Weight training for wrestling can be very general.
It can pretty much encompass just about any kind of resistance training.
…It unfortunately isn’t as easy as eating pie and ice cream after a large Thanksgiving meal.
In this post I’ll go into the specifics involved with following a weight training for wrestling plan focused on maximizing lower body and hip power.
Additionally, in this next series of posts I’ll be detailing other explosive exercises.
Typically, building power in wrestlers is done via the Olympic lifts. These are performed at the Olympic Training Center and in college weight rooms.
Unfortunately I usually don’t have a lot of time to work with wrestlers on their weight training. At most, I get to work with a wrestler for about an hour per session. Most of the wrestlers I train come in 3 times a week.
As a result, I’ve found these lifts do not have the most immediate impact when evaluating them with a cost-benefit analysis.
As a result, I’ve found that the implementation of the traditional Olympic Lifts into a weight training for wrestling plan can slow progress.
Because the lifts are very technical.
Like I mention above, most of the wrestlers I work with come in for about 3 hours a week.
Spending a significant amount of time on instruction and technique greatly cuts into their time to be throwing heavy ass shit around.
…And ultimately, that’s how you develop power.
Explosive Weight Training For Wrestling Principle:
Yes, after the “fancy” 4 year private school education and the certifications.
After all of the years of experience I have working with top wrestlers like Kyle Dake, Troy Nickerson and J.P. O’Connor.
What’s the big cutting edge conclusion I’ve made regarding power development?
Throw some heavy ass shit around.
My Mom and Dad would be so proud!
Ok, so it’s a bit more complicated than that. But, in all seriousness, that’s a key underlying principle.
Anyway, what I’m going to do in this post is detail some of the exercises I prefer to use with wrestlers looking to increase their speed and power.
But before I go into that, I’d like to first go into the Olympic Lifts so we have something to refer to.
Weight Training For Wrestling and the Olympic Lifts
As I mentioned above, the primary purpose of the Olympic Lifts in a program is to build power in the lower body and hips.
Specifically they are used to develop triple extension. Triple extension is the simultaneous extension of the ankle, knee, and hip.
Notice the ankle, knee, and hip during the above Snatch attempt.
Now, as far as the impact of triple extension in wrestling, I invite you to watch this highlight film from the 2016 D1 National Championships.
Be sure to look for triple extension. It should be easy to spot during shots, sprawls, stand ups, mat returns, and throws.
A PhD Perspective On Olympic Lifts
Want another perspective on why Olympic lifting may not be the best for wrestlers?
I’d like to quote leading low back expert, Stuart McGill, with his thoughts on Olympic Lifts for athletes:
“Many strength coaches, ranging from high school through to collegiate levels believe in building their programs around the Olympic lifts- in particular the first phase of the clean and jerk or the “power clean”. There is no question that this will build strength, but at what cost and with what utility? Too many young athletes ruin their backs with this exercise.”
“In the former Soviet system, athletes were carefully selected for the Olympic lifts based on their body segment proportions, natural speed and flexibility. Very few North American men possess these attributes to even obtain the initial “set” at the beginning of the lift where the bar is pulled, to minimize back loading for safety.”
“Further, very few can withstand the cumulative toll on the body of this very demanding event to survive for a necessary amount of time. Our data (Cholewicki and McGill, 1991) from national level powerlifting competition (not Olympic lifting) showed that better lifters actually sustained lower back loads than their less skilled competitors (less skilled meaning poorer performance and less weight lifted).”
“A final consideration must be given to recovery. Many coaches do not realize the lengthy recovery time needed by some athletes following an Olympic lifting session. Only some athletes will be able to withstand the rigors of an intense Olympic program; others will need much greater recovery time compromising the training intensity.”
McGill, S. (2009) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance- Fourth Edition. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Backfitpro Inc.
Power Training For Wrestling Exercise 1
Note- I think there are exercises with better carryover to shot speed and power- 2 Proven Ways To Shoot Faster.
However, if you’re looking for explosive, triple extension exercises that are easier to implement than the traditional Olympic lifts, this next exercise is a great option.
It mimics both Olympic lifts in terms of triple extension and pull from the upper body.
For the last few months, the Double Hand Kettlebell Snatch has been a mainstay in the weight training for wrestling programs I design. It has produced some fantastic results in terms of overall hip power.
Here’s a video of me performing the exercise. Below it is a video of me performing a Hang Clean.
Watch both videos carefully. Specifically, look at the similarities in the hip and lower body power.
As you can see, the hip power and triple extension in both is virtually identical. The execution speed is similar as well.
In fact, I feel as though the speed at which I perform the Double Hand Kettlebell Snatch is actually faster and more explosive. The weight being used factors in, though.
It’s easy to see that both are very similar in regards to the actual objective of the exercise. However, I’ve personally found it much easier to implement the Double Hand Kettlebell Snatch.
I feel it’s superior because it’s easier for wrestlers to learn. Therefore, they can start to use it and start benefiting from it sooner.
As a result, I have started to implement it fairly early on in weight training for wrestling programs I design.
…On a quick side note, the focus of the “Weight Training For Wrestling- Power Development” post series is to go into Olympic Lift alternatives. However, the Olympic lifting basics should still be introduced.
