How should my middle school wrestler train?

“Hi There

Greetings from Cape Town South Africa.

My son wrestles u11/42-46 kg Freestyle.

Next year he will wrestle in the u13 age group with relevant weight bracket, so I’m looking for some S&C tips, links to assist but understand that at his age no weights should be used. Hoping you guys can assist.

Our club rents a venue for training so pull up bars non-existent. I’ve just added him to my gym contract, but don’t really know what else he can do apart from push-ups, battle ropes, plank, squats, burgers, etc and how many reps?


12 yr old 90lb wrestler deadlifting 235. National Champ and Current D1 athlete


Thanks for the email. This is a great question and one quite relevant anytime a wrestler moves up an age level (cadet-> junior, u12-> u15, etc).

As we all know, even with a technique advantage, wrestling an opponent with 2 years of puberty and strength makes for a tough match. We can help them moving forward.

Can youth athletes lift weights?

Absolutely. The importance here is not the weight, but their form, progression and training age. It’s important to teach proper technique and master basic body-weight movements before adding weight to exercises. However, once a young athlete is strong and stable enough to perform all movements competently, it’s time to progress from there.

Overwhelming research has shown that youth strength training is safe and also decreases sport injury risk as well (1,2,3).

Now that we got that out of the way, what does a program for a 10-13yr old look like?

Long Term Athletic Development

Athlete development is a marathon, not a sprint. Click To Tweet

Scholarships aren’t given out to 11 year olds, and a national title means much more at 17 than it does at 10. Don’t do too much, too soon, and make sure that you lay a solid foundation of the basics before getting to the advanced.

At this age the goal is Learning to Train, and it’s important to remember that.

Basic Movements and Exercises

Here’s a brief ‘checklist’ of what our programs should strive to include.

Lower Body:

Squat, Hip Hinge, Unilateral movements

Upper Body Pull:

Horizontal Pull, Vertical Pull, Scapular Retraction

Upper Body Push:

Horizontal Push, Vertical Push


Brace, Rotation, Anti-Rotation

Athletic Movement:

Accelerate, Decelerate, Horizontal Jump, Vertical Jump, Lateral Bound, Absorb Force (all planes)


I literally just re-tested one of our 12 yr old wrestlers yesterday prior to the start of the season. He is about 100lbs and a national and state champion. He is elite both technically and athletically. Here were his numbers:


Grip (avg)30kg
Vertical Jump24″
Broad Jump7’0

Now, these numbers are only here to give you an idea, but they are pretty high. I’m thrilled with all of those except the pull-ups. He recently had a pretty solid 15lb and some inches growth spurt so they took a hit. 20 is a good number though, so he’s not too far of.

Notice the 185lb squat-This did not happen overnight. It happened over the course of ~2 years of well designed and coached training. The initial goal was to give him the tools to EVENTUALLY put a lot of weight on his back and be able to handle it safely and efficiently. By building a solid foundation in the beginning, we enabled him to be successful in the future. Focus on that.

Putting it together

I put together a basic 4 week program for a youth wrestler focusing on the basics. Check it out below.

Click the picture for the free Youth Program

In addition, I would strongly encourage you to start him on our free pull-up program, as that is one of the most important wrestling exercises. Check it out at


Please shoot me a tweet at @strongwrestler or @gabesalinas if you have any more questions.

Until then,






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