Below are some excerpts from my Strongman for Wrestling eBook.
The Strongman eBook is part of all 3 of the program packages available for purchase. To learn more about my packages, check out my Training Program Page.
Anyway, as far as the structure of the post goes.
I’ll first go into 2 of my favorite exercises for developing strength for wrestling.
Then I’ll detail 2 Strongman exercises that will maximize your lower body and hip power.
Finally, I’ll cover 2 exercises that will develop a grip that will crush your competition.
So let’s get started…
Strongman Exercises For Strength
Muscles Worked: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Low Back, Calves, Forearms/Grip, Shoulders, Biceps
Setup: Approach a tire and stand facing it with an athletic stance. Squat down until your chest is against the top of the tire. Your feet should be back a little bit and you should be on your toes. Ultimately your body should be in an angled position (about 45-degrees) against the tire. Take an underhand grip on the treads. I try to cup the tread and pinch it with my fingers as you don’t need a good grip on it as you would for say a Farmer’s Walk, you just don’t want your hands to slip out from under the tire when you’re lifting.
Execution: When you are in the proper starting position, drive into the tire at an angle until you are full extended and the tire is off the ground. As soon as you reach full extension, immediately drive your knee up while you simultaneously switch your grip position from underhand to overhand. If you’re using a light enough tire for your high school wrestling workout and can generate enough force from the initial drive you may not need to use your knee to temporarily hold the tire as you transfer your hand position. Once your hands are switched into the overhand position continue to drive into the tire until it has been flipped over onto its other side. Now get back into position and repeat!
Benefits for Wrestling: The Tire Flip is a full-body strength developer that will make you more efficient at getting off the bottom, sprawling, and scoring more takedowns. The angle at which you need to drive into the tire to finish is nearly identical to that of a high crotch or double leg so expect faster, more powerful finishes with those leg attacks. Additionally, the full-body muscular AND cardiovascular conditioning you get from performing a fast set of 6-8 flips in a short period of time (about 20 seconds depending on the size of the tire) is about as identical to an all out scramble as you can get.
Here’s a Tire Flip being performed by a 4th and 5th grader (quite a few years ago).
The 4th grader is now in 9th grade, is a 2x Section 4 Champ, placed 6th in NYS as a 7th grader at 152, unfortunately had to sit the 2011-2012 season out due to injury, and is a favorite to win a NYS Championship in a couple weeks.
The 5th grader is now in 10th grade, is a Section 4 Champ, and unfortunately had to miss the end of this season due to a concussion.
How To Make: Finally, getting your hands on a tire is easy. Simply get on Google and do a search for a commercial tire dealer in your area. DO NOT let them charge you for a used tire. You’re saving them money by taking garbage that they would normally have to pay to be loaded on a truck and shipped off to a recycling center.
Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Low Back, Lats, Biceps, Shoulders, Forearms/Grip
Setup: Load your sandbag up with the appropriate amount of weight. If you’ve never done this exercise before, always start light (this is a good rule to follow with any exercise for a high school wrestling workout for that matter). Once you’re ready to go, stand over the bag, bend over while maintaining a flat back, and take a grip on the bag.
Execution: Pull the bag up to the top of your thighs by lifting it both with your legs and arms simultaneously. Once the bag is “tabled” on your thighs while you balance it in a squat position, wrap your arms around it much like you would if you were performing a straight lift in Grego-Roman. Drive your hips in and rotate the bag up forcefully to your shoulder. Return it slowly to the tabled position and then back to the ground. Repeat the same sequence only this time to the other shoulder
Benefits for Wrestling: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a much better exercise for getting great lifting strength for the International styles. The Sandbag Shouldering will strengthen nearly every muscle in your body as well as functionally train your body to properly learn to generate power from your legs and hips and transfer that power through a tight, stable core into your upper body. This type of coordination is paramount to big throws from any angle and returning an opponent to the mat. On top of all that, the Sandbag is one of the best ways to develop a pair of hands that will literally crush your competition. You need strong hands in basically every position on the mat so maximizing your grip’s potential will maximize your potential.
Here’s a great information video on Sandbag Shouldering.
Here’s a video of me performing a Sandbag Loading.
