Power Athlete’s Bedrock with an In-Season High School Wrestler

Bryce Wolcott MA, MEd, CSCS

The Athlete

Justin wrestling

    Justin began the wrestling season this year with the ambitious goal of dropping from 190 pounds to the 168 pound weight class to unseat three-time undefeated state champion Brian Shute, in a quest to do something truly meaningful in his life.

    As a 120 pound sophomore, I suggested that Justin head in a somewhat different direction. Justin’s bodyfat is under 6%, and he is exceptionally tall (5’10”) for his weight. We decided that, contrary to the path most wrestlers take as the season begins, he would be most successful in the in the long run by competing in a weight class ABOVE is current weight. He would pursue his goal of being competitive at the state tournament this year (and in years to come) by continuing to develop his Base Level of Strength.

    Justin has spent a limited amount of time in the weight room since beginning his freshman year, but has never been on a program utilizing linear progression long enough to take him to the end of his Novice Window, and has yet to fully develop a Base Level of Strength. In addition, he began wrestling just two years ago, and does not have much athletic experience in general. Thus, he also lacks the speed and agility of other successful wrestlers his age.

    To ensure we utilized his time in the Novice Window to the greatest effect, and because of the integral presence of primal movements other than the squat and press, Power Athlete’s Bedrock was the obvious choice for Justin’s training template.


Weightroom Training

    Training took place at before school 6:00AM, to allow for recovery before afternoon wrestling practices. We followed the standard 4-day Bedrock template presented in Power Athlete’s Level One Methodology Course. The program was delivered, and a log of each training day recorded, using the TrainHeroic app.

     

squat     deadlift

    As each primal movement was introduced during Week 1, the movement was coached according to Power Athlete standards, and a starting weight selected according to the guidelines presented here. Justin was familiar with the squat, deadlift, press, bench press, pull-up, and power clean, although each required slight adjustments to his form to one that would allow for better transfer of his training to the mat (e.g. toes-forward on the squat, a neutral and vertical spine on the pull-up). Justin had never been formally coached in the step-up or lunge. Starting weights on the barbell exercises were chosen that challenged technique, but did not change it.


weights

    As training progressed, we inevitably reached a day when Justin was unable to complete the requisite 15 reps (5 for the deadlift) to continue adding weight to the bar. As this point arrived with each lift. we applied the reload and reset guidelines presented here. After each lift reset, we introduced Compensatory Acceleration to the movement. Train Fast to Be Fast!


bench     squat



Sprints

running

     Intensity sprints (40 yard dash) were performed on Mondays before squatting. We removed the volume sprints from the program, given the conditioning demands already being placed on Justin during wrestling practice. Instead, longer tempo runs (100m at 75%) were completed at the end of the session on Thursdays, as a way to work on sprint posture and mechanics.

    The 40yd. sprints were hand-timed a cell phone by other high school students, so their accuracy is somewhat suspect, but we recorded the average of Justin’s sprint times in each session (5 sprints per session).

    As is often the case when transitioning through the four stages of competence, things got worse before they got better. Justin’s sprint times initially increased once we began focusing on mechanics. He began getting faster as he was able to implement his improving mechanics with maximal effort.


sprint


Coach’s Reflection

    I’ve coached young athletes in the squat for many years, and have seen many variations. The combination of position cues used in the Power Athlete squat were new to me, particularly the emphasis on keeping the toes forward. In addition, the level of detail used by Power Athlete coaches to describe the step-up and lunge was initially surprising.

    The foundation of the Universal Athletic Position, particularly in the three lower-body primals, made the squat, step-up, and lunge much easier to coach. These movements are each prescriptions for challenging this initial posture and position by moving the pelvis about one of its three axes or rotation. Thus, while the movements themselves are unique to the athlete, the coaching cues are remarkably consistent between them.

    Justin’s sprint mechanics improved a great deal during the training. Flat-footed, upright, arms flailing from side to side, I was genuinely concerned that he would fall as he stumbled down the track during our initial sprint session. After several weeks moving through appropriately programmed warm-up routines, training the primal movements in the weight room, and lots of steps on the wall and the track, he is a much-improved sprinter. At first, I was not sold on the idea that a wrestler needed to know how to sprint. As his sprint mechanics improved, however, I also saw marked improvement in his footwork and movement in the wrestling room.

    The psychological aspect of Justin’s training required extra attention in the weight room. It became evident as weight was added to the bar that Justin had little experience struggling to complete physically demanding tasks (this hurt him on the mat as well). Pushing Justin to struggle against the heavy barbell on his back (or in his hands) led to critical breakthroughs in his training. As he continues to develop this skill, his mental strength will push his physical strength to greater heights. The ability to grind through a tough situation is one of those critical life lessons we can learn in the weightroom.


Recovery & Nutrition

    As training progressed, the first reset the squat, deadlift, and press came earlier than I expected. I initially thought that this may be due to the fact that he is not a brand new lifter (i.e. he began the program with some of the intermuscular coordination that would take a new lifter 2-3 weeks to develop). I wanted to ensure that the 21 hours a day he was not in the weight room or at wrestling practice were devoted to sufficiently fueling (and recovering from) his training. In our conversations, he revealed that he consistently sleeps about 7 hours a night. Another hour or two of sleep would be better, but I found that his diet was likely the biggest obstacle to his progress.

    At the beginning of each season we discuss the importance of diet with our wrestlers. Nutrition is critical in all athletic endeavors, but even more so in a sport based on weight-classes like wrestling. The guidelines we preach are based on the first few chapters of the Grappler’s Guide to Nutrition (Bernardi & Fry, 2005), and more recently, Power Athlete’s guidelines. Due to the additional time and effort required to plan and eat an optimal diet, I find that most of my teenage athletes are severely lacking in this important aspect of their performance.

    After a few specific discussions with Justin, I suspected that he too was falling short in properly fueling his training. We began using Meal Logger, an app that allowed him to create and share a photo journal of his meals and snacks throughout the day. His photos revealed that he was subsisting primarily on Goldfish® crackers and clementine oranges. The next task is to guide his transition to a diet based instead on animal proteins and vegetables.


Meal 1   Meal 2   Meal 3


Conclusion

    A final advantage I found to the Bedrock protocol is that the prescribed volume, while high enough to stimulate adaptation, was not excessive, and did not have a noticeable impact on Justin’s ability to perform during practice and during competition. Justin will continue on the Bedrock protocol through the remainder of this Novice Window, as he has yet to reach 3 resets of both the squat and deadlift.

I look forward to guiding many more young athletes through their Novice Window to a develop and Base Level of Strength during the coming off-season.