Wrestling Exercises For More Takedowns

Wrestling Exercises post- an image of J.P. O'Connor lifting Darrion Caldwell off the mat with a single leg takedown.

Certain wrestling exercises will help you do this more.

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’re working that day, and doing the standard three sets of ten.

So to help combat this, I’ll detail exactly what specific wrestling exercises you should be utilizing in your program to help you score more takedowns.

Obviously improving your technique and timing will help big time. However, the exercises I’m going to detail will definitely help.

There are a number of aspects to scoring an effective takedown. Therefore, I’ll detail exercises that will help you throughout the various stages.

Before I start though, I want to first talk about the scenarios I look at when selecting wrestling 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) there are a number of things to consider:

1. If you are shooting from a hand fight. If so, you need some serious grip and upper body strength to set up your shot.

2. The speed to get in on the shot.

3. The upper body pulling strength to pull the leg in.

4. The leg/hip power needed to finish the shot.

When it all comes together beautiful moments like this happen…

An image of Jordan Burroughs in college finishing a double leg takedown against an opponent in a white singlet.  He has his opponent lifted off the mat as he's driving through.

Fact- Jordan Burroughs is pretty good.


Selecting Your Takedown-Specific Wrestling Exercises

In the case of the leg attack, once I identify the various parts of it, I must then identify the exercises that are going to have the best carryover.

Selecting exercises that are going to have the biggest impact on performance is individually specific. What I mean is, as you look to the various steps above, there may be a certain step that you struggle with.

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.

Maybe you don’t have the power to finish the shot once you’re in.

…This happened to be what Kyle Dake wanted my help with before he won his last NCAA Title.

To read about our discussions and the suggestions I made for him click here.

Based on the feedback from the wrestler I’m working with, I’ll know how to adjust the program to focus on their weaknesses.

For instance, here are two sample programs.

The first (Workout 1) is for a wrestler who has a lot of strength. However, they don’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. However, they get sprawled on and are rarely able to finish.

Workout 1:

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 3: DB Rack Lunge 4x4ea and Unbraced Pause DB Row 4x6ea

Superset 4: Ball Leg Curl 3×10 and Dr. Mike DB Bench 3x8ea

Workout 2:

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, let’s compare the total volume of the exercises for speed versus strength.

In Workout 1 there are 16 sets for speed and 14 sets for strength.

In Workout 2 there are 8 sets for speed and 20 sets for strength.

The bottom line is- different wrestlers need different exercises and volumes to have the optimal impact on their performance. It’s individually specific.

For example, if you’re not quick enough on the mat, the exercises in your program should be geared toward improving that.

Why?

Because this is probably the limiting factor in you winning more.


Which Wrestling Exercises Are For You?

Once you’ve identified where you struggle during a takedown, you can really start to develop your program. Ideally, it should be designed around specific exercises that will help you improve in those areas.

The first exercise I consistently use in the programs I design is some form of overcoming Squat. My most preferred squat for this is the Box Squat.

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. This style of squat focuses on developing a high rate of force from a paused 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 height places the tops of your thighs parallel (or lower) to the ground when you sit on it.

To give you a better idea, here’s a slower demonstration video.

If I don’t use a Box Squat in a program, I’ll sometimes use an Anderson Squat. Again, I like this exercise because it builds strength and power from a paused position.

While you may not have access to a Safety Squat Bar or straps, you can still perform this exercise in a rack. Simply set the safety pins at a height that puts your thighs at or below parallel to the ground when you get under the bar.

Finally, a third variation that I use is the Pause Squat.


Summary Of These Squat Variations

As you can see, the pause in these Squat variations makes them effective for building overcoming strength.

Overcoming strength is the strength needed to power through a paused, stalemate situation.

Using exercises like the Box, Anderson, or Pause Squats will develop the functional strength needed to help you power through your opponent after he stops your shot.

As you know, important matches often come down to one takedown. On top of that, it’s rarely a clean leg attack that gets the 2. Rather, it’s a hard fought battle.

So be sure to work these squats into your program. All three will train your body to develop the force needed to power through takedowns in compromising situations.


Wrestling Exercises To Improve Hand Fighting

An image from the Olympics of 2 Greco-Roman wrestlers hand fighting for position.

Controlling the hand fight helps maintain good position to prevent your opponent from shooting and also allows you to open up attacks of your own.

Controlling and dominating the hand fight is a sure-fire way to wear your opponent out and mentally break him.

While I have used isolation-type grip exercises such as grippers, plate pinches, and various holds, I’ve really been favoring different exercises lately.

I feel as though in a match you’re very just looking to hold on.

Instead, you’re usually 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. It just makes more sense to me than simply holding onto an object for time.

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.


Wrestling Exercises To Dominate The Hand Fight

Here are 3 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, I highly suggest purchasing them.

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.

An image of Dickie White holding a pair of small dumbbells at his side with his palms facing his legs.

Here’s the midway point after completing the curl. You can keep your hands facing one another or rotate your palms up so that they are facing your shoulders. Both variations are good.

An image of Dickie White holding a pair of dumbbells at the top of a neutral-grip/hammer curl with the dumbbells near his shoulders.

Here’s the top position of the Curl Press.

An image of Dickie White at the top of a neutral grip standing overhead press.

Here’s a video.

As you can see, it’s simply two exercises rolled into one.

From a hand fighting perspective it works everything you’ll need to be successful and dominate.

So regardless of whether you have a pair of Fat Gripz or not, I’d definitely start implementing the Curl Press into your program.

On another note, I do think using strict technique on lifts is important. This is especially true for compound lifts like the squat. However, when it comes to the DB Curl Press, I’m not too concerned if you use your hips a little.

In fact I encourage this towards the end of the year.

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 do so without much risk 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 I’m referring to starts at about 6 minutes in. But, I’d watch the whole thing. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Another exercise I like to use when looking to improve hand fighting ability is the Gi Chinup. Really any pulling exercise with a Gi is great. But for the purpose of this post I’ll focus on the Gi Chinup.

Using a Gi challenges your grip and requires lots of upper body pulling strength.

Developing pulling strength when maximally engaging your hands is super functional for wrestling.

It’s so important that I wrote a whole post on it. Click here to give it a read.

Wrestling is a sport of pulling. In order to effectively pull your opponent into a certain position, 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.

Anyway, the exercises you choose to improve your hand fighting ability should develop your grip, bicep, and shoulder strength.

Because hand fighting can be exhausting I have the wrestlers that I train perform exercises like the ones above for different rep schemes.

For strength, I have them use lower reps (usually around 6 give or take a couple reps) with heavier weight.

For muscular endurance, I have them use higher reps (15-25 range or for time) with light DBs or bodyweight.


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As a thank you, I will send you part of a plan that I designed for Kyle Dake before the World Team Trials.

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