1. Box Squat
There are a number of reasons why wrestlers should box squat. One, I’ve found that it’s easier for my wrestlers to learn and execute. Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours upon hours working technique with a wrestler because that’s something they already do in practice. Not only is the box squat easier to learn than the free squat; it’s also more effective. I believe the box squat to be more effective primarily for two reasons. First, the pause in between the eccentric (sitting down) and concentric (standing up) simulates stalemate situations in wrestling where producing a powerful effort from your lower body may be necessary to winning that situation. Second, you are able to recuperate faster from a box squatting workout than a free squatting workout. In fact, this happened to me just this past Sunday. I was training a group of wrestlers and the bar we wanted to box squat with was being used by someone else in the gym. So on the fly we agreed that hack squatting would be a suitable alternative for the day. When those wrestlers came in on Tuesday for their next lifting session they all said they were still unbelievably sore from Sunday’s workout and that walking had been a chore the last couple of days. Now, if walking is a chore, how the heck do you expect to practice at a high level??
The deadlift is probably one of the best all around lifts a wrestler can do to improve their strength on the mat. The deadlift strengthens the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and back) as well as the hands. We all know having a strong grip and back are important to being a successful wrestler, but the hamstrings and glutes are often looked over when developing a wrestling specific strength training program. The reason the hamstrings and glutes are so important for wrestlers to develop is because they are responsible for hip extension. What’s hip extension? It’s the same movement you see when you’re sprawling, finishing a takedown, lifting an opponent, and throwing an opponent. We’ve all heard our coaches scream “HIPS!!” at one time or another and the deadlift is one of the most efficient ways to develop the muscles responsible for strong hips needed to win more matches.
3. Weighted Chinup
The weighted chinup is by far the best upper body exercise a wrestler can do when looking to increase their strength on the mat. It has been stated time and again that wrestling is a sport of pulling. Therefore, I feel maximally developing the upper body pulling muscles will put wrestlers in a better position to succeed in matches. The wrestlers with the best weighted chinups that I work with can all do around 100lbs for 3 reps. These same wrestlers can also finish nearly every shot they get in on. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
4. Bench Press
Now, I know I argued above for the weighted chinup being important for wrestling specific strength training programs, however, there is a reason why you’ll find the bench press in about 99.9% of strength training programs in the country- it’s a tried and true way to develop upper body strength. Is it super functional for wrestlers? No. But then again, is lying on your back pushing on something seen in any sport? Having a stronger upper body never hurt a wrestler’s chance at success, so don’t worry so much about it and get benching some heavy weights!