A Valuable Lesson From Bodybuilders

A picture of Ronnie Coleman flexing on stage at a competition.

Yeah Buddy!

I’m not a betting man, but I’d venture to guess that Mr. Coleman isn’t the most mobile individual in the history of the world.

Certainly not as mobile as one should be for wrestling anyway.

But there is a bodybuilding principle that I think has it’s place in a lifting program for wrestlers. Specifically, when you’re looking to develop functional pulling strength (ie the strength needed to finish leg attacks, body locks, various throws, and ride on top).

The principle- ISOLATION.

No, this doesn’t mean go into the gym and hit a bunch of super strict preacher curls.

Here’s what I mean (well, the opposite of what I mean).

Ok, this is an over-exaggeration. But let’s actually think about it for a second…

When in wrestling do you ever initiate a pull with your hips?

Other than in a mat return situation, I can’t think of any.

You certainly don’t have the luxury of creating momentum from your hips when you’re trying to pull in a leg attack, do you?

What about when you’re riding on top?

Do you drive with your legs/hips and then pull to increase the pressure of your tight waist?

While I’m totally in favor of pushing yourself in the weight room, doing so to the point of cheating, may be hindering you more than helping you. This is especially true during upper body pulling exercises.

So, here are a couple tweaks you can make to some of the current exercises you may be doing to REALLY increase your pulling strength for wrestling:

Weighted Chinup

Find that you’re kicking/kipping too much?

Simply hold a dumbbell between your feet.

DB Row

Using leg drive and your low back to initiate a DB Row?

Add a Fat Grip. This will force you to control the movement more. You’ll actually lose your grip on the dumbbell if you create too much momentum.

A picture of a blue Fat Gripz on the handle of a 70 pound dumbbell.

Cable Row

Driving with your legs or leaning back a lot when performing the Cable Row?

Probably the best thing to do here is just be conscious of using your legs and/or low back to initiate the pull.

Focus on keeping your legs as straight as possible and your back perpendicular to the floor.

Once you feel your form start to break down due to fatigue, either stop the set, or continue until you hit your reps. Then, make a note of it, and lower the weight.

Going Overboard

In this case “going overboard” simply means making your pulling movements “too functional.”

What I mean by that is doing, say, a cable row in a kneeling staggered stance to simulate the position you’d be in when you’re in on a leg attack. Another example is this:

I used to experiment with these types of pulling exercises. Upon first glance, I thought to myself “wow this perfectly simulates the body position when looking to pull in a single leg, finish a takedown, etc.” It must be good!

However, after playing around with a couple variations, I found them to be more of a test of core stability. Additionally, some variations were a pain in the ass to get into the proper position if you tried using a decent amount of weight. This was the case for the staggered stance rowing variations.

So while I was stabilizing my core and balancing in the “perfect takedown position,” I didn’t really feel like I was doing a good job of overloading/taxing my pulling muscles.

Don’t let this stop you from trying them yourself.

However, based on my experiences with these types of exercises, I’d caution you against using them regularly. I think you’ll find that your pulling strength will suffer.


Believe me, I love going into the gym and throwing weight around.

And I know what it’s like to get caught up with wanting to lift more.

But remember- the time you spend in the weight room isn’t about solidifying yourself as the “big guy” in the gym.

It’s about getting stronger so that you perform better in matches, and ultimately win more.

So the next time you feel the urge to start breaking form on your pulling exercises, remember why you’re there.

Related Posts:

Quick Adjustment For More Takedowns

Bodyweight Row Progressions and Free Gift

Kid Dynamite At It Again!

Wrestling Strength Workouts- Say No To HIT

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

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.


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


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


4 Comments. Leave new

  • Good stuff DW. I do my best to get through my client’s heads that the majority of their pulling should be done without mom

  • Good stuff DW. I try to get all of my clients to pull without momentum. Completely different feel. I find static strength helps with this as well – front and back levers, dead hangs, hanging L-seats, just to name a few. Really builds awareness of what should be turned on during an upper body pull. As you had asked before, I def recommend Coach Sommer’s book “Building the Gymnastic Body”. Has all oftthat stuff explained and thoroughly.

    • Thanks man, I’ll definitely check it out. Do you have an affiliate link up on your site? Either way I’ll pick it up, but I’d be happy to purchase through an affiliate link so you can get a few bucks for the recommendation.


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