coach responsible for monitoring their training and implementation of their program. We were chasing a team championship, not just a handful of individual titles. The team would train together. So including the club team training facility was not going to be part of our strength and conditioning program. Therefore, all strength training sessions were executed in the wrestling room during normal practice hours. Here is a list of our resources and equipment at the wrestling room.
What we didn’t have: squat rack, barbells, kettlebells, benches, cables
What we did have: plates (a lot of them), dumbbells <75 lbs, four tires, three battle ropes, sledgehammers, sandbags, two TRX, four fat grip half size barbells, four hammer strength standing push/pull machines (these are great for wrestling), a football field (from time to time), stadium steps, and a giant hill
Just because a handful of the athletes were experienced in weight training while the rest had never been compliant to a structured program didn’t mean they couldn’t all train together. When it came down to it, each athlete needed to be more explosive, increase strength, improve muscular endurance, and get a bigger gas tank. We weren’t at a loss without a squat rack or state of the art facility. We were thankful for the we had and made it work.
In the pre-season, we would strength train three times per week, while the athletes were on the mat two to three times per week. In-season we would strength train two times per week, while the athletes were on the mat five to seven times per week. I would aim for making training sessions on Monday and Wednesday, as they would just be returning from tournaments or meets that Saturday or Sunday. This way their legs would feel fresh while they were cutting weight for the next weekend competition.
I made it a point to perform every basic movement. This is one thing many wrestling coaches who are programming their athletes don’t understand. Imbalanced training leads to injury, plain and simple. If you aren’t hitting each movement at least once a week, you’re doing your athlete’s present performance a disservice. Not to mention they’re going to want to give you the finger if they make it college and end up hurt because of your lousy programming. These are the components I am talking about: linear speed, lateral speed, explosive jump, explosive olympic variation, static core, dynamic core, rotary core, knee dominant, hip dominant, horizontal push, vertical push, horizontal pull, vertical pull.
The workout would start off with general dynamic warm up and ground based mobility lasting no more than ten minutes. We would then go into speed drills on step boxes, speed ladders, or on the mat. Next would be our explosive core movement, it is important to keep the reps low on the explosive and core exercises to ensure quality of movement. Training past fatigue is of least importance when performing these exercises. Next we would hit our primary strength exercises, reps kept below six. The following workout would include the opposing movements, that way we are training heavy in every plane of movement. The secondary/assistance exercises would be higher rep, training the opposing movement of our primary strength exercises for that day. We would then finish with a quick complex before going to conditioning. For conditioning, depending on where we were at in the season, we would have a high intensity day, low intensity day, and moderate intensity day. For our high intensity day we would do intervals in the wrestling room with weights and strongman equipment or running hills. For our low intensity days we would use the track, run the mountain, or do stadium races. For our moderate intensity day we would do the 300 yd shuttle or some form of competition relays. Training sessions would last anywhere in between an hour to an hour and a half. Below is a sample of our in-season program:
Lateral speed drills on the mat or on step boxes (10-20:30-60 work to rest ratio)
A1. 1 arm snatch (olympic variation) 3×3
A2. TRX kneeling rollout (static trunk) 3×6
60 sec rest
B1. Bulgarian split squat (knee dominant) 5×6
B2. Weighted chin up (vertical pull) 5×6
90 sec rest
C1. Single leg RDL (hip dominant) 3×12
C2. Plate push ups (horizontal push) 3×12
60 sec rest
D1. Dumbbell clean press (vertical press) 3×12
D2. Goblet squat (knee dominant) 3×12
D3. Renegade row (horizontal pull) 3×12
90 sec rest
40 yd hill sprint with 1:00 turnovers, x10 (intervals)
Linear speed drills on the mat or on step boxes (10-20:30-60 work to rest ratio)
A1. Box jumps (jump variation) 3×3
A2. Sledgehammer on tire (dynamic core) 3×6
60 sec rest
B1. Fat bar hip thrust (hip dominant) 5×6
B2. 1 arm overhead press (vertical press) 5×6
90 sec rest
C1. TRX row (horizontal pull) 3×12
C2. Walking lunge (knee dominant) 3×12
60 sec rest
D1. Mixed grip chins (vertical pull) 3×12
D2. Dumbbell floor press (horizontal press) 3×12
D3. Dumbbell pullthroughs (hip dominant) 3×12
90 sec rest
Stadium run AFAP lasting 10-15 min (steady state)
As you can see, we weren’t limited in the movements or exercises we were able to pick and choose from. Granted, I would’ve loved to have squat racks, olympic lifting platforms, slam balls, resistance bands, and a double set of dumbbells going up to 150 pounds. But there is no excuse as to why we couldn’t get the job done. If you are in a similar situation as a strength coach or are a sports coach responsible for monitoring your team’s strength training sessions, it is key that you take inventory of the equipment available and construct your plan from there. By having a general understanding of the physiological demands of your sport and attaining the slightest bit of creativity, the direction of your low budget program very well may take your team to that next level.
About The Author:
Nick Knowles is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT). He is a former collegiate wrestling coach and division 1 athlete. His clients range from youth to semi-professional levels of athletics and everyday people who want to improve their overall fitness & physique.
Have a question for Nick? Let him know in the comments. Or challenge him to a quad flex-off (see picture above).
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