Individual combat sports have a huge appeal because of the potential for competition. Regardless of sports preference, there are very few spectacles that can compete for entertainment value with two equally matched warriors pitted against one another. The ultimate stage of hand to hand competition is of course the goal, but how do we best prepare combat sports athletes to get to the highest levels of competition and enjoy that pinnacle of preparation?
For developmental wrestlers I find that the most important ingredient to their continued development is a comprehensive and patient learning/training plan. In the USA, we tend to want much more competition than comprehensive training. This tendency is quite natural as we are a very competitive society and it would make sense that by competing more, we are becoming battle tested and ready for high levels of competition. I personally believe that understanding of development, as logical as it feels, could not be further from the truth.
Bodies and minds of wrestlers and families generally can't handle the endless grind of 100 plus match years and attrition sets in heavily. If wrestlers were robots, perhaps this could be sustainable, but they are not and we can't train or compete like robots. Therefore we need to formulate a great competition schedule that guarantees 30-45 matches per year for wrestlers who are intermediate and above. For younger wrestlers, 20-30 matches is plenty.
The important piece to any match is the lessons and development that takes place in the gym after competition has ended. If a wrestler can get valuable matches in, utilize training to learn from quality matches and stay mentally fresh and physically healthy, then we can make huge gains all year long. If we are constantly fighting fatigue, physical stress, injuries and travel conflicts, development will suffer as well.
As a quick reference this is my opinion, but I would shoot for the match count below based on experience level.
One of the biggest attacctions of combat sports as a lifestyle for every person is the potential of weight classes and age divisions when competition becomes a reality. As is logical, with weight classes comes the game of dropping weight classes to become more competitive. As we sprint toward another Folkstyle wrestling season I wanted to talk about that game and how to understand it.
At a certain age and physical aptitude, this is quite certainly a reality and must be addressed with proper nutrition, lifestyle and training. Notice, I said, "at a certain age."
If young combats sports athletes can develop great eating behaviors and lifestyle patterns when they are beginning their journey, the weight cut, weight certification and most importantly, competition become simple, no stress events that empower and enable as opposed to beat down and depress. #disciplineequalsfreedom
Every year I think a lot about the wrestling competition schedule and how to marry it with great training to ensure athletes peak at specific times. With so many tournaments and so many athletes hungry to compete, this can come as a hard balance. Athletes need to be strong, healthy and fresh by the time State and National competitions happen in late February and March, so what is the best angle for pre-season competition and pre-season training?
I believe the best strategy is training for and competing at 1-2 large events before the new year. There are several very strong tournaments in the end of October that are great to train for and test skills. There are also several national level tournaments starting the third week of November and essentially going through the New Year. The temptation is to compete at several of these events and risk physical exhaustion. I propose focusing on 1-2 and competing in local duals or small competitions as calibrations to focus on training.
Training should be focused on sport specific conditioning exercises as we develop hyper technical positions at a mature learning pace. Understanding pressures and new feels happen over time and with patience so forcing new competition on the athlete during an inappropriate time of learning simply minimizes full comprehension of positions. Therefore, finding quality matches as opposed to quantity allows for training to occur that the athlete can feel completely confident and prepared from. For club wrestlers I recommend 12-16 matches before the new year. For High School wrestlers, 14-18 before the new year is acceptable.
When developing competition and training plans, focused small sessions always create greater learning deltas that long, exhausting sessions. Fatigue is real. Train for a lifetime and as a lifestyle, not as an anecdote.
Beasttrained Weekly Blog
Cross Training Focus: August, September and October are excellent times of the year to focus on agility, flexibility, cardio and dynamic strength. The AM Beasttrained Elite cross-training program that launched on Monday focuses entirely on dynamic strength, foot/hand speed and agility. I recommend traditional lifts such as squats, worked into a circuit with multi-tiered intense exercises that focus on non-symmetrical loads. The Beasttrained Elite AM lower body circuit is below.
2 Circuits, :30/:20 split; x4 each station: 5:30-6:15 AM
1. Squats (Bar)
2. 1 Legged Leather Kettle Bell Squats
3. Resistance Bands Squat Jumps
4. Resistance Bands Sprints
1. Bulgarian Bag Front Clean, Front Squat
2. Bulgarian Bag Cossack Squat
3. Bulgarian Bag Lunges
4. Bulgarian Bag Clean, Squat Jumps
Technical Focus: Low impact, highly technical positions are great to discover and learn during the late summer and early fall months. Due to time constraints and other priorities, many programs don't really dig deep into mat wrestling, especially the top position. Considering we have the time from August - October, we focus on top, chain wrestling and really try to enhance creative top positional flow. The most fun in Folkstyle wrestling is treating it like a fun, physical puzzle. Great top work does just that and is as mentally stimulating as physically challenging. The key to developing that confidence and IQ is keeping an open mind especially with new rides and pressures. Leg rides, barred arms, half, tight waists and blanket rides are never mutually exclusive until the wrestler decides they don't like one or the other. I recommend a broad study of the top position and allow wrestlers to gravitate to their top style.
Competition Focus: With the upcoming folkstyle season fast approaching it is easy to get caught up in the desire to compete immediately. We are focusing on being prepared for high level Pre-Season competition October 20th in Las Vegas Nevada. I really think it is always a much more valuable experience to compete when absolutely ready and confident. The 8 week training period for competition began Monday!