While I don’t use them a lot, they are valuable lifts if you have solid technique. Additionally, they’re commonly used in training programs at different levels.
Here’s a great video of a Hang Clean progression for those who are interested in adding it to your plan:
Anyway, back to the Double Hand Kettlebell Snatch. To perform this exercise, position your feet on either side of the Kettlebell and take a double overhand grip.
Lower your hips, arch your back and perform a Deadlift to lift it to the starting position. From there drive your hips back like you would for a Romanian Deadlift. The bell will lower straight down.
Drive your hips forward and drive your legs into the ground in an attempt to jump as high as you can. At the peak of your jump begin to pull the bell over your head. Do this by shrugging and then performing an Upright Row as you direct it overhead.
Keep in mind that at no point during this exercise should you be performing the lift with your upper body. It is simply used to direct the bell overhead from the force being produced by your lower body and hips.
Once the bell is overhead, stabilize it in the “bottoms up” position (upside down). This will help build reactive grip strength. It also helps to improve shoulder and core stability.
Return the bell to the starting position and repeat for the necessary reps.
Power Training Principle Principle:
Always remember- when performing this or any other exercise aimed at increasing power it’s of the utmost importance that you handle weights that allow you to move as explosively as possible.
Going too heavy will slow down the execution speed.
Ultimately, this detracts from the purpose of the exercise.
Don’t get me wrong, I always encourage wrestlers to increase resistance (so long as technique doesn’t suffer). However, always be sure your speed is consistent. This ensures that you’re not losing the desired training effect.
To summarize- know the purpose of every component in your weight training for wrestling program!
Alright, let’s get into another exercise I like when looking to maximize hip/lower body power for wrestling.
Weight Training For Wrestling- Power Exercise 2
The Kettlebell Swing is usually one of the first exercises I implement to develop lower body and hip power.
While the Kettlebell Swing doesn’t train full triple extension (the ankle does not extend), it does build unbelievably explosive hips.
I’ve found a great correlation between Kettlebell Swings and sprawling power.
KB Swing Technique
To perform the Kettlebell Swing you’ll begin just like you would for a Double Hand Kettlebell Snatch. Start by positioning your feet on either side of the Kettlebell and take a double overhand grip. Lower your hips, arch your back and perform a Deadlift to lift it to the starting position.
From there drive your hips back as if you were performing a Romanian Deadlift. While your knees should bend from this action, don’t think about squatting. Focus on driving your hips back.
With a nice relaxed upper body, drive your hips forward, snapping them at the end to propel the bell up. Your arms should remain straight and relaxed. They should function simply as an attachment to the bell as it moves away from your body.
When the bell reaches it’s peak height, pull it back to the starting position. Do this by squeezing your lats and throwing it back as though you were hiking a football.
As soon as the bell is back and your hips are loaded, drive it back up and continue for reps.
Make sure you’re able to maintain a high level of power output throughout the set. If you feel you’re losing power cut back on the reps.
Weight Training For Wrestling For Max Power- Keys To Success
There are a couple key points to keep in mind.
First, as with any other exercise that creates motion at the hips, always keep your back neutral.
Second, really focus on pulling the bell back between your legs. In fact, keep your lats tight throughout to prevent it from traveling above shoulder height.
By pulling the bell back down, you’ll help to set off your stretch reflex. This will help increase your power output per rep.
Remember- quality, not quantity for exercises aimed at developing explosive power.
Finally, as with any other exercise being used to increase power, focus on exploding forward with your hips as violently as possible. Be sure to do this while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
As with any other exercise that you may not be familiar with, start light with the Swing to get your rhythm and timing down. This is a key principle with every exercise in a weight training for wrestling plan.
However, once you get a decent handle on what your body needs to be doing, I encourage you to move up in weight as long as you feel comfortable. The heavier weight will actually force you to use your hips more, which is the purpose of using Swings.
The number one problem I find with wrestlers is that they want to use their shoulders and arms to perform a Front Raise.
Using a heavier weight will keep your upper body from getting involved. It also really helps you to develop the necessary pop from your hips.
Bottom line- if you want to increase power from your hips, include KB Swings in your weight training for wrestling program.
Breakdown Of The Weight Training For Wrestling Series:
The first bunch of posts will go into Strength-Speed exercises I use with wrestlers.
Strength-Speed exercises are typically performed with heavier implements. As such, they will improve your ability to produce force against external resistance. In the weight room this would be some kind of weight. On the mat it’s your opponent.
The proper implementation of Strength-Speed exercises into your weight training for wrestling program will help you a number of ways.
You will finish more shots.
You will perform mat returns with more power.
And you will stand up with more speed and effectiveness.
Once the Strength-Speed exercises have been discussed, I’ll then go into the Speed-Strength category.
Speed-Strength exercises are oftentimes referred to as plyometrics. They typically utilize your bodyweight or light Medicine Balls to provide resistance.
Proper implementation and progression of Speed-Strength exercises into your weight training for wrestling plan will benefit you in a number of ways.
You will get in on shots quicker.
You will react to your opponents shots faster.
And you will win more scrambles.
For the next exercise in the Weight Training for Wrestling Power Series, Click Here.
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