How to Develop Your Speed for Wrestling

article Apr 03, 2017
By Jake Tanenbaum

Part 3 / 5 - Speed

Once a solid aerobic condition is built, followed by proper strength and power training, speed may then be looked at to be developed. And to use a common phrase in athletics, speed kills.

Speed kills

Not a lot of coaches talk about speed, or even know how to develop speed in an athlete. I’ve heard so many times that you can’t coach speed, but this is just flat out untrue. If that were the case, there would be no position for track coaches, speed coaches, or any other coaches in speed related fields, but there are.

Speed Can Be Coached

Speed can be coached, it’s just how you coach it is the thing. Yes, some athletes may be genetically predisposed to be slower than others, however, speed can be developed to a certain extent.

And in wrestling, speed is very important. It can allow wrestlers to wrestle from the outside at hit shots that opponents can’t see coming. Just look at a guy like John Smith, he loved being on the outside and penetrating to a fast low single or a quick high crotch. But he had to work hours and hours to develop that speed. Or a guy like Jesse Delgado, my former college teammate, who dominated opponents by being so fast to the leg and then developed killer finishes to become a 2x national champion.

Speed kills if you use it the right way. Agility and footwork are also important. Being able to stay in your stance, move laterally, forward, and backwards, while being quick and efficient can win wrestlers a lot of matches. Many wrestlers fail to create motion and stay flat footed. But the athlete who can create movement, especially efficient movement, is hard to stop and hard to score on. It’s much harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one.

Developing Speed for Wrestling

In order to develop speed in the strength and conditioning realm, we must look at different factors. When we were developing power in the previous section, we talked about performing lifts ranging from 75-95% of 1RM (1 rep max) for power. But another aspect of power is speed. If you can lift 300 pounds, but do it in a very slow manner, one could argue that it’s not very efficient. Who hits a blast double going 2mph? It’s not going to be that effective if you see it coming. That’s why speed must be developed on top of power. Once you become powerful, you can work on maximizing speed.

One way to do this in the weight room is by following heavy, explosive sets with fast, explosive sets. Meaning, you would have the athlete perform 1 heavy set of 5 repetitions or less at 85-95% max followed immediately by 1 light set of 8-10 repetitions at 25-40% of 1RM. This is also called a complex and they are great for developing speed on top of power. You can use all major lifts, such as dead-lifts, power cleans, squats, bench, and row.

You can also develop speed in areas like the box jump or med ball tosses. For box jump, get a shorter box and go 10x as fast as you can for 3-5 sets. You can also use 1 leg on top of the box and explode up into a jumping position, when you land, land with the same foot you jumped off of on top of the box and repeat for 8 reps a side, 3 sets total.

For med ball exercises, you can stand in a wrestling stance parallel to a concrete wall. Stand about 2-3 feet away from the wall, and drive with your feet from the ground and use your hips to throw the ball as hard and fast as you can against the wall, catch and repeat for a total of 10 reps each side, 3 sets total. This is a great exercise in terms of being able to start and stop motion in a quick manner, as this is vitally important in wrestling and MMA related exercises.

Sprints and Agility Drills

Other speed workouts you can do are sprints and agility drills. In wrestling, transitions from one position to the next are very impertinent Thus, when sprinting have the athlete start on his or her stomach, or have them do a pushup, get up and sprint 10-30 feet for a total of 8-10 reps. It is important to not fatigue the athlete by doing too many reps, this may cause the athlete to actually get slower as they fatigue. We want the athlete fresh and explosive and fast as possible, so be sure to give adequate time (1-3 minutes) between reps.

You can also create competition by having 2 athletes compete. Have one athlete start, and the other athlete follow immediately behind and try to catch up.

Ways to increase agility and change of directions are also important. One of my favorite exercises is to place 3-4 cones about 3-5 feet apart and label them 1-4. Then have your athlete line up behind the cone and have them shuffle laterally between the cones you call out in whatever order you like. You can also create competition by having two athletes face off on opposite sides of the cones and have one lead and the other mimic.

Another one of my favorite speed and agility drills is to place 5 tennis balls 20 feet apart from each other so that they make a full rectangle. Have a starting point (basket) where the athlete will start at and take off to pick up the 5 tennis balls in any order they want, with the same hand, before returning them to the basket (or starting point). Time them for efficient results. Just do 2 sets for testing and go through the speed program and see if they improve. You can also do shuttle drills that are similar to the popular “suicide drills” basketball teams utilize.

So, just like I did for the previous 3 phases, here is a 4 week cycle you can follow for speed training (to be combined with the previous stage as mentioned in all other articles). You can be phasing out of the power phase and going into the speed phase at the same time.

Sample Speed Workouts for Wrestling

Week 1

Week 1 can be done in conjunction with week 3 of power phase

Begin to implement some speed training into your workouts. During this week (since your in a critical power phase week) you don’t need to do extra workouts, rather supplement your workouts with speed training. Use certain drills like the spider drill, short shuttle sprints, or incorporate ladders after your power workouts.

Week 2

Week 2 can be done in conjunction week 4 of power phase

Still implement speed training at the end of your power workouts (see week 1) but this time we can add an extra speed workout. Go out to the field one day and perform 10 short 20m runs and 10 short 10m runs. Also, incorporate some agility drills such as cones and ladders. This is also a great time to incorporate training in your stance and motion.

Week 3

Do 3 days a week of solid speed work.

Workout 1:
Workout 2:
Workout 3:
Week 4

*de-load week

2 speed days

Workout 1:
Workout 2:

End with sprints for time (pick 5 exercises - 2x each):


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