Everyone wrestler wants to score more takedowns, right?
Unfortunately, I’ve found most wrestlers don’t know which specific wrestling exercises they should be using.
As a result, they end up going into the weight room, haphazardly selecting exercises based on what muscle group they work, and doing the standard three sets of ten.
So to help prevent this from happening, I’ll detail exactly what specific exercises you should be utilizing in your wrestling training program to help you maximize your physical abilities to score more takedowns.
Obviously improving your technique and timing will help big time, but the exercises I’m going to detail in this series will definitely help.
Because there are a number of aspects to scoring an effective takedown, I’ll detail exercises that will help you throughout the various stages of a takedown.
The exercises covered will help you become a more effective hand fighter and get in on a shot quicker.
In addition, I’ll also cover 2 exercises that will help you power through a stalemate situation to score.
Before I start though, I want to first talk about the scenarios I look at when selecting exercises. In this case it will be specific to a leg attack.
Wrestling Exercises For Takedowns
The first thing I do when selecting exercises to help a wrestler in a certain situation is break down exactly what’s going on from a muscular standpoint.
In the case of a leg attack (let’s say the Double Leg in honor of Jordan Burroughs) there are a number of things to consider:
1. If you are shooting from a hand fight, you need some serious grip and upper body strength to control the position.
2. The speed and quickness to get in on the shot.
3. The upper body pulling strength to pull the leg in as you shoot.
4. The leg/hip power needed to finish the shot.
When it all comes together beautiful moments like this happen…
Selecting Your Takedown-Specific Exercises
Now that I’ve broken down everything that goes into an effective takedown, I now must start to decide what exercises are going to be best for the wrestler I’m training.
Selecting exercises that are going to have the biggest impact on performance is individually specific. What I mean by that is, as you look to the various steps above, there may be a certain step that you end up not finishing regularly.
Maybe you’re not quick enough to get in on a deep double leg.
Maybe you don’t have the strength to pull the legs in after you get in.
Maybe you want to increase your speed to help you get in on a shot and increase your power so you can finish shots faster.
…This happened to be what Kyle Dake wanted my help before his last National Title. To read more about our discussions and the suggestions I made for him click here
I base the information provided to me by the wrestler to determine how much time I’ll have them put into each aspect.
For instance, here are two sample programs that I may come up with.
The first (Workout 1) is for a wrestler who has a lot of strength but doesn’t have the speed to get in on a double leg.
The second (Workout 2) is for a quick wrestler who gets in on a lot of good shots, but gets sprawled on and isn’t able to finish regularly.
Superset 1: Box Squat Horizontal Jump 4×3 and Med Ball Slam 4×5
Superset 2: Single Leg Vertical Bench Jump 4x3ea and Kneeling Jump 4×3
Superset 4: Ball Leg Curl 3×10 and Dr. Mike DB Bench 3x8ea
Superset 1: Box Squat Horizontal Jump 4×3 and Med Ball Slam 4×5
Superset 2: Safety Squat Bar Squat 4×5 and Weighted Chinup 4×5
Superset 3: DB Step Up 3x6ea and Gi Cable Row 3×8
Superset 4: Glute Ham Raise 3×10 and Weighted Dip 3×6
As you can see the exercises selected for both workouts are fairly similar. However, the total volume of the exercises for speed versus strength in Workout 1 (16 sets for speed, 14 sets for strength) is much higher when compared to Workout 2 (8 sets for speed, 20 sets for strength).
This is because of the exact reasoning I detailed above- different wrestlers are going to need different exercises and total volumes to produce the desired impact in their overall performance.
If you’re already strong, you know that it doesn’t take as much work for you to stay strong as it took for you to get strong.
Generally, as a rule of thumb, my training focuses on improving weaknesses. For example, if you’re not quick enough on the mat, the exercises in your program will be geared toward improving this aspect of your wrestling.
Because this is probably the limiting factor in you winning more; at least from an athletic performance standpoint.
Videos Of Wrestling Exercises
Here are some quick videos of some of the exercises I listed above in case you have any questions that I didn’t link to.
Box Squat Horizontal Jump:
For a detailed breakdown on Kneeling Jumps and the progression to follow click here to read the post.
Which Exercises Are For You?
Obviously, once you’ve identified where you seem to struggle during a takedown (video analysis may be beneficial, but be as objective as possible), you can really start to develop your program designed around specific exercises that will help you improve in those area(s).
The first exercise I consistently use in the programs I design is some form of overcoming Squat. It may be a Box Squat (click here to read a thorough breakdown) or an Anderson Squat (click here to read the breakdown).
To give you an idea of what a Box Squat looks like, here’s a quick video of me performing a Dynamic Effort Box Squat which focuses on developing a high rate of force from the paused bottom position.
While I’m using bands and a Cambered Bar (2 pieces of equipment you may not have access to), you can still perform Box Squats at any gym.
The big thing to remember when building a box is to make sure the box is at a height that places the tops of your thighs parallel (or lower) to the ground. Training with large range of motions will help prepare your body to produce force in disadvantageous positions.
To give you a better idea, here’s a slower demonstration video I shot on Easter Sunday last year (thus the colorful yellow shirt; Thanks Mom!).
