Want to drive through shots faster?
Want to get in on shots faster?
…Want to go fast like Ricky Bobby?
Anyway, the two specific situations above are ones that I’ve been “consulting” with Kyle Dake on the last couple of weeks in an effort to have him at his peak by the end of the season in his quest to win 4 NCAA Championships.
After a few messages back and forth, I started to realize that there is a very important aspect to a wrestling training program that oftentimes gets overlooked by most strength coaches.
While vertical power production is almost always covered in pretty much any program with the use of Cleans and other Olympic derivatives (and his is more than adequate as seen in the speed and force of his mat returns), HORIZONTAL POWER is unfortunately not addressed often in performance programs for wrestlers.
Why Do You Need Horizontal Power?
Well, for starters, it will help you succeed more often in the situations above.
Wrestling doesn’t have a larger vertical component to it other than lifting and mat returning an opponent.
This, compared to sports like Basketball or Volleyball which obviously do (based on the number of jumps per game/match).
The leg strength/power required for wrestling is a bit different, and as such, programs must address that.
Determining Your Exercise Needs
Anyway, the first thing you need to do is determine if you have a “starting strength” issue or you have an “elasticity” issue.
You can do this easily by simply comparing the distance you can cover in one horizontal jump with the distance you can cover in two jumps.
Say for instance you can jump 5 feet in one jump and 11 feet in two jumps. That means you produce more power when you’re muscles are loaded (which will be the case almost 99% of the time).
Ultimately this means that you need to improve your starting strength.
Another, more simple (and functional) way to assess yourself is to objectively look at specific situations in wrestling that you feel need improvement.
In the case of the wrestler above he felt he could use a little more horsepower getting in on shots and finishing them.
In fact, a great majority of the time you’re shooting your body is a somewhat relaxed state.
Additionally, when you’re first in on a shot, while your body may not be in a relaxed state, it is the time when you’ll probably encounter the most resistance from your opponent.
Producing enough power to overcome his resistance is the difference between scoring a takedown and getting sprawled on (and possibly giving up a go behind).
Essentially, both are starting strength issues in my opinion, and therefore, there are a few specific exercises that I think will best prepare your body to be optimally prepared to score when you’re there.
Exercises For Horizontal Power
There are a number of ways to develop horizontal power for wrestling; some better than others.
In this post, I’ll just cover the ones I suggested to Kyle.
1. Kneeling Jumps
These don’t directly relate to horizontal power production, but they are great at developing power from a relaxed position.
If you have questions on these, I detail a number of variations in this post.
2. Pause Squats
Again, another indirect exercise, but another good one for training your legs to produce force from a relaxed and compromised position.
If you have questions on Pause Squats, check out this post.
3. Prowler Push
I use these a ton when the weather is nice, but unfortunately winter prevents me from working them into my in-season program for the wrestlers I train.
However, they are by far the best way to build the necessary power for the takedown specific situations above.
But Dickie, I thought Prowler pushes were just for making you tired and puke.
Well, while this is true, they’re actually about as perfect of an exercise as you can get for developing power for takedowns.
First, it develops great starting strength/power because the resistance is the most when you first start (just like when you first get in on a leg attack).
Second, it trains your legs to produce power horizontally.
Third, it doesn’t “over-mimic” a penetration step (you’ll see what I mean in the “Why You Might Not Want To Shoot With Bands” section).
Anyway, this is how I think it should be implemented…
How To Use The Prowler To Maximize Your Power
I’ll be honest, the info I’m going to present in this section hasn’t been tested by me, however, I have some recent research to support it.
In the past, all I’ve really recommended is to keep the weight in check so that your power output is high (ie you’re moving explosively as you push the Prowler).
The best way to select your weight was to either use your experience of finishing takedowns and try to replicate that speed by adjusting the weight OR compare yourself on video pushing the Prowler and finishing an explosive takedown. Ultimately you would use this video comparison to help you select a weight that produced the same leg drive speed.
