What You Have to Know About Pre-Season Training

As a coach, athlete, and even as a parent, it is important to be informed on the proper way to train leading up to a season of competition. Does pre-season training get an athlete in shape? Create a foundation? Or is it not necessary in the least? Strength coach Paul Godinez gives the run-down on how to create a great pre-season training environment.

by Paul Godinez

Pre-season 101

As a Strength Coach, pre-season training is the most important and final phase of development and focus. It is most useful for hardening and sharpening an athlete’s readiness to meet the goals they made for the upcoming season.

I really shy away from the term “sport-specific” anymore; but if there is a phase of the training paradigm that will include more sport-similar training, it’s in the preseason. Workloads are shaped around time in motion, and time of motion. Time in motion is focused around fitness and body angles for the duration of 4-5 matches, or whatever the season plan of competition requires (depending on sport). For example, work the metabolic conditioning at intervals that mimic matches; or “wind” (for us old timers). Conversely, we must also train movements to work at explosive levels, which is the time of motion. Developing the neuromuscular engines in angles that match up to levels and peak power capabilities. An example for this type of work would be Olympic lifts and plyometrics.

Preseason training myths

Preseason is typically a short block of time before the competition starts. Too often athletes are pushed more than necessary during this period. There isn’t much time to build before it becomes more important to refine sport skills, and dive into competition. The cost of trying to accomplish too much during preseason can put some athletes at risk for early season fatigue injury, which could nag all season long.

Creating a pre-season plan

A preseason plan needs to be based on the overall model of training that an athlete invested during the offseason. Planned progression, and mindful post-season, off-season, pre-season, and in-season development is the key. The efficiency of a preseason training model depends primarily on how fit and active an athlete remains throughout the year. This is why having a number of different sports and activities throughout the year will help maintain strength and flexibility, in a variety of ways. This helps keep the body AND mind fresh, ready, and wanting to grind.


A good round number is about 6 weeks. For myself, I like a 7 week prep. This includes a 3 week heavy work phase, an active recovery week, and a 3 week shift to more wrestling specific: explosive, bodyweight, and match fitness.

Work Focus for the Coach

Wrestling provides a genuine challenge in developing a strength and conditioning plan. I tend to recommend more bike, or elliptical work for the lower amplitude CV (cardiovascular) work, and short sprints (<10sec) mixed with movement during recovery, which is built progressively into match duration context. The intent with the bike and elliptical is that they are biomechanically different from the demands of the mat, while still training the oxygen delivery systems in the body. If that type of equipment isn't available, by all means, get out and run. Another great low amplitude activity would be hilly hikes.

Essentially we want to train at lower intensities without having the work adversely affect performance. Point being, you don't get fast by running slow, so doing something different that works the same energy systems while offering diverse, non-specific challenges. Wrestling is, hopefully, more prominent at this phase, so mat time needs to be implemented. Strength work over the 7 weeks goes from max weight variations, to max power output, and high velocity/explosiveness. For instance, heavy squats and deadlifts (3-4 rep max) to jump training and Olympic-style lifts (cleans, snatch, etc).

For the Athlete

Injury mitigation (repair, replace, recover) will hopefully be dealt with in the off-season, when there's no rush to heal or rush to return to competition. So the athlete's mantra should be to wring as much out of every workout, with an equal dose of intensity on the other 2 sides of the Training Triangle; Recovery and Nutrition. Mostly, have a plan for meeting goals, trust in it, and yourself, explicitly. Execute it to the highest degree possible so that the focus is solely on maximizing the return on the wrestler's investment of time, sweat, and emotion.

