Adding Manual Resistance To Your Program

A picture of a guy standing over another who is in a pushup position. The person standing over the guy in the pushup position is pressing on the back of the persons shoulders to provide Manual Resistance.

I’ve touched on it in a few posts before.

The Cornell Program uses it.

And I use it with the wrestlers I train from time to time.

So I’d finally like to detail Manual Resistance. Additionally, I’d like to cover how you may be able to implement it in your lifting program.

I don’t want to cover all of the benefits, risks, etc. with this style of training, especially because it’s already been done. So instead I’ll just let you know where you can find the info and then we’ll dive into some of my preferred ways to use it.

First, here’s a link to a article on Manual Resistance. It’s really thorough and if you have a lot of questions on this type of training, that’s a great resource.

And here’s a link to a quick breakdown on the Princeton Tigers athletic page. They basically restate what the article says. However, everything is summarized in a sentence so it’s a much faster read.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.

Back Extension

This was, if I remember correctly, the first exercise I used with Manual Resistance.

At the time I was lifting with two partners, which works a lot better than using one person.

Here’s how it looked:

A picture of Dickie White performing a 45-degree back extension. On each side there is a partner who is pressing on the back of his shoulders to provide Manual Resistance.

Because you’re working with two people, feedback is important. Let each partner know how they’re doing and what can be done to balance out the resistance being applied.

A great time to use Manual Resistance with the Back Extension is if you don’t have access to bands and you’re starting to find it difficult to hold large dumbbells behind your head.

For the guys I work with, that usually happens around a 45-pound dumbbell. After that, it just becomes too much of a pain in the ass. That’s when I progress them to bands.

However, like I said, if you don’t have access to bands, this may be a good time to consider using Manual Resistance.

Decline Situp

This exercise is also easier to perform with two partners. However, it can be done with one person.

Here’s how to do it with two:

A picture of Dickie White performing a decline situp. On each side there's a partner pushing on the front of his shoulders to provide Manual Resistance.

And here’s how you would do it with one partner.

 A picture of Dickie White providing manual resistance on a wrestler performing a glute ham raise situp. He is standing behind the wrestler and grabbing the wrestler’s traps with each hand.

In this pic I switched over to the Glute Ham Raise. It makes this variation much easier if you only have one partner. So if you have access to a GHR or any kind of straight leg situp/back extension machine, this is the way to go.

If you only have access to a Decline Situp and only have one partner, use this same grip on the traps.

Bodyweight Row

A Bodyweight Row is another great way to implement Manual Resistance. You can use it instead of putting your feet on a bench (as shown in this progression).

Or, because Manual Resistance is so variable, you can work it in basically whenever you want once you show “mastery” through the 2nd or 3rd progression in the post I linked to above.

Here’s the position you’ll want to get into with your partner:

An image of Dickie White and a wrestler demonstrating how to apply Manual Resistance in a bodyweight row. Try to position yourself where you can apply the resistance against the pecs/front of the shoulders.

Gun Show

Finally, there’s the exercise sequence I learned while interning at Cornell. The strength coach at the time, Tom Dilliplane, had the wrestlers performing MR curls and pressdowns with thick ropes.

Here’s what it looked like:

A picture of two wrestlers at Ironworks Gym demonstrating how to use Manual Resistance during a curl and pressdown. The wrestlers are using a 2 inch thick rope.

If you don’t have thick ropes available, looping two towels together works very well.

Quick Note- I didn’t include pushups because I started this post with a picture showing one way to perform it.


One of the best times to work Manual Resistance in is over the summer, especially if you’re new to it. It can make you really sore, particularly if you and your partner are pushing each other. Start by being conservative and consider only doing 1 or 2 sets.

In all honesty, I don’t really know if I’d do more than 3 sets of any one exercise. I also would suggest no more than 8 reps.

It’s a great way to hugely increase your time under tension (total time of the set). Ultimately, this makes it excellent for adding muscle.

However, with the increase in time under tension comes a lot of additional stress on your body. That’s why I recommend not using MR during the season (not often anyway).

Alright, that’s it for now. Let me know what questions you have on MR training and how you can work it into your program by commenting below or emailing me at

Related Posts:

Best Post-Workout Meal

A Valuable Lesson From Bodybuilders

Gaining Weight In-Season

How To Maintain Muscle When Making Weight

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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.