If you’ve ever wondered what impact a wrestling season has on a fighter’s body, check out this post to get an idea of what you are going to experience if you decide to participate in one. This article is a result of various researches, but you should always keep in mind that many aspects vary from one fighter to another, so these conclusions might not apply in your case.
Documented evidence shows that wrestlers are impacted by the rigors of a season through aspects such as strength, power, or body composition. However, the results are not always the same from one study to another. For example, some authors found that despite significant weight loss, performances have increased, while others stated the opposite.
There might also be other explanations for these differences in performances, such as overtraining or the quality of the strength gained, and for this reason, you should always develop a tailored training regime adapted to your body and needs. Nutrition is also a key element for effectively improving your performance and skills.
One of the common practices among wrestlers is to lose weight if they want to make the cut for lower weight classes. Although this can be achieved for one match or a couple, as some studies show college wrestlers tend to lose around 10% of their weight before a competition, things are not as clear in terms of overall changes across an entire season.
Research shows that fat mass and water are the main losses you need to target if you want to preserve performance, as this actually increases the strength-to-weight ratio. Of course, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of keeping yourself properly hydrated.
Now, when it comes to the entire season, the evidence is not as conclusive. There is certainly a physical impact when it comes to body composition, and overall there is a decrease in total body weight, and this loss mostly consists of fat. On the other hand, a few studies have also shown that a wrestler can, in fact, gain weight throughout a season.
This makes thing less clear, so in the end, it all depends on your own routine, training, and body response. When it comes to the ways in which the weight is lost, it seems that imposing a calorie deficit and dietary restrictions are the most undertaken ones. However, research does show that when training in these conditions, it’s reasonable to expect a lower performance.
Strength-to-weight ratio (STW)
Although performance can decrease due to weight loss, the STW can still increase, which for a wrestler can make a difference in another weight class. In order words, even if the overall strength decreases, the higher STW may lead to an overall better performance in a lower class than if the athlete would have stayed in the original one.
The current research and literature show that a fighter’s performances in terms of power and strength usually decrease throughout a season, and these effects are strongly correlated with the practice of losing weight, meaning that in fact, this doesn’t actually help increase the overall performance.
If you want to reach the optimal performance for wrestling matches, you should aim for a body fat percentage of 8-9%. Most of the research on this topic shows that the body mass indicator does indeed decrease throughout a season.
One particular study chose to measure a group of fighters who undertook measures to cut weight against a group that did not do that. What happened is that members of the former group registered changes mainly from fat mass, while those of the latter actually gained weight throughout the season.
Overall, those studies that have taken into account changes in body mass usually saw a drop in fat mass. However, since dropping to a lower weight class can mean an increased STW, despite changes in performance, it might seem that wrestlers who are not cutting weight might be at a disadvantage.
In order to determine this theory’s validity, researchers have also looked into a season’s effects upon the power and strength of fighters and used different methods to obtain readings and results. As it seems, there were two main types of results, either a decrease or no difference at all.
Those findings that showed a difference involved decreases in vertical jump peak power, grip strength, and Wingate peak power. These were also correlated with a lower body mass and fat percentage. An improved fatigue rate was also found in these studies, but it did not necessarily offset the general decrease in performance.
It’s true that when it comes to research, things can get rather complicated since there are many variables to take into account. However, what you should keep in mind in terms of strength and power is that these are impacted by weight loss as well as by training and competitions and that the best approach is to pace yourself before and throughout the seasons for top results.
How to diminish any effects
As we’ve mentioned above, the way you approach your training and dietary regime throughout the year and not just during the season can significantly lower the impacts of going through frequent competitions. If you follow a well-designed program that ensures both strength and conditioning, this contributes to a diminished detraining over the course of a season.
Athletes who choose this approach maintain higher levels of fitness and overall lower levels of fat, therefore leading to a decreased severity of weight cuts that they might need to undertake during a season to make it into various weight classes or to remain competitive.
It’s true that most of the research was conducted among college fighters, which means that the effects described in this article may vary when it comes to other age ranges. Moreover, do keep in mind that you need to create your own training program that fits your capabilities and needs in order to ensure both the desired results as well as your own health.
Coaches as well can continue to encourage athletes to cut weight over seasons to remain competitive, but this should be done in a controlled and healthy manner, taking precautions along the way. Overtraining is also something to be avoided for best performances.