WSBB Blog Gold Medal Grappling

WSBB Blog Gold Medal Grappling

Tags: Squat, Endurance, GPP

The Olympics are in full swing, and with that, grapplers from around the world are competing for the gold within their respective disciplines. No matter if you compete in freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, or judo, the demands these sports place on your body are very similar. As a grappler, having the strength to overpower and control your opponent is essential to achieving victory. Additionally, this strength will improve the overall execution of techniques, making for powerful takedowns and violent changes in direction forcing your opponent off balance.

Grapplers also need to possess high levels of strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance. Strength endurance is your ability to be strong over prolonged periods of time. By increasing the amount of strength that can be exerted over extended periods of time, a grappler is able to overwhelm their opponent, causing them both physical and mental fatigue. Along with strength endurance, we also focus on enhancing the cardiovascular endurance capabilities of the grappling athlete. Combining high levels of strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance ensures that a grappler has all the tools necessary to dominate over the course of a match. Below, we will go over the basics of training grapplers for high level competition, including Olympic level athletes.

Max Effort

At Westside, we are famous for our use of heavy one rep max effort exercises for our powerlifters. When it comes to the training of grapplers, we change up the approach slightly. The use of three rep, and five rep modified max effort movements will be included more often when adapting the Conjugate Method to the needs of a grappler. This is not to say we completely abandon max effort single rep exercises, their use will just be less frequent. A good approach to max effort would be to work up to a triple week one, work up to a top set of five week two, work up to a single on week three, followed by a return to triples on week four.

You will perform a different exercise each week. At Westside we recommend working through variations of the squat, good morning, and deadlift for lower body training, while upper body training will feature bench press and overhead press variations, focusing primarily on the bench press. This means that in the course of four weeks we recommend three bench press variations, with one overhead press variation. These exercises should be rotated weekly, along with the specialty barbell used. Keep in mind, no matter how many reps you are doing, you should always train max effort using the heaviest amount of weight you can for the prescribed rep count.


Dynamic Effort


For the grappler, max effort day will supply all the training needed to increase power and strength endurance. However, a grappler also needs to be explosive, having the ability to produce as much force in as little time as possible. This is where dynamic effort focused training comes into play. Through the use of bands in both the squat and the press, the athlete is forced to increase velocity to overcome the resistance of the band, resulting in increased rate of force production. On the mat, this means snappy movement sand quick takedown shots the opponent never sees coming.

To achieve this training effect, we focus on box squats for lower body, and speed bench press for upper body. Box squat training will follow a percentage wave of 70-75-80% over the course of a three week wave. Band tension will account for25-33% of the weight, with the remaining weight being loaded onto the barbell. Set and rep ranges will be 5 x 5 during week one, 10 x 2during week two, and 8 x 2 during week three. Once the three week wave has been completed, the athlete will change the specialty barbell used, and run through the wave again. Upper body speed training will be achieved through the use of speed bench, same as we use with our powerlifters. You will want to use minibands or monster minibands to connect to the barbell, this will apply around 80-120lbs of accommodating resistance to the barbell. Once you have the bands loaded, you will add weight to the barbell to match the percentage called for. On speed bench days, we follow a three week wave similar to our DE squat workouts. This means week one will be 12 x 2 at 50%, week two will be 10x 2 at 55%, and week three will be 8 x 2 at60%. After the completion of each wave, you will change the grip used. We recommend alternating between wide, competition, and close grips.

Accessory Training

The focus of accessory work for any athlete should always be on bringing up lagging muscle groups. It is the same as we preach to our powerlifters, you must continuously adjust your accessory exercises based on your current weaknesses. This requires the coach or athlete to be mindful of the feedback they are receiving from their training. Accessory work must always feature a healthy balance of posterior and anterior focused exercises. At Westside, we tend to train two posterior chain focused movements to one anterior chain focused movement on lower body training days. For upper training days, it is a one to one ratio as far as anterior and posterior focused workouts go.

Grapplers need to particularly focus on building up the muscles of the neck, shoulders, arms, and back during their upper body accessory training. For lower body accessory training, focus on exercises like Romanian deadlifts, goodmornings, or front squats to build up the glutes, hamstrings, and quads to shoot explosive takedowns and lift opponents.


At Westside, we put our grapplers and fighters through 
rigorous amounts of conditioning work. This requires a coach to have an understanding of their athletes, knowing what they can and cannot recover from. The purpose of conditioning work is to raise the overall capacity and endurance of the athlete, conditioning work should not increase necessary recovery times between workouts. If you find that your athletes are struggling to recover from workouts, the first adjustment to be made is a reduction in conditioning work. Their sport will supply a majority of their conditioning work needs, conditioning done in training should play a complementary role to that. 

At Westside, we have our grapplers pull sleds, push 
sleds from a low and high position, walk a yoke, flip tires, carry farmer's handles, and walk a wheelbarrow for conditioning work. The intensity, volume, and distance traveled will vary week to week. As mentioned before, this work should contribute to the improvement of the athlete, it should not result in poor recovery rates or a decrease in performance

Train Hard, Train Smart

For many years, Westside has been consulting for and working with countless numbers of grapplers. Our methods have constantly improved the performance of athletes across all the different grappling focused arts, and we believe our approach is superior to what is commonly used. If you want to reach athletic performance levels not commonly achieved, you need to do the work that is not commonly done.

When you are competing at the World or Olympic level, there is a smaller gap in skill level and ability amongst competitors. What begins to set competitors apart is strength, speed, conditioning, and mentality. If you want to win a gold medal you must follow the gold standard of athletic training, the Westside Barbell Conjugate Method. For more information regarding our training methods, along with access to our sport specific programming service, please visit the Conjugate Club.
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