Wrestlers don’t need to be strong

You heard it here first. The website is shutting down and we’re all gonna go our separate ways. It was great knowing y’all.

What?

I’ve actually heard that sentiment a few times this past year from both coaches and parents alike who believe all you need is technique to win at a high level. Let’s break down why that couldn’t be more wrong.

Before we begin though, let me address one thing:

Strength, Conditioning, and Athleticism (SCA) can't overcome poor technique. SCA AMPLIFIES good technique and is often what decides close matches Click To Tweet

So there, that’s out of the way. Great technique is obviously the priority for wrestling. But where do we go from there? Here’s how strength and athleticism can impact wrestlers at the highest level.

The year I took second in the world I learned that I had to get stronger. I felt that the top guys were much stronger than me

Cael Sanderson
College DT Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
World Champ DT put on a pound or two of muscle.

National Team Members are Stronger and Better Athletes

Studies conducted on National Team Trials participants have shown the wrestlers that win and make their Country’s National Team are Stronger, Faster, and Better Conditioned than their opponents.

While this shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s a glaring point. In fact, one study attributed 45% of wrestling success to physiological factors (strength, speed, conditioning):

It has been shown that physiological variables alone can account for approximately 45% of the variance seen between successful and less successful FS wrestling Olympic contenders (1)

And this isn’t just one study! There is a large body of evidence spanning both genders, High School/Junior/College/Senior Levels, and all wrestling styles. Here are a few more:

Greco/Freestyle competitors. Elite: National Team Members. Amateur: National Championship 2nd place (2).

Take the above for example. These are ELITE wrestlers. Either 1st or 2nd at their respective National Team Trials. You would assume it’s a very small gap. Yet, when you look at the variables, the differences are striking. On average, the winner has a stronger grip, stronger back, higher strength to weight ratio, and can jump higher (lower body power) (2).

Senior Iranian Wrestlers. Successful: Previous Year International Medal Winner (3)
Junior Iranian Wrestlers. Successful: Previous Year International Medal Winner (3)

More Pull ups, higher mean and peak power output, stronger grip, and better conditioning level. A very distinct difference.

Female Elites dominate the same set of variables (4).


“In order to become a wrestler one should have the strength of a weight- lifter, the agility of an acrobat, the endurance of a runner and the tactical mind of a chess master.”

Alexandre Medved

How about some good ol’ common sense now

Physical fitness parameters such as maximal dynamic strength, isometric strength, explosive strength, and strength endurance are closely related to high-level wrestling performance.

(5)

That shouldn’t be news. With technique and tactics being equal, the stronger, faster wrestler will win. This is obvious. This also brings out some problems though.

So why do some people think you don’t need strength?

Now we get to the interesting part. Especially in middle/high school wrestling, if you have great technique, you’re going to go far. 30-40+ wins are an expectation because you just plain out wrestle everyone you face. The problem comes when you face someone equally as technical (State Series, National Tournaments, etc). If you haven’t been increasing your strength and speed, you’ll be outmatched.

One of the worst things you can do as as wrestler is neglect your strength/power/speed development in high school. When you get to college, everyone is good and everyone knows proper technique. If you start college without any strength training, you’ll be at a tremendous disadvantage.

To get a Custom Wrestling Workout and gain the upper hand, check out our StrongerWrestler wrestling workout system here.

  1. Callan, SD, Brunner, DM, Devolve, KL, Mulligan, SE, Hesson, J, Wilber, RL, et al. Physiological Profiles of Elite Freestyle Wrestlers. J Strength Cond Res 14(2):162-9, 2000.
  2. Garcia-Pallares, J, Lopez-Gullon, JM, Muriel, X, Diaz, A, Izquierdo, M. Physical fitness factors to predict male Olympic wrestling performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 111(8):1747-58, 2011.
  3. Nikooie, R, Cheraghi, M, and Mohamadipour, F. Physiological determinants of wrestlingsuccess in elite Iranian senior and junior Greco-Roman wrestlers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2015.
  4. Garcia Pallares, J, Lopez-Gullon, JM, Torres-Bonete, MD, and Izquierdo, M. Physical fitness factors to predict female Olympic wrestling performance and sex differences. J Strength Cond Res Natl Str Cond Assoc 26(3):794-803, 2012.
  5. Chaabene, Helmi & Negra, Yassine & Bouguezzi, Raja & Mkaouer, Bessem & Franchini, Emerson & Julio, Ursula & Hachana, Younés. (2016). Physical and physiological attributes of wrestlers: an update. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

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