How To Make: I’ve tried a few different sandbags and really don’t have much of an opinion on any one specific style. In all honesty, if you’re trying to save money, go to an Army/Navy store and get a used duffle bag made of canvas.
Although I don’t have an opinion on the bag you use, I do have one on the filling- I highly suggest using rubber mulch.
I’ve used various sand in bags and pea gravel before and it’s done nothing but eventually rip open and leak a bunch of dust in the air. It’s nothing but a pain the ass.
Definitely go with the rubber mulch. In addition to being easier to deal with, because it’s less dense, it’ll make the bag bigger and fuller which will be more likely to better simulate the size of an opponent, ultimately making it a win-win in the end.
Strongman Exercises For Power
Muscles Worked: Core, Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Shoulders
Setup: To effectively add this into your wrestling workout, first take an athletic stance straddling a car tire that’s standing upright. Sit your hips back while keeping your feet flat on the ground until you are able to grab it with both hands while your arms are fully extended. Keep your back flat and your chest up throughout the exercise.
Execution: When you’re ready explode up and back slightly with the tire by attempting to jump as high as you can as you simultaneously throw the tire back over your head. Jog to where it landed, reset the tire, and throw it again. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Obviously, make sure you perform this exercise in an open area so as to not risk damaging anyone’s property. Experiment with different sized tires for this high school wrestling workout. You’ll be able to accelerate lighter tires faster which will better improve your speed-strength (think light med ball or a light implement like that) while heavier tires, that you can still get some speed behind, will be more efficient at improving your strength-speed (think traditional Clean or a heavy implement like that). But other than that, all you need is an old car tire or two and you’re ready to rock and roll. You can find them almost anywhere making this an easy exercise to implement into your high school wrestling workout.
Benefits for Wrestling: This exercise was first introduced to me while I was at Ithaca College. For whatever reason there were a couple tires in our storage closet in the wrestling room and one day before practice we all decided to bring them out and see who could throw them the furthers using the technique I detailed above.
Needless to say, this exercise became a “fan favorite” with the team mainly due to our competitive natures. However, let me tell you, our mat returns started to improve drastically pretty quickly after implementing regular use of the Tire Throw. Based on the movement, I can also say with confidence that this will carry over to better throws in Freestyle and Greco-Roman as well.
While it’s not a tire, here’s a video of me performing a Med Ball Toss, which is a very similar movement.
How To Make: Any tire dealer will work for this. Again- you are taking garbage off their hands, so don’t pay money.
Muscles Worked: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Shoulders
Setup: To perform the Log Clean in your high school wrestling workout, first take an athletic stance in front of the Log. Take your grip on the handles and then lower your hips and arch your back. Lift the Log up to your hips while bending at the knees, hips, and elbows to position the Log as tight against your hips as possible.
Execution: Drive your hips forward and up as explosively as possible while simultaneously rolling the Log up your chest. Your focus should be on moving the Log from your hips to the rack position (against your shoulders) as quickly as possible.
When the Log is across the top of your chest/shoulders in the rack position and you have it stabilized and under control, return it to the starting position and repeat. There are a few key points to keep in mind when performing a Log Clean.
First, you need to have your elbows bent when you start if you want to be able to roll it up your chest without having to lean back excessively. Second, DON’T LEAN BACK EXCESSIVELY! This is a great way to hurt your back, and for what? A few extra pounds?! I’m all for adding weight and getting stronger, just make sure you’re doing things right and not putting yourself at risk for serious injury.
Be sure to check out the video below to see what I mean in regards to these two technique points.
Benefits for Wrestling: The Log Clean is in my opinion the superior way to develop powerful triple extension in wrestlers. Triple extension is simultaneous extension of the ankle, knee, and hip and is commonly seen when you shoot a takedown, lift your opponent, throw your opponent, stand up explosively to get off the bottom, sprawl on an opponent, etc.
Basically it’s everywhere in wrestling and the Log Clean is the way to develop it. What makes the Log Clean the superior way to develop functional triple extension for wrestling? The odd object nature of the Log versus a standard barbell or dumbbell. The Log is more unpredictable and unstable than traditional weights, just like your opponent will be. Training your body to be explosive against unpredictable objects in your high school wrestling workout is going to best prepare you for success on the mat!
