Glute Strengthening For Better Performance

Sir Mix A Lot sang about it.

A Tribe Called Quest followed:

The most vicious and powerful female tennis player in the world knows of it’s power.

A picture of Serena Williams preparing to serve in a tennis match.

So why am I seeing so many wrestlers with flat asses?

Let me give you a quick story behind this post.

About a week before the “Big Game” Pat Popolizio, the head coach of the Binghamton University at the time, contacted me expressing interest in meeting.

We met that Sunday a few hours before the game to go over the final month and a half of the season in terms of matches, practices, and lifting.

After meeting and touring the facility I was officially in charge of designing the peaking program for the team. I got to work right away and missed the first 3 quarters of the game putting together 2 programs. One program was designed for the equipment at my gym and one for the school gym.

Now, after working with the guys preparing for nationals (and their awesome 14th place finish!) and since then with their post season lifting, there are a few major issues I’m noticing. The first being the lack of glute development.

A 2 sided image of the butts of 2 women. One is flat, the other is round. It's used to show the difference squats have on your glutes.

This is somewhat true…but it more depends on how you do the squats. More on that later.

I know that the butt is mostly viewed as something that impacts the sexual appeal of an individual, but it also has an important role in wrestling!

In a nutshell, the Glutes are important in performing hip extension. Hip extension is the action of driving your hips forward when you’re…

1. Sprawling on a shot.

2. Lifting an opponent for a mat return.

3. Throwing an opponent.

4. Driving your hips in when riding legs.

5. Shooting and finishing leg attacks.

It’s everywhere in wrestling. Therefore, developing strong glutes will not only improve your performance, but it may also save you a lot of back pain.

Big Butt = Less Back Pain?

I’m far from an expert on back pain, but the wrestlers who I train that have back pain tend to have small butts.

Why do I think this is the case?

Because the muscles above the glutes (Spinal Erectors) also help contribute to extension at the hips/low back.

And when the Glutes aren’t strong and firing properly, the low back has to compensate to get the desired result (sprawl, lift, etc.).

Think about it- have you ever seen a guy on top arching really hard when riding legs to the point of being perpendicular to their opponent?

Have you ever seen a wrestler have trouble performing a mat return? In order to get the job done, do they end up just folding at their back in an attempt to drag their opponent to the mat?

What about when you sprawl?

Have you ever sprawled on a guy and had him completely extended but weren’t able to produce enough force with your hips to break his lock?

These are all signs your glutes aren’t strong enough.

Fortunately, there are ways to tell if you’re lacking Glute strength in the weight room.

First, do your squats look like this? Or are they higher?

A side picture of a high squat where the top of the hip is above the top of the knee.

Or do you lean back heavily like this in order to finish a deadlift?

A side picture of a deadlift at lockout where the lifter is leaning way back because they don't have the glute strength to drive their hips in to finish the lift.

Notice the flat butt? If you guessed it’s because his Glutes aren’t firing, then you’re right!

This lack of activation and strength in your Glutes coupled with the stress from movement on the low back (both on and off the mat) can lead to problems.

Not only do you have an increased risk for injury, but you will also not be as successful in the specific wrestling situations above.

The good news is you can fix this problem with the right exercises.

Glute Exercises

Here’s a video that initially turned me on to the Hip Thrust. I really like how he goes about it in a scientific way. Specifically, I like how Bret shows which exercises will have the most impact on strengthening your Glutes.

Ok, here are some ways I use the Hip Thrust with the wrestlers I train.

Bench Hip Thrust

Here’s a traditional Hip Thrust on a Bench:

Performance Tips:

1. Place the Bench against a wall if possible.  This will keep it from sliding.

2. Hold each rep at the top. This is especially helpful if you are new to this movement. It will best ensure you’re glutes are maximally activated.

3. Drive through your heels.

4. Use a pad, towel, or anything you have available to keep the bar from digging into your hip bones.

A picture of Dickie White preparing to perform a Bench Hip Thrust. He's using a blue foam pad between his hips and the bar to minimize pain.

This is an alternative to using a squat pad. I personally haven’t found it to be the easiest to get set up, but in terms of protection, it does a much better job.

Band Hip Thrust

This is usually the preferred Hip Thrust at my gym for 2 reasons.

First, it’s easy to set up. I’m fortunate to have a bench with band pegs. So all we do is run the band from one end to the other.

However, many gyms don’t have benches with band pegs. Fortunately, there’s an equally easy way to perform this exercise, all you need is a carabineer.

Here’s a pic…

A picture of an orange band wrapped around a bench held together with a carabineer.

Once the band is connected around the bench, slide under it and begin.

Much like the Barbell Hip Thrust, focus on holding the hip extension position at the top and think about squeezing your glutes. Again, it helps if you focus on driving through your heels.

Implementation

Hip Thrusts are usually done toward the end of a training session. Here’s a quick lower body template to give you an idea:

Superset 1- Squat variation + Core

Superset 2- Single Leg exercise + Low Back exercise

Superset 3- Hip Thrust + Hamstring

I may also switch the Low Back for the Hip Thrust. It all depends on the wrestler and what I feel they would benefit from most.

To get started perform 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps. This will build a familiarity with the exercise. It will also help your glutes to “turn on” (learn to fire properly and not have your Low Back or Hamstrings compensate).

After you get comfortable with the Hip Thrust, I suggest using 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps.

Additionally, after you’re more comfortable with the exercise, look to perform it with a fast concentric portion (when you’re extending your hips). Obviously with heavy poundages this will affect your speed, but keep the focus on execution speed nonetheless.

Related Posts:

Strength Training for Wrestling- Glute Ham Raise

A New Approach To Developing Your Hips

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

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Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

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8 Comments. Leave new

Great info. I train some young wrestlers and the tips you give are great.
Thanks and keep up the great work

Reply

    Thanks for the comment Jason. Anything you’d like to see in the near future that would benefit the wrestlers you train?

    Reply

Good info. I really like the band version. I’ve learned a ton from your site and programs and am looking forward to more info like this. Thanks bro!

Reply

    Thanks for posting Scottie, I appreciate the feedback. I really like the band version too, mostly because I perform Hip Thrusts toward the end of my workout and by then the last thing I want to do is put a lot of work into an exercise. However I do like the Barbell version every few weeks to measure where I’m at and how I’m progressing. Let me know if there are certain exercises/topics/situations on the mat you’d like me to cover in the future. Thanks man.

    Reply

Hip thrusts get a lot of weird looks at the gym, but I’ve had a few fathers who sons wrestler ask me about them after seeing it done. Great exercise.

Reply

    Glad you’ve been doing them. Yeah, I get weird looks at my gym too and I own the damn place and it’s a powerlifter friendly gym so there’s lots of crazy lifting going on! Ah well, wrestling in an of itself looks a little strange to an outsider, so we’re used to the looks by now, lol.

    Reply

This was very helpful and made it easy to understand the exercise and how i can add it to my routine.

Reply

    Thanks Zach. What’d you think of the overall length and ability to read in a sitting? Could I have added anything else, or cut down on a certain section? I’m looking to keep everything as condensed as possible so as to not overload you with info, but instead provide just the right amount of the “why” behind the exercise and the “how” to work it into your program.

    Reply

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