Lifting 5 Heavy Reps Then Switch To 10 Lower Weights Developing Core Strength and Explosive Power For Wrestlers

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Developing Core Strength and Explosive Power For Wrestlers

Improving a wrestler’s core strength will have a direct impact on performance. This muscle group provides the foundation for maintaining grip during explosive maneuvers, postural balance, and agility, not to mention its important role in injury prevention. Unfortunately, most coaches and trainers miss the importance of this muscle group and even have distorted ideas about what it actually consists of. It’s impossible to train it if you don’t know what it is. For the purposes of this article, the “core” muscle group includes the abdominal wall, obliques, lumbar erectors (lower back muscles), hips, and glutes. While the hips and glutes are often considered part of the lower body, the best performance can be achieved when you work them with the abs and lower back.

On the mat, a wrestler uses his core strength for many maneuvers and can expect to perform better when strength gains are achieved here. Lifting your opponent during a takedown or mat return relies heavily on a strong, explosive core. Super strong hip erectors and glutes are what it takes to successfully arch your way out of the peg when it sticks to the bottom. Improving your core strength will also help you explode out of the bottom position for a faster get-up or transition for a reversal. When pushing and pulling to control your opponent in hand-to-hand combat, a strong, solid core is important to setting up your next move for a dominant position. The fact is that improving your core strength will improve almost every aspect of your game on the wrestling mat.

During the season, the best wrestlers train constantly to improve their condition and perfect their technique. With such a busy competition and training schedule, there is very little room for anything other than match training; when can you make an extra effort for basic strength? The answer is all the time! During the match season, focus on maintaining the strength you have and make little effort to improve so you don’t lose your main skill training. Consider adding a few exercises at the end of your workout 2-3 days/week to maintain your core strength, tone and conditioning. During the off-season, focus extra effort on training your core for further development. This is best accomplished in a supplemental lifting program, but can also be done after offseason games. To ensure definitive improvement, keep track and aim for strength gains with exercises specifically designed to build a stronger core.

With limited time, it’s important to get the most out of your workouts. Time and effort spent on training that doesn’t make you significantly stronger for a match is a waste. The fact is, not all exercise is created equal; ab crunches are great for overall toning of your abs, but they do nothing for functional strength. For the best transfer to the wrestling mat, train your core for strength, not tone or conditioning. To do this, always train the abdominal muscles with weights, rarely only with your own weight. Always keep reps in the 8-12 range, never 20+ no matter what the exercise. Use heavier weights for lower rep sets and lighter weights for explosive reps, but still no more than 12-15 and always use weights or training bands for more resistance. Isometrics are also valuable in training the abs and core for wrestling. This can be done with light resistance from a partner or light weights. Ab/core training for timed reps is also an effective isometric type of conditioning.

When you’re training your core to improve your strength for a match, it’s important to hold your breath while performing sets; do not exhale as you complete each repetition. Take another breath between reps when you can no longer hold it to hold it again for the rest of the set. For the stomach, choose exercises with straight legs rather than bent ones. For example, leg raises are much better than sit-ups with bent knees. This is because when the knees are bent, the abdominal wall is secondary to the hip flexor; bent-knee crunches work the hip flexors more than the abs. Straight leg sitting is preferred. When building your program, it is important to choose exercises that allow for balanced development. In other words, don’t only train your abs and never your lower back, or you can end up unbalanced. Muscle imbalances can eventually lead to injury if they occur or persist long enough, or at the very least prevent you from ever realizing the full potential strength in your core.

Choose exercises that can be done in the wrestling room during the season and leave the weights for the off-season. To add resistance to basic wrestling mat exercises, a set of training stretch bands goes a long way. Straight leg sit-ups with a partner holding your legs are great, but even better against the resistance of an exercise band. Leg lifts are great, but leg throws (where your partner throws their legs down and to the side) are even better. If your gym is equipped with a pull-up bar, lifting your legs (forward for the abs and sideways for the obliques) will make your abs very strong. Bands of varying strength also allow you to work your lower back when you wrap them around your neck for a high-rep good morning. Anchoring the strap to a stationary object will allow for durable side bends or wood choppers for amazing rotational power from inclined surfaces. Heavy chains can be purchased at a hardware store and used as resistance to train your core as well. Neck chains are great for adding resistance to a good morning routine or adding weight to a leg lift.

Bands and chains should also be used in the off-season to strengthen the core, but there are many more exercises available in the gym. With time off from competition and less time on the mats, the gym is a great place to improve your core strength with the right exercises. Using kettle bells is excellent for building explosive strength in the hips and glutes. Back lifts and good mornings with weight, bands and chains should definitely be used to strengthen the lower back and glutes. At the gym, train your abs and/or obliques twice a week and your lower back hard at least once a week (and sometimes twice). Straight leg sit-ups holding weights and using the lat pull machine to train your abs with weight are excellent. Use one side of the cable crossing machine to perform heavy explosive woodcuts on sloping surfaces. Side bends with heavy dumbbells and an offset back squat bar are also great for oblique strength.

Some of the best functional core strength can be developed simply by carrying heavy objects a short distance. Farmer’s walking (carrying heavy weights in both hands) and trunks (carrying weights in only one hand) do wonders for building the upper and lower back, as well as the obliques and abs. Carrying heavy dumbbells (or a very heavy kettlebell) in front of you (about chest level) 50-100 feet away works amazingly for building tremendous core strength. For the fastest and most complete development of core musculature and strength, which translates into improved performance on the wrestling mat, your weightlifting program should place special emphasis on the posterior chain. Spend one full day doing nothing but core exercises, extra hamstring work, and grip.

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