Here’s a video of me performing a Log Clean.
How To Make: This you’re probably going to have to buy. But if you know a good welder, approach them about making some equipment for you. It will save you hundreds.
Strongman Exercises For Grip
Prowler Drag (lower body strength)
Muscles Worked: Quads, Calves, Forearms/Grip
Setup: First load up a Prowler with the amount of weight you wish to pull. Then attach a dragging strap or rope to the middle hole just above the front skid. From there either attach the strap to a belt while facing the Prowler, or thread a towel or Gi through the strap and hold on the ends with either hand. You can also simply grab the low bars and drag backwards as well.
Execution: Lower your hips so that you are in a quarter squat and begin to back pedal as fast as possible. Obviously, if you are pulling a heavier load for strength you won’t be moving nearly as fast as you would be if you are pulling for speed, but none the less, put forth maximum effort with each pull no matter how slow or fast you’re moving. Like the Prowler Push, you can pull for distance, time or both.
Mix it up and have different records to strive to beat during each high school wrestling workout. While dragging the weight at your waist is a great way to use heavier weight to strengthen your legs, if you’re looking for an added grip workout (and let’s be honest, as wrestlers, who isn’t looking for a stronger grip?!) a thick rope, a Jiu-Jitsu double weave Gi, or even a thick PVC pipe long enough to get both hands and the strap around comfortably all work well.
I’ve had the same Jiu-Jistu double weave Gi for about 2 years now without any ripping or tearing so far. I implement it into a high school wrestling workout for chin-ups, bodyweight rows, Prowler drags, or anything else we can add it to so as to better challenge the grip.
Benefits for Wrestling: This offers similar benefits as the Prowler Push. The backward drag targets the quads more, specifically the Vastus Medialis, which, when developed helps to bring increased stability to the knee. So if you have bad knees, this may be the answer! Additionally, the grip work you get from this is phenomenal. I once did a backwards drag with a thick handle that took me almost 2 minutes to complete…and 30+ minutes to recover from!!
Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of how to implement it into your high school wrestling workout.
How To Make: Another job for a welder, but it doesn’t strike me as all that difficult of a job (but then again, I’m not a welder).
Rope Prowler Drag (upper body pulling strength)
Muscles Worked: Lats, Biceps, Forearms/Grip
Setup: First load up a Prowler with the amount of weight you wish to pull. Then attach a thick rope to the middle hole just above the front skid. Lengthen the rope out and go to the end of the rope opposite the Prowler. Get into an athletic stance and grab the rope with both hands.
Execution: Pull the rope hand over hand until you reach the end. Avoid pulling the rope by leaning back and using your hips and back to pull the Prowler. Instead focus on keeping your core locked while pulling only with your arms. An alternative way to perform this exercise while better locking you into a pulling position which will allow you to handle heavier weight is by positioning yourself in a large flipping tire. This will help you to maintain your balance better and will also increase your strength development in your lats, biceps, and grip as you will be handling heavier weights.
Benefits for Wrestling: The Rope Prowler Drag is a great way to strengthen the muscles needed to help you finish more leg attacks, ride better on top, and, most importantly, dominate the hand fight. As you know, the hand fight is everything in wrestling and having exercises in your high school wrestling workout that develops hand strength is crucial. It sets up your shots, wears your opponent down, and sets the tone for the match. Having the strength needed to win in that position is oftentimes the key to victory or defeat.
The great thing about the Rope Prowler Drag and other Prowler Drag variations is that there is no eccentric portion to the exercise (no lowering of the weight under control before you lift it like in benching or squatting). The eccentric portion of strength training has been shown by research studies to lead to the most soreness so doing exercises like this one that don’t have an eccentric portion will enable you to recover faster. Faster recovery means a faster return to training. Faster return to training means more training sessions per week. More training sessions per week means faster gains in strength. …Well, you get the picture on how this will impact your high school wrestling workout gains!
And here’s a seated version of the Rope Prowler Drag (we used a sled this time; both work).
You can also perform this standing and include it in a conditioning medley to really turn this exercise into a great all around high school wrestling workout.
How To Make: Because of Battling Ropes, thick ropes like this are becoming more popular, and as a result the price is going up. However, just search eBay and Google for thick rope that would work.