This next Squat is an Anderson Squat; which again is one of the exercises I use to build power from a paused position.
Again, while you may not have access to a Safety Squat Bar or the straps, you can still perform this exercise in any rack at any gym.
Although a straight bar may agitate your shoulders, if that’s all you have, put it to good use. Additionally, set up the safety pins in the rack at a height that places the tops of your thighs below parallel to the ground when you’re at the bottom of your squat.
If you are experiencing a lot of pain in your shoulders by squatting with a straight bar, read this post.
***A third variation: Pause Squats
Summary Of These Squat Variations
As you can see, the pause in these Squat variations makes them both effective for building overcoming strength.
What I mean by overcoming strength is simply the strength needed to power through a paused, stalemate situation.
Using exercises like the Box, Anderson, or Pause Squat will develop the functional strength needed to help you power through your opponent after he stops your initial shot.
As you know, important matches oftentimes come down to one takedown. On top of that, it’s rarely a clean leg attack that gets the 2, but rather a hard fought shot that requires the offensive wrestler to dig deep and power through.
So be sure to work these squats into your program to train your body to develop the rate of force needed to power through takedowns in compromising situations!
Exercises To Improve Hand Fighting
Controlling and dominating the hand fight in wrestling is a sure-fire way to wear your opponent out and break him mentally.
When choosing exercises to put into your training plan, you must first identify what’s going on from a muscular standpoint in the hand fight.
First and foremost, having a strong grip will greatly improve your chances of dominating in this situation.
While I have used more isolation-type grip exercises in the past (and still do from time to time) such as grippers, plate pinches, various holds, etc., I’ve really been favoring more indirect and dynamic exercises lately.
I feel as though in a match you’re very rarely just looking to hold on, unless you’re in on a shot with short time and you’re winning by a point.
Instead, you’re looking to move your opponent by gripping on to his wrists, forearms, head, or shoulders and then pushing and/or pulling.
That’s why I began favoring complex exercises that had a grip component to them instead of just simply holding onto an object.
In addition to grip, there’s a lot of upper body strength needed to dig for under-hooks, apply pressure to your opponent’s head, and effectively use a 2-on-1.
Exercises To Dominate The Hand Fight
Here are two quick pictures and a video of me performing a Curl Press with the Fat Gripz attachments. If you don’t have a pair of Fat Grips, you can purchase them online. I suggest EliteFTS.com.
They are super versatile and will transform any standard handle into a much thicker version. They’re easy to transport and I believe they should be in every wrestlers’ gym bag.
Here’s the starting position of the Curl Press.
Here’s the midway point after completing the curl. You can keep your hands facing one another and perform this as a hammer curl, or rotate your palms up so that they are facing your shoulders. Both variations are good.
Here’s the top position of the Curl Press.
And here’s a quick video to give you a better idea as to what’s going on:
As you can see, it’s simply two exercises rolled into one.
I really like this exercise for wrestling because from a hand fighting perspective it works everything you’ll need to be successful and dominate the position- grip, biceps, and shoulders.
So regardless of whether you have a pair of Fat Gripz or not, I’d definitely start implementing a Curl Press into your program immediately.
On another note, while I do think using strict technique on lifts is important, especially for big compound lifts like the bench, squat, explosive lifts, and others, for exercises that you may be using for high rep conditioning, I’m not too concerned if you use your hips a little to get the weight up.
In fact I encourage this toward the end of the year as I regularly have the wrestlers I train perform cheat curl presses.
Safety is important and injuring yourself in the weight room because of improper technique is never something you should do. However, it’s also important to push yourself and with exercises like the Curl Press, you’re able to without much fear of injury.
Here’s a great video of the Iowa wrestling strength coach explaining his thoughts on lifting, technique, and how it all applies to wrestlers. This specific part starts at about 6 minutes in, but I’d watch the whole thing. Believe me, it’s worth it.
One of the other exercises I like to use when looking to improve a wrestler’s hand fighting ability is the Gi Chinup. …or really any pulling exercise with a Gi, but for the purpose of this post I’ll focus in on the Gi Chinup.
Again, this challenges the grip, but requires lots of upper body pulling strength as well. Developing pulling strength when maximally engaging your hands is super functional for wrestling.
**It’s so important that I devoted a whole post to it. Click here to give it a read
Wrestling is a sport of pulling and in order to effectively pull your opponent to the position you want him, you better have a good grip on him.
So choose exercises that simultaneously develop your grip and pulling strength to get the most out of your training!
Here’s a quick video of me performing the Gi Chinup.
Bodyweight Rows with a Gi are also great. Click here to read a post on the progression I use.
Conclusion For Hand Fighting
In a nutshell, the exercises you choose to work in to your wrestling training program to improve your hand fighting ability should develop and improve your grip, bicep, and shoulder strength.
Because hand fighting can be exhausting I have the wrestlers that I train perform exercises like the Fat Gripz DB Curl Press and the Gi Chinup for lower reps (usually around 6 give or take a couple reps) with heavier weight to build strength and higher reps (15-20 range or for time) with light DBs or bodyweight to help better conditioning the muscles for the 3rd period when they’re needed most.
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