Crossfit for Wrestlers?

Ok, you’ve heard about this Crossfit rage going on right now, right?  If not, let me tell you a little bit about it before I give my .02 about its effectiveness for wrestlers…

Crossfit, by its own definition is a strength and conditioning program that is “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness).

These Crossfit workouts combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects, and many bodyweight exercises; equipment used includes barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls and boxes for box jumps.  These elements are combined in random sequences to provide the “Workout of the Day”… commonly referred to as the W.O.D.

When you glance at all of the different elements of a W.O.D. by Crossfit you might get excited as they all seem applicable to wrestling-specific training.

NOT SO FAST…

Although the components are applicable to wrestling, the problem with Crossfit for wrestlers is the randomness of the workouts.

Let’s say you join a Crossfit class with the intentions of improving your wrestling strength, speed and conditioning.  You show up 5 days per week after school or classes.  Each day you show up you look at the W.O.D. that is posted on the wall.  And each day the W.O.D. is completely different than the previous day.  It’s also completely different than the workouts you will see tomorrow, the next day… and so on.  Some days may be cardio based.  Other days may have high rep strength training.  Still other days may be body weight exercises only.  It changes every single time you show up to the gym.

Some misguided wrestlers and coaches may believe that this haphazard approach will benefit them because they they will “always be prepared” for anything that happens of the wrestling mat.  They believe that the randomness of the programs will benefit them because there is a little of everything all mixed together.

The problem with the Crossfit approach IS the randomness of the workouts.  While the workouts cover all aspects of physical preparedness, they don’t allow you to focus on any particular aspect of your physical preparedness.

You see, wrestling training does require you to improve your strength, speed, power, endurance, balance, and flexibility.  That’s why I think it’s best for wrestlers to use a 3-phase approach to wrestling training… with each phase lasting 1/3 of the year.  Specifically, wrestlers should train with an offseason, preseason and inseason phase to fully prepare for the rigors of the wrestling season.  This allows you to focus on strength (during the offseason), speed and power (during the preseason) and maintenance/muscle preservation and injury prevention (during the inseason).

The bottom line is that I feel Crossfit doesn’t allow a highly-trained athlete such as a wrestler to make their training sport-specific.  It doesn’t allow you to gain as much pure strength, from which to increase your speed, power and conditioning.  Remember, strength IS the core of physical performance.  EVERYTHING you do to improve speed, power, flexibility, balance etc. begins by making your muscles stronger.  So when you make your muscles stronger “specifically for wrestling”, you will have more success with overall speed, power and conditioning as needed for the demands of a wrestling match.

Crossfit can be fun…

Crossfit can give you a good workout…

Crossfit can make you feel like you blasted your muscles etc.

But to get the most out of your wrestling-specific training you should focus on working primarily strength for 3 or 4 months straight, speed/power for 3-4 months straight, and inseason training for as long as you need to.

Strength training is a science.  Strength training for wrestling is even more specific, as it is different from any other sport in terms of physical demands and nutrition.  Don’t get too caught up with fads and random training.  Stay focused on your training and your season.  Stay the course:)

2 Responses to “Crossfit for Wrestlers?”

  1. Manny Alayon Says:

    Who says you can’t periodize CF? I have been using the CF methodology with my wrestlers for the past 4 years with amazing results. Correct me if I am wrong, but your problem is not necessarily with CF, rather, it is the lack of periodization that is essential to peak athletes?

    Strength training has to be consistent in order to continue seeing improvements in strength. The randomness in a WOD is not as random as you may think. Every CF gym is different and some even use a periodized template for their general classes. I don’t think it is a correct statement to label CF as not being effective for wrestlers.

  2. stevepreston Says:

    Manny,

    Thanks for the post. If progressive periodization is applied I would find it effective for wrestling. To me, there’s nothing worse than “what do you want to train today” when hitting the gym. A concrete plan that’s geared towards progression I’m certain movements over a 2 month span are most effective.

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