Wrestling Tips from Iowa

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The secret to making your next wrestling season a success isn't a secret anymore. And the best part is that the secret does not require a major change, just a little adaptation to your daily workouts.

Former University of Iowa strength coach, Royce Alger, is sharing what he discovered as an Iowa wrestler with you. A former world champion, two-time national champion, three-time Big 10 champion and two-time Big 10 Wrestler of the Year, Alger credits his amazing success to a specific type of training—a type of training that provides much-needed conditioning, while improving wrestling-specific skills.

"When I was real dominant in college, I had a problem," Alger says.. "I'd wrestle, but I was winning every position."

Winning a problem? That's what Alger experienced—he had no competition to push him harder and make him better. That's when legendary coach and Olympic champion Dan Gable introduced Alger to a concept called "hard drilling."

"I had to lift, penetrate and keep going through the full range of the move while guys were giving me 30 to 40 percent resistance," explains Alger.. Not only did he become a better wrestler as a result of hard drilling, he became a better-conditioned athlete. "One of the best ways to get in shape ever, even more than hard wrestling, is hard drilling," states Alger..

It's not so much a secret formula or a revolutionary training method—hard drilling is a simple adaptation of what you, as a wrestler, probably already do regularly. Gable and his staff understood what they had in their wrestling room. They recruited the "best of the best"—wrestlers who dominated so much at every level that some had never been tested. That success environment created a dilemma. If these wrestlers were never challenged, how could they get better? Gable developed hard drilling to remedy this problem.

According to Gable's protégée, Alger, most wrestlers' drilling is problematic.

"Wrestlers go to drill and they drill about 15 to 20 moves. To drill correctly you pick out one or two positions or moves you want to work on, and you drill each for 35 to 40 minutes. You've got to at least drill in increments of three, and it has to be three repetitions of the same move," Alger says.

"Focus on certain variables of the position or move like the penetration, the lower elevation, the lift, the drive and the finish. Be real secular and get your timing down," he says.. Have your partner provide varying degrees of resistance for each variable of the position or move and you will have just incorporated Iowa-style hard drilling into your workouts.

Alger suggests putting "drilling at the forefront of the workout and really making it a workout." Still don't believe hard drilling is the main reason Iowa has been so successful? Take it from Alger.

"When I was training for the Olympics and the world championships, there would be days that I would just go in and drill, and I would get just as tired as I would get from hard wrestling."

Incorporating hard drilling into your wrestling training will help you reach your goals this season.

After all, you can't argue with the results at Iowa: nine of the last 12 NCAA titles, 27 of the last 30 Big 10 titles, nine NCAA individual champions in the last six years, 17 Big 10 champions and 30 All Americans.

Editor's Note: Royce Alger began his second stint as strength and conditioning coach for the Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling team in the 2002-2003 season. By the 2003-2004 season his guidance helped the team reclaim the Big 10 Championship, and finish as runners-up at nationals. Following this successful season, Alger decided it was time to leave the Hawkeye family in order to spend more time with his own.

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