Improve Your Sprawl

A picture of a young high school wrestler sprawling on another to prevent the offensive wrestler from finishing their takedown attempt.

Having a strong, effective sprawl is essential to being a successful wrestler.

And to complement your technique, you’ll be happy to find out that there are certain exercises that will help improve the force you produce when sprawling.

Because I’ve written in greater detail in this post, I won’t get into the intricacies today.

Additionally, I’ve detailed a version of the exercise below in this post. I also cover the benefits of it in that post.

So instead of rehashing old topics, I’d like to introduce another exercise option if you’re looking to increase the strength of your sprawl and don’t have access to a horizontal back extension machine.

Straight Leg Hip Thrust

The bent leg version is shown in research (see reference below) to produce more glute activity when compared to the straight leg version. However, from a functional standpoint, I feel as though this version will have a better carryover to sprawling.

Here are a couple of pictures to show you the straight leg hip thrust:

A picture of Dickie White lying on his back. His heels are on a bench. His legs are straight. There is a barbell across his hips. This picture demonstrates the starting position of the Straight Leg Hip Thrust.

 A picture of Dickie White lying on his back. His heels are on a bench. His legs are straight. There is a barbell across his hips. His hips are elevated off the ground so that his body forms a straight line. This picture demonstrates the end position of the Straight Leg Hip Thrust.

The reason I feel this exercise will have such a positive carryover to your sprawl is because of the way you’re using your hips.

Yes, in order to perform this exercise, you’ll be lying on your back.

However, you’re firing your glutes to drive your hips forward, just as you would in a sprawl situation. This makes me confident that the straight leg hip thrust will have a positive carryover to the force and overall effectiveness of your sprawl.

So, if you’re looking for an exercise to use that will improve the force you produce when sprawling (and you don’t have access to a horizontal back extension), then I highly suggest you try the straight leg hip thrust in your training program.

If you have any questions on this exercise or other ways to improve your sprawl, leave me a comment below.


Kwon, Y, H. Lee. How different knee flexion angles influence the hip extensor in the prone position. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 25(10). 1295-1297. October 2013.

Related Posts:

A New Take On Hip Power For Wrestling

Research On Predicting Lunge Speed AND Shot Speed/Power Testing

Using Bands To Increase Shot Power

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.


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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Hey great exercise, how many sets and reps and load would you suggest? Also can these be done as a finisher to hip thrusts and glute bridges or would this replace them on certain days?

    • Thanks for the comment, Steve.

      As far as sets and reps go, that depends on the time of the year. For the end of the year here are two ways I would suggest:

      The first would be to train it relatively heavy with static holds at the top. The static hold time would depend on how long you felt you, on average, hold a sprawl position when you’re in a match. Or, if you’re a coach, what you observe with the wrestlers you work with. Typically during this time of the year I cut down on the sets and reps so I’d suggest 3-4 sets of around 5 reps. The lower reps will allow you to use heavier weight and the lower volume will keep the workload in check so you don’t get too sore, resulting in a potentially compromised performance in the day(s) following.

      The other way to do it would be to use the “Dynamic Method”, or to train this lift explosively. Strength movements like deadlifts have been shown in research to produce maximal power outputs at about 30% of a max. So I’d suggest using about 30% (no need to max, just estimate; there are a lot of rep max calculators if you search for it) for 4-6 sets of between 3-5 reps. If you’re feeling explosive and are moving the weight well, consider increasing the sets and/or reps. If you feel that you’re starting to lose your explosive capacity, even after extended breaks, cut the sets and reps short. Remember- having a positive carryover to the mat via explosive training is all about quality of effort. This goes with everything, but it’s especially important when doing explosive exercises since they typically don’t produce the muscular and cardiovascular effects (ie make you tired and/or breathe heavily) that other exercises may. As a result, I’ve found wrestlers are more likely to go into their next set too early.

      What do you mean by finisher? Perform this exercise after hip thrusts or glute bridges to “burn” the muscle out?

      Thanks again for the comment man. Talk to you soon.

  • Yes as a back off set finisher in the end after heavy bridges or thrusts? Thank you for the reply and the link!

    • Yeah, you certainly could. I personally don’t recommend these for wrestlers because it promotes sarcoplasmic hypertrophy rather than myofibrillar hypertrophy. In a nutshell, sarcoplasmic hypertophy is muscular adaptation to higher workloads and include increased water, glyogen, creatine, and other substrate storage in the muscle. Basically it causes “muscle swelling” without actually increasing contractile units; which is what myofibrillar hypertrophy promotes. So, to summarize- yes this is totally fine, but if you’re looking for more “bang for your buck” (ie more horsepower per pound of muscle/higher levels of relative strength), this may not be the best way to invest your time.

      Does that make sense? Thanks again for commenting, Steve; talk to you soon.

  • Yes it does functional hypertrophy is best for wrestling, thank you ! ill be applying these in march


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