In this next post I’m going to detail the top 3 exercises I use to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, and low back with wrestlers.
The first and most commonly used exercise is the back extension.
Based on my experience, the back extension is the best way to teach a wrestler how to move from their hips.
On top of that, there are a number of progressions you can make that will continually challenge you regardless of your strength.
All of the wrestlers that have worked with me that have initially expressed that they have low back pain are never able to complete more than 10 reps the first time I have them perform this exercise. This is a tell tale sign that their pain could be the result of a lack of strength and conditioning in the low back muscles.
In fact, the most recent example of this came from a wrestler who said he had back pain for years. He even went to physical therapy for over 3 months.
He indicated to me that nothing was helping him.
Throughout the first 5-week block he trained with me I had him regularly performing back extensions. He performed them on both on the 45-degree machine and on the Glute Ham Raise.
During the first 3 weeks I didn’t have him use weight, only a controlled tempo.
During the 4th week he finally added some weight. And, during the last week I introduced RDLs which he performed with PERFECT form.
The last day before he left for the Future Olympians Camp at the OTC, he told me that he hadn’t experienced pain in his back for over a week and that he couldn’t wait to get back to training with me when he returned.
Yes, you read correctly. This 2x All-American attended an invite-only camp for 2016 Olympic hopefuls at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
See, just because you’re an absolute stud on the mats doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a “beginner” exercise like the back extension.
Here’s a quick video on how to perform a 45-degree back extension.
While the Hip Thrust targets the glutes and hamstrings, I still include it because it’s a fantastic way to train your body to properly fire your glutes and hamstrings.
As I’ve previously mentioned, the reason wrestlers will round at the back is because their body does not know how to properly use the glutes and hamstrings.
For any Jiu-Jitsu guys out there, performing this exercise is a great way to develop leg drive needed to help you initiate a hip escape. You can even perform this exercise with your back on the ground to make it more functional.
Anyway, check out the video on how to setup and perform the Hip Thrust.
You don’t need to perform this exercise in a rack, but I prefer to do it that way to make getting into position a lot easier.
I’ve found the Pin Pull to be the best way to develop a Deadlift technique without having to pull from the floor. The added range of motion to get down to a bar on the floor is sometimes the reason a rounded back occurs when performing the deadlift.
A lot of gyms don’t like their members to Pin Pull for a number of reasons. First, it can damage bars. In fact, this is how all of the bars at my gym got bent.
Second, they’re noisy and can make “sensitive” members upset.
So if you’re going to perform these at your gym make sure to do your best to lower the bar under control.
A good alternative to performing Pin Pulls is to perform this exercise off blocks, stacked mats, or other solid objects.
I’ve seen people deadlift off of wooden blocks, however, I don’t. I’m too concerned the blocks will break in the middle of a set.
So rather than worry about having to rebuild, fix, or replace the blocks, I use horse stall mats. The ones I get come in 4′ by 6′ sheets and I cut them up into 2′ by 2′ squares.
While it’s a little more expensive, these mats will last a lifetime. Besides the extra time and effort needed to fix and/or build new blocks just wasn’t worth it to me.
So definitely consider cutting up horse stall mats as an alternative to Pin Pulls.
With proper and regular implementation these 3 exercises help to build a solid foundation in your quest to build a strong back for wrestling. If you have any questions please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.