Train the right Wrestling Muscles to Dominate

Jordan Burroughs

Wrestling Needs Analysis

What do we need as wrestlers who want to dominate the competition? A needs analysis is an “Evaluation of the requirements and characteristics of the sport and the assessment of the athlete”(1). Today we will focus on the sport of wrestling itself and discuss what we need to improve on to become elite wrestlers. In the coming weeks we will discuss the types of exercises we can do to improve each characteristic.

Jordan Burroughs has the perfect blend of strength and speed.

 Speed * Strength=Power!

This is a no brainer. Speed is very important. Being quicker and faster than your opponent on the mat gives you an incredible advantage on the offensive or defensive. While speed is very important, strength is the other part of the equation. Power is “Strength x Speed” and very important on things like finishing a double leg, or driving your opponent onto their back. Without the strength , speed is not as effective, and vice versa.

We increase this attribute through many means, but the primary ways are: Plyometrics, Contrast Training, Dynamic Exercises, and HEAVY Compound Movements!!

High Lactate Threshold

It’s the 3rd period, the score is tied, and your legs feel like cement. Why is that and how can we overcome it? That feeling is due to lactic acid in your muscles. When competing at high intensities, your body uses carbohydrate for energy and lactic acid is a by-product. Luckily, we can increase our bodies ability to buffer and tolerate higher levels of lactic acid.

We do this with: Prowler Pushes, Interval Training, Various Anaerobic Conditioning means. In addition, it is important to increase our weekly training volume as well…also known as “GPP” or General Physical Preparedness.

Strong Pulling Muscles

Wrestling is primarily a pulling sport when it comes to the upper body. Pulling in single legs, jacking up double unders, and snapping your opponent down all requires strong and powerful Lats, Rhomboids, Biceps, and Middle/Lower Trapezius. It’s been said that Coach Bobby Douglas told Cael Sanderson that if he wanted to be an Olympic Champion he should do 50 pullups a day…guess what muscles pullups work?

50 pullups a day seemed to work out for Cael!

We strengthen these with: Pullups (weighted and unweighted), Inverted Rows, Band Pull Aparts, Pendlay Rows, Rope Slams, Ball Slams, and Overhead Balls Throws.

Strong Posterior Chain

A strong posterior chain is the basis of any great athlete. The spinal erectors, glutes and hamstrings are the driving force behind jumping, sprinting, shooting and just about every other athletic movement. The problem is, very few people and even personal trainers work these muscles. It is very common to hear of torn hamstrings in the NFL, NBA, etc. but very rare to hear of torn quadriceps. The reason being is many people have a large imbalance between the two.

Would you mess with this guy?

We strengthen these muscles through: Squats, Deadlifts, Reverse Hyperextensions, Glute Ham Raise’s, Romanian Deadlifts, Good Morning’s, and Glute Bridges. DO NOT NEGLECT THESE MUSCLES!!

Strong Core

I define the word core as the muscles surrounding the abdomen. One muscle many people leave out of the core is the hip flexors. The hip flexors are attached to the spine and strong hip flexors benefit wrestlers very much! Their job is “anti-rotational stability” and that is HUGE in clinch battles.

Here’s some ways we strengthen the core: Planks, Plank-Ups, Paloff Press, Landmine Chaos, Landmines, Ball Twists, and heavy compound exercises!

Strong Neck

Very simply, the neck is an important part of wrestling as it is used as a “fifth limb” many times. Neck strengthening exercises should be basic and simple in the beginning and increase as the neck grows stronger. Don’t neglect the neck!

Neck Strengthening Exercises: Neck Bridges, 4-Way Neck, Good Mornings with Spider Bar, Banded Neck Extensions.

Strong Grip

The ability to control your opponents wrist goes a long way in your match success.

Here’s how we do it: Prowler Pulls with Thick Rope, Captains of Crush Grippers, Snatch Grip Deadlifts, Fat Gripz, Plate Catches, and thick bar pullups.

Mental Toughness

Above all else, if you do not have drive to push through when the going gets tough, you will not succeed. Wrestling is one of, if not the, toughest sport out there and if you back down from fatigue or discomfort, no amount of technical ability or athleticism will overcome that when it counts. Here at OA Athletics when big tournaments are coming up we have a “mental toughness” week. The goal is not to needlessly run our athletes into the ground (as unfortunately many coaches do) , but to prepare their minds and bodies for battle. There are many ways to do this which I will go over in the coming months.

As Dan Gable said, “”The first period is won by the best technician. The second period is won by the kid in the best shape. The third period is won by the kid with the biggest heart.”
— Dan Gable


1. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Baechle; Earle.

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