However, I got an email from the super smart Bret Contreras the other day directing me to a new article that had just been posted by top biomechanics researcher, Chris Beardsley (check it out here).
Here are two charts presented in the discussed study that caught my eye:
I know- scientific charts are boring! But wake up; I promise you I’ll break it down for you.
What Do These Charts Mean?
The Jump Squat using 40% of your max was a close 2nd in peak ground reaction force and a close 3rd in peak power production.
Creating a lot of force and power when you shoot means more effective takedowns.
So, here’s what I’d do to make this a little more systematized and take the “shot in the dark” guesswork out of your training program.
Step 1- Determine a max weight for your Prowler push.
Requirements- Keep it around 8 yards, give or take. Why? Because in order to shoot, or finish a takedown you never need to cover much more than 8 yards in distance before you either score or go out of bounds.
Additionally, this needs to be a smooth push from start to finish, no stopping.
Step 2- Total up the weight used (at least estimate the weight of the Prowler, if not try to weigh it).
Step 3- Determine what 40% of that weight is. That’s your training weight.
Step 4- Push the Prowler (for the same distance that you tested your max at) and get more explosive!
I would recommend starting with 8-12 pushes after a thorough warm up (the warm up is used to get your system firing on all cylinders to maximize your power on each push).
Take breaks as needed to ensure your effort stays high.
Remember- this is not a conditioning exercise, we’re looking to maximize your horizontal power production here. So always err on the side of a longer break if you think you need it.
Anyway, like I said, I haven’t actually tried this yet, and I am “pulling” from data that doesn’t directly test the Prowler, but I think using a plan like this is better than haphazardly pushing it because you read about it on my blog.
Now, on to another common way to develop horizontal power…
Why You Might Not Want To Shoot With Bands
This is by far one of the most popular things to do as far as specific training for wrestling goes. However, I don’t think it’s the best way to develop horizontal power for wrestlers.
Here’s an excerpt from the actual message I sent to the wrestler:
I know a lot of guys like to do shots with bands. I’m not a big proponent of this because in doing so, you actually inadvertently train the body to take shorter penetration steps (due to the tension in the band). Ultimately this may lead to you not penetrating as well as you once did, thereby making you have to drive even harder once you get in on the leg attack; which is what you’re trying to improve.
Additionally, I’ve seen guys run/bear crawl with bands attached to them. I’m also not big on this for your particular case either because the amount of force needed at the start versus at the end is much lower. This is exactly the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve. You want to be able to produce higher levels of force as soon as you’re in on the leg(s) to better off balance your opponent and score the takedown. So once you get that initial blast and get your legs going, the resistance will more than likely become less; which is the exact opposite if you were doing it against a band.
…Anyway, those are just my rambling thoughts on using bands for resisted takedowns. Not to say that it won’t work (you see high level guys doing it in training videos on YouTube), I just think if you have some of the options I covered above available to you that you should consider those first.
Obviously, you need to be able to push and drive with your legs, especially with the new international rules with the push out points.
However, as you know, too much push could result in getting thrown, getting hit with a slide by or duck under, or getting redirected with an elbow by and pushed out yourself.
Final Thoughts On Bands
Listen, to conclude keep this in mind- there’s no research that suggest one thing or the other.
There’s one side that believes that the usage of bands in the manners detailed above are effective at developing horizontal power/leg drive.
And there’s another side who think this type of training may be resulting in undesirable neurological patterns being developed (shorter strides that will ultimately lead to distance/timing issues in a competitive setting).
I’m on that side, which is why I caution against methods like this. But, in the same breath, there’s something to be said that this method is being used to train an Olympic athlete, so keep that in mind while you read my ramblings.
Alright, that’s it for me today. If you have any questions on ways you can start incorporating horizontal power training in your program, just leave me a comment below or shoot me an email at [email protected]
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