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High School Wrestling: Periodization

High School Wrestling: Periodization

Many wrestlers approach conditioning in an unorganized, haphazard fashion without any clear goals in mind. This could be a mistake. Periodization is a concept designed to help you break your conditioning down into phases or cycles where you focus on certain training goals. Periodization is designed to help you achieve peak performance. Peak performance is virtually impossible to maintain year round. Therefore, you break your training down into cycles, including cycles of rest. Of course, you want to win every match. That is a desirable goal. But, most high school wrestlers especially want to qualify for the state tournament or even win the state tournament. Therefore, it’s usually toward the end of the competitive season that one wants to peak.

What is periodization?

Periodization is a training concept that was popularized by Eastern Bloc countries, especially Russia. The concept of periodization being used in regards to sports training is usually attributed to a Russian professor named Matveyev. Matveyev was the first to use the term periodization. Periodization is often associated with weight training but can be used to train other athletic attributes as well. As I stated earlier, periodization is simply breaking one’s training down into cycles or phases where certain goals (e.g. strength or endurance) are focused on. The main objective of periodization is to help an athlete peak for a certain challenge (e.g. the state wrestling tournament).

Tudor Bompa, known as the “Father of Periodization,” wrote a book entitled Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Tudor Bompa breaks down annual training into three simple phases.

Three Phases:

  • Preparatory Phase
  • Competitive Phase
  • Transition Phase

However, these three phases can be broken down further. A wrestler’s annual plan may also be known as a macrocycle. The macrocycle can be broken down into mesocycles (i.e. preparatory, competitive, and transition). Each mesocycle can be broken down into microcycles (e.g. a week). On the other hand, more than one macrocycle may be used during a wrestling season because you may have more than one major competition that you want to peak for.

Types of Periodization:

  • Linear
  • Reverse Linear
  • Conjugated
  • Concurrent
  • Undulating or Alternating

The kind of periodization familiar to most athletes is linear periodization. Linear periodization usually begins with a higher volume of general work and then culminates with more intense, sport-specific work.

A Typical Linear Periodization Plan for Wrestling:

  • Preparatory–lifting weights for sets in the 8 to 10 rep range, running long distances, and doing a high volume of wrestling
  • Competitive–lifting weights for sets in the 4 to 6 rep range, running sprints, more intense but less voluminous wrestling, peaking for competition
  • Transition–taking a couple of weeks off before you start training again

This is only one very simple example of periodization for wrestling. Wrestling is different from some other sports because you may wrestle in many tournaments during the season. You may have to give priority to some competitions (e.g. the conference tournament and the district tournament). Mark Ginther believes in periodization. You may want to do an online search for Mark Ginther periodization and Tudor Bompa periodization.

Some have argued that periodization is overly complicated and impractical. For instance, you ideally want to be “in shape” all season and win every match and tournament. In addition, macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles can seem a bit elaborate and puzzling. However, trying to maintain peak condition year round or even all season is difficult. Also, some high school students are multiple sport athletes. A student athlete may compete in track during the spring, baseball during the summer, football during the fall, and wrestling during the winter. Each of these sports will have its unique demands. Therefore, trying to use periodization for wrestling may seem impractical. However, Tudor Bompa thinks the alternative to periodization is “chaos.”

I would suggest reading up on the different types of periodization. Some trainers believe an athlete can train for strength, endurance, and other attributes simultaneously while others do not. In my opinion, you should try to keep periodization simple. The main thing to remember is that periodizatioin is simply planning your training. For instance, you may want to do some longer runs during the off season (e.g. summer) and switch to sprints during the competitive season. You probably aren’t going to start out with a lot of hard wrestling in your first few practices. You may need to work on technique at first and increase your volume and intensity over time. Moreover, you may want to have a less intense practice the night before a major competition so you are recovered and fresh to wrestle hard the next day.

In sports such as swimming and marathon running, athletes often have a “taper” in which their training volume is cut back during the last few days or even weeks before a major competition. You, as a wrestler, may need some less intense practices and conditioning leading up to a major competition.

As you can see, periodization can be a complicated concept. However, planning your yearly training by utilizing cycles with certain goals in mind is almost certain to help in your wrestling endeavors.