The Missing Link In Your Program

A head shot of Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby.

Want to drive through shots faster?

Want to get in on shots faster?

Want to go fast like Ricky Bobby?

Who Doesn’t?!?!

Anyway, the first two situations above are ones that I’ve been “consulting” with Kyle Dake on these last couple weeks. He’s doing everything he can to be at his peak before the NCAA Championships.

After a few messages, I started to realize that there is a very important aspect to a lifting program for wrestlers that often gets overlooked.

Vertical power production is almost always covered in a program. The most popular exercises used are Cleans and other Olympic derivatives.

However, horizontal power production is unfortunately not often addressed in performance programs for wrestlers.

Why Do You Need Horizontal Power?

Well, for starters, it will help you succeed in the situations above.

Wrestling doesn’t have a large vertical component to it. Yes, you sometimes lift an opponent to finish a leg attack. You also lift them to perform a mat return. But that’s about it, right?

Compare this to sports like Basketball or Volleyball. They both have a much greater need for vertical power production.

However, the leg strength/power required for wrestling is a bit different. As such, programs must address this.

Determining Your Exercise Needs

The first thing you need to do is determine if you have a “starting strength” issue or you have an “elasticity” issue.

You can do this by comparing the distance you cover in one horizontal jump (and then double it) with the distance you cover in two jumps.

Say for instance you can jump 5 feet in one jump and 11 feet in two jumps. Doubling your single jump puts it at 10 feet. That means you produce more power when you’re muscles are loaded. This will be the case almost 99% of the time.

Ultimately this means that you need to improve your starting strength.

Another, more simple (and functional) way to assess yourself is to look at specific situations in wrestling that you feel need improvement. You need to do this as objectively as possible.

In Kyle’s case, he felt he could use a little more horsepower getting in on shots and finishing them.

A great majority of the time when you’re shooting your body is in a somewhat relaxed state.

Additionally, when you first get in on a shot, you’ll probably encounter the most resistance.

Producing enough power to overcome this resistance is the difference between scoring a takedown and getting sprawled on.

Essentially, both are starting strength. Fortunately there are a few specific exercises that will prepare your body to finish.

Exercises For Horizontal Power

There are a number of ways to develop horizontal power for wrestling. Not all of the exercises below specifically develop horizontal power. The first 2 are ones that I suggested Kyle use to help him finish takedowns once he’s in on the legs.

1. Kneeling Jumps

These don’t directly relate to horizontal power production. However, they are great at developing hip power from a relaxed position.

If you have questions on these, I detail a number of variations in this post.

2. Pause Squats

Again, another indirect exercise. This a great one for training your legs to produce force from a compromised position.

If you have questions on Pause Squats, check out this post.

3. Prowler Push

I use these a ton with the wrestlers I train.

They are the best way to build the necessary strength and power for finishing takedowns.

But Dickie, I thought Prowler pushes were just for making you tired and puke.

While this is true, they’re actually about as perfect of an exercise as you can get for developing functional takedown power.

Why?

First, it develops great starting strength/power because there’s no momentum when you first start. This is just like when you first get in on a leg attack.

Second, it trains your legs to produce force horizontally.

Third, it doesn’t “over-mimic” a penetration step (you’ll see what I mean in the section below).

Anyway, this is how I implement it…

How To Use The Prowler To Maximize Your Power

I got an email from the super smart Bret Contreras the other day. In it, he directed me to a new article that had just been posted by top biomechanics researcher, Chris Beardsley (check it out here).

Here are two charts presented in the discussed study that caught my eye:

A vertical bar graph with blue lines detailing the various results of a study on ground reaction force of different exercises.

A vertical bar graph with blue lines/bars detailing the results of a study on the peak power of different exercises.

I know- scientific charts are boring! But wake up. I promise I’ll break it down for you.

What Do These Charts Mean?

The Jump Squat using 40% of your max was a close 2nd in peak ground reaction force. It was also a close 3rd in peak power production.

Creating a lot of force and power when you shoot means you’re more likely to score.

So, here’s what I do to make this a little more systematized.

Step 1- Determine a max weight for your Prowler push.

Requirements- Keep it around 8 yards, give or take. Why? Because in order to shoot, or finish a takedown you never need to cover much more than 8 yards. You either score in that distance or you go out of bounds.

Additionally, this needs to be a smooth push from start to finish. Don’t stop or it doesn’t count.

Step 2- Total up the weight. Include the weight of the Prowler

Step 3- Determine what 40% of that weight is.

Step 4- Sprint with the Prowler using 40% (for the same distance).

I would recommend starting with 8-12 pushes after a thorough warm up. A good warm up is essential. It’s used to get your system firing on all cylinders. This will maximize your power on each push.

Take breaks as needed to ensure your effort stays high.

Remember- this is not a conditioning exercise!

We’re looking to maximize your horizontal power production here. So always prioritize staying explosive, even if it means taking a longer break.

Want to know how this type of training can improve your shot speed and power?

Read the results of my research- 2 Proven Ways To Shoot Faster.

Now, on to another common way to develop horizontal power…

Why You Might Not Want To Shoot With Bands

This is by far one of the most popular things to do as far as specific training goes. However, I don’t think it’s the best way to develop horizontal power for wrestlers.

Why not?

Here’s an excerpt from a message that I sent to Kyle:

I know a lot of guys like to do shots with bands. I’m not a big proponent of this because in doing so, you can inadvertently train the body to take shorter penetration steps (due to the tension in the band). Ultimately this may lead to you not penetrating as well as you once did, thereby making you have to drive even harder once you get in on the leg attack; which is what you’re trying to improve.

