Building a foundation of wrestling strength doesn't require fancy equipment, but it does require persistent progression and compound movements. Isolation exercises like Curls and Triceps Extensions won't have much carryover to success on the mat.
Here are four simple lifts that will build strength for both beginners and more experienced wrestlers. As you improve, be sure to progress these movements by increasing weight or reps.
1. Trap (Hex) Bar Deadlift
No lift activates more muscles than the Deadlift. The Deadlift improves your grip for wrist control, 2-on-1's, and Russian Ties. It also challenges your core, hips and back unlike any other exercise. Good wrestlers have strong hips that can withstand takedowns and breakdowns. A solid back will re-establish a proper stance and help you resist when working from the bottom position.
- Stand in the middle of the trap bar with a shoulder-width stance.
- Position your hands so your ring finger is lined up in the middle of the handles.
- Keeping your back flat and your chest up, drive the ground away from you and stand up.
- Brace your core throughout the entire movement to keep your spine and low back safe.
- Always perform this as your main movement for the day, but limit Trap Bar Deadlifting to 2-3 times per week.
Sets/Reps: 5x5, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
2. Walking Lunges
All matches start with wrestlers on their feet, so you need a strong neutral position. Walking Lunges develop superior leg strength that will translate into powerful single-leg and double-leg takedowns.
- Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Take a big step forward, and drop your rear knee until it is only a few inches off the ground and your front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Drive off your front heel and step right into the next lunge.
- Always keep your chest up during Lunges, as this will eliminate assistance from your back and put most of the load on your legs.
- I recommend stepping right into the next lunge (as opposed to stepping the feet together between reps to recover balance).
Sets/Reps: 3-4x8-12. Lunges can be performed as your secondary lower-body exercise 2-3 times per week.
3. Farmer's Walk
The Farmer's Walk is kicking the Deadlift up a notch. When performing the Farmer's Walk, you challenge your grip, traps and entire shoulder complex to hold on to the weight and remain stable. Your core is forced to stay tight, and your erectors are activated to maintain an upright posture. Your hips, legs and ankles work together to stay strong and keep yourself moving. Many lifts are performed stationary, but the Farmer's Walk requires you to move in an unfamiliar plane, which challenges your muscles differently. The Farmer's Walk is a great tool to work strength from all angles and improve neutral position. It can done holding onto dumbbells or the trap bar.
- Grip placement is the same as for the Trap Bar Deadlift, with the ring finger placed in the middle of the handle. Be sure to pick up the weights with good form.
- Your back should be flat, your chest up, and your legs used to drive.
- Establish an erect position with your core braced, your elbows locked out and your shoulder blades pinched back.
- Walk forward in short, quick steps.
- Stand tall and keep your eyes and chin up.
Sets/Duration: 3x30 seconds. Perform this as accessory work toward the latter part of your workout, no more than twice a week. Try to cover as much ground as possible in the time allotted.
4. Chest-Supported Row
Strong pulling muscles will help you dictate the match. A well-built back will help you maintain control and finish takedowns. It will also help you keep your opponent close when you are riding top position.
- Lie face down on a bench inclined at 45 degrees.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang at your sides.
- Without using momentum, pull your elbows back and pinch your shoulder blades at the top.
- Always keep your elbows tucked close to your sides.
Sets/Reps: 3-4x6-10. Do these as accessory work 2-4 times per week.
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