Sir Mix A Lot sang about it.
A Tribe Called Quest followed:
The most vicious and powerful female tennis player in the world knows of it’s power.
So why am I seeing so many wrestlers with flat asses?
Let me give you a quick story behind this post.
About a week before the “Big Game” Pat Popolizio, the head coach of the Binghamton University at the time, contacted me expressing interest in meeting.
We met that Sunday a few hours before the game to go over the final month and a half of the season in terms of matches, practices, and lifting.
After meeting and touring the facility I was officially in charge of designing the peaking program for the team. I got to work right away and missed the first 3 quarters of the game putting together 2 programs. One program was designed for the equipment at my gym and one for the school gym.
Now, after working with the guys preparing for nationals (and their awesome 14th place finish!) and since then with their post season lifting, there are a few major issues I’m noticing. The first being the lack of glute development.
I know that the butt is mostly viewed as something that impacts the sexual appeal of an individual, but it also has an important role in wrestling!
In a nutshell, the Glutes are important in performing hip extension. Hip extension is the action of driving your hips forward when you’re…
1. Sprawling on a shot.
2. Lifting an opponent for a mat return.
3. Throwing an opponent.
4. Driving your hips in when riding legs.
5. Shooting and finishing leg attacks.
It’s everywhere in wrestling. Therefore, developing strong glutes will not only improve your performance, but it may also save you a lot of back pain.
Big Butt = Less Back Pain?
I’m far from an expert on back pain, but the wrestlers who I train that have back pain tend to have small butts.
Why do I think this is the case?
Because the muscles above the glutes (Spinal Erectors) also help contribute to extension at the hips/low back.
And when the Glutes aren’t strong and firing properly, the low back has to compensate to get the desired result (sprawl, lift, etc.).
Think about it- have you ever seen a guy on top arching really hard when riding legs to the point of being perpendicular to their opponent?
Have you ever seen a wrestler have trouble performing a mat return? In order to get the job done, do they end up just folding at their back in an attempt to drag their opponent to the mat?
What about when you sprawl?
Have you ever sprawled on a guy and had him completely extended but weren’t able to produce enough force with your hips to break his lock?
These are all signs your glutes aren’t strong enough.
Fortunately, there are ways to tell if you’re lacking Glute strength in the weight room.
First, do your squats look like this? Or are they higher?
Or do you lean back heavily like this in order to finish a deadlift?
Notice the flat butt? If you guessed it’s because his Glutes aren’t firing, then you’re right!
This lack of activation and strength in your Glutes coupled with the stress from movement on the low back (both on and off the mat) can lead to problems.
Not only do you have an increased risk for injury, but you will also not be as successful in the specific wrestling situations above.
The good news is you can fix this problem with the right exercises.
Here’s a video that initially turned me on to the Hip Thrust. I really like how he goes about it in a scientific way. Specifically, I like how Bret shows which exercises will have the most impact on strengthening your Glutes.
Ok, here are some ways I use the Hip Thrust with the wrestlers I train.
Bench Hip Thrust
Here’s a traditional Hip Thrust on a Bench:
1. Place the Bench against a wall if possible. This will keep it from sliding.
2. Hold each rep at the top. This is especially helpful if you are new to this movement. It will best ensure you’re glutes are maximally activated.
3. Drive through your heels.
4. Use a pad, towel, or anything you have available to keep the bar from digging into your hip bones.
This is an alternative to using a squat pad. I personally haven’t found it to be the easiest to get set up, but in terms of protection, it does a much better job.
Band Hip Thrust
This is usually the preferred Hip Thrust at my gym for 2 reasons.
First, it’s easy to set up. I’m fortunate to have a bench with band pegs. So all we do is run the band from one end to the other.
However, many gyms don’t have benches with band pegs. Fortunately, there’s an equally easy way to perform this exercise, all you need is a carabineer.
Here’s a pic…
Once the band is connected around the bench, slide under it and begin.
Much like the Barbell Hip Thrust, focus on holding the hip extension position at the top and think about squeezing your glutes. Again, it helps if you focus on driving through your heels.
Hip Thrusts are usually done toward the end of a training session. Here’s a quick lower body template to give you an idea:
Superset 1- Squat variation + Core
Superset 2- Single Leg exercise + Low Back exercise
Superset 3- Hip Thrust + Hamstring
I may also switch the Low Back for the Hip Thrust. It all depends on the wrestler and what I feel they would benefit from most.
To get started perform 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps. This will build a familiarity with the exercise. It will also help your glutes to “turn on” (learn to fire properly and not have your Low Back or Hamstrings compensate).
After you get comfortable with the Hip Thrust, I suggest using 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps.
Additionally, after you’re more comfortable with the exercise, look to perform it with a fast concentric portion (when you’re extending your hips). Obviously with heavy poundages this will affect your speed, but keep the focus on execution speed nonetheless.