Additionally, I’ve seen guys run/bear crawl with bands attached to them. I’m also not big on this for your particular case either because the amount of force needed at the start versus at the end is much lower. This is exactly the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve. You want to be able to produce higher levels of force as soon as you’re in on the leg(s) to better off balance your opponent and score the takedown. So once you get that initial blast and get your legs going, the resistance will more than likely become less; which is the exact opposite if you were doing it against a band.

…Anyway, those are just my rambling thoughts on using bands for resisted takedowns. Not to say that it won’t work, I just think if you have some of the options I covered above available to you that you should consider those first.

Obviously, you need to be able to push and drive with your legs, especially with the new international rules with the push out points.

However, as you know, too much push could result in getting thrown, getting hit with a slide by or duck under, or getting redirected with an elbow by and pushed out yourself.

Final Thoughts On Bands

Listen, to conclude keep this in mind- there’s no “formal” research that suggests one thing or the other.

But this post may be helpful. It details some research I did at my gym. I looked at the power produced when shooting with bands and the power produced when sprinting with bands.

Anyway, there’s one side that believes that the usage of bands are effective at developing horizontal power/leg drive.

And there’s another side that thinks this type of training may be resulting in undesirable neurological patterns being developed. Specifically this side argues that shorter strides will result from the increase in resistance. Ultimately, they feel that this will lead to distance/timing issues in a competitive setting.

I tend to agree with that argument. That’s why I caution against getting too wrestling-specific with bands. But, in the same breath, there’s something to be said that this method is being used to train high level athletes. So keep that in mind.

Regardless of how you go about it, find ways to start improving your horizontal power production today!

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
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

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Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

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10 Comments. Leave new

been strength and conditioning an pa. high school wrestling team for bout 7 years now. dickie’s stuff is among the best if not the best stuff out there. thanks for your time and sharing you knowledge.

Reply

    Thanks for the great feedback, Mike. How’s the team looking for the end of the year?

    Reply

      actually we are looking good. it really does look like we are peaking while a lot of other teams are not. we placed 2(highest was 4th) at the beast of the east and 5 at escape the rock (a 2nd, a couple 3rds and some others)and didn’t take 3 weight classes. this past weekend we won the league championship for the first time. it is really apparent that lifting and even the plyos are helping the kids. getting up before 5 is no treat though. lifting is indeed just a part of the program but a big part and i can see the results. thanks again for all your help and sharing of the knowledge.

      Reply

        Damn! I’m glad you guys get the lifting in during the morning so the quality of both that and practice can be as high as possible, but yeah, getting up at 5 can’t be the most fun thing to do a few days a week. Glad to hear it’s working so well though and that the guys are peaking at the right time. Congrats on the league championship!

        Reply

I want to delvelop explosive power and speed on greco lifts from the ground. Any tips?

Reply

    Oliver,

    There’s a lot to consider here so get back to me if I don’t clearly answer your question. As far as exercises go, here are some I think may be beneficial:

    1. Sumo Deadlift Shouldn’t be super wide, but definitely go with Sumo so that your grip is inside your feet, just as it will be when you’re lifting an opponent.
    2. DB RDL Although it’s more efficient to lift the opponent like a proper Sumo Deadlift, his movement in an effort to prevent you from lifting him may end up forcing you into more of a RDL position.
    3. Pause DB Row I prefer 2 handed pulling movements for wrestlers because you’re rarely pulling with just one arm, however, this simulates the upper body pulling portion of the lift in a nearly identical position.
    4. High Pull Because you’ll want to pull with as much speed as possible to increase your success rate, this is probably your best bet to develop the leg/hip power that will carryover to an improved lift. There are 2 ways to do it. First, as shown in the video. Second, from a paused position off the ground (more functional). I wouldn’t worry so much about pulling to your shoulders. In fact, I don’t think you’ll need to pull much over your stomach. It’s always nice to have some way to measure improvement, however, it’s not a must here; and ultimately, the improvement is how many more lifts and throws you’re scoring in match situations.
    5. DB Lunge These will help with developing the strength and stability in a similar stance to that from which you’ll lift from.

    Anyway, those are 5 exercises that I think should transfer over well. Ultimately it will come down to your implementation of all or a combination of the above exercises and what carryover you feel they have to your performance.

    Hope this helps man and let me know if you have any other questions. Talk to you soon.

    Reply

      These are great!! The sumo one makes a lot of sense because the position of the hands inside the legs, and having a wider stance mimics a greco lift from the ground. I max deadlift at 305lb but my lifts tend to be slow with not much lift speed. The others look like they will increase my speed/explosion

      One queation with the high pull, when I lift it from the more functional pause position from the ground, it is one fluid motion to just above the stomach right?

      Reply

        One way you can continue to incorporate sumo deadlits while making them replicate the speed of a Greco lift is simply lowering the weight to around 70% give or take and lifting it as explosively as possible. Typically this is done for 5-8 sets of 2-3 reps (it’s known as the Dynamic Effort Method complements of Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell). And yes, the high pull should be done as explosively as possible in one fluid motion. Probably for a similar set and rep scheme as the Dynamic Effort Deadlifts. Hope this helps man, keep me posted and talk to you soon.

        Reply

Our coach has us do carpet pushes, which is simply putting your hands on a square of carpet and pushing it across the mat or a gym floor. It seems very similar to using the Prowler, but with your body closer to the ground. Are they interchangeable, or is one better than the other?

Reply

    Yeah, I’m sure those are an acceptable alternative. My only concerns are this- first I like how the Prowler promotes a good, upright posture, similar to how your torso would be when shooting. Second, the weight factor and being able to accurately determine 40%. However, doing something close, like the carpet pushes is better than doing nothing, so definitely keep those in if that’s all you have access to.

    Reply

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