Sample Week 

I subscribe to an ideal set up of the multi phase preseason plan. In the 1st phase, I focus on building and maintaining the last bit max weight goals for standard lifts like squats, deadlifts, Rows, Floor Press, etc. I still have athletes "reaching," or overloading, a small percentage of workouts on the high repetition side of the plan. In the 2nd phase, a greater emphasis on explosive and relative speed and power development emerges as the drivers of the work. Olympic-style lifts, cleans, snatches, med ball throws, vert & broad jumps. A sample outline for a week would go as follows:

Workout Exercises

     Workout #1       Squat variations (Front, Back, Zercher), Floor Press, Bent Over Rows, Dips & Pull Ups

     Workout #2        Hang Cleans, Push Jerks, Med Ball Passes, Wall Slams

     Workout #3        Squat, High Pull, Dead Lift, 1 Leg Broad Jump (2 foot land), Suspension Presses (CrossCore),

                  upper body Med Ball work, and The Mauler; a 40 rep Push & Pull complex performed on an  

                  set interval, or a or close to a 1:1 or 1:.75 work:rest ratio

Paul Godinez is the Strength Coach for the University of the Cumberlands Women’s Wrestling Team (Go Pats!!), and Owner/Director of Integrated Speed & Strength Development; a human performance, post-rehab training, and facility design program in Highlands Ranch, CO.

With over 35 years of experience working with teams and individuals, Paul has worked with NFL, NBA, MLB, and Olympic and World Championship caliber athletes in myriad sports. He provides school strength & fitness programs for a number of sports, University, High School & Club Level. Paul has also served as State & Regional Director for the NSCA (Nat’l Strength and Conditioning Association), is certified by USA Weightlifting, and is a USA Wrestling Bronze Level coach.

4 Things Athletes Need to Know for Preseason

Your preseason prep can be crucial for getting yourself ready for the season. This blog is your guide to a successful preseason. Are you ready? Lace up those shoes, let's get started!


1. Long run conditioning

Now is the time to work on those longer runs. The main criteria will be setting a few longer distances or routes (depending on if you run around the track, your neighborhood, or on a trail), and repeating those distances to beat your time. It is important to chose a few distances that are challenging, make sense for your skill level, and can be completed in the time frame you have to run. 

There is a good trick to helping your body adjust to pushing harder on those long distance runs, and that is called interval training or "fartlek" training. Totally bizarre name, we always laughed in high school cross-country when our coach would get us ready for our fartlek runs! It is actually the Swedish word for "speed-play," and that is how you will approach your runs. Set your run distance for something longer and challenging. Have a way to time yourself like a stop watch, your music player, or a phone. Your first 5-10 minutes of your run will be a good warm-up pace. Then, break into a hard run for 2-3 minutes, then a recovery run for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this until your distance is complete. Your hard run should simulate a hard pace that could ideally be kept up for quite a while, and your recovery should not be a shuffle. You can play with different paces and times that you can individualize for your current shape, which will change as your conditioning improves.


2. Weight lifting plan

If you already have someone you are working with, or someone who has given you a weight lifting plan, that is great! Make sure you are implementing it and being consistent. As much as I love working with weights, I don't always think you have to get a gym membership in order to have a weight lifting plan. I am a big fan of body weighted exercises that you can do at home. Below is a sample of a body weight workout you can take and implement. 

45 seconds work/ 15 seconds rest- 2-3 rounds

1. Push ups

2. Squat jumps

3. Front plank holds

4. Pistol squat (alt. legs each time) - use alternatives and progressions from this video here

Alternative FAW (Fulp-Allen Wrestling) workout blogs from the past here and here



If haven't read my blog on how to improve your stance, you can read that here! Stance work is hugely important to work on for your preseason conditioning! Positioning applies to every sport, so do what makes sense for you! 


4. Nutrition plan  

There is a lot of research and a lot of information out there regarding nutrition plans. Do your due diligence and start reading up on different nutrition plans. My recommendation is to start with small changes, and encourage your family to take those steps along with you. We all KNOW when we have neglected certain food groups or we need to improve on our choices, you knew before I even asked this question! Take a good look at your eating habits and implement a small change by maybe adding in a new vegetable or two. Carry fruit with you so you aren't stuck with only bad choices come lunch time. Whatever it is you know you need work on, look for small ways to improve. Nutrition is about lifestyle changes, NOT CREATING A DIET. Teach yourself good habits now that will create habits for a lifetime! Not a few months for the season. :) 

Find other FAW blogs on nutrition here and our USA Wrestling feature here