8 Body Parts To Emphasize for Wrestling!

Wrestling is such a unique sport…

Besides being one of the only sport that requires almost no equipment, it is also one of the few sports where big, strong biceps are an advantage!  (I know a lot of guys like training those “guns” so this should be good news)

But wrestlers also need to train the other “key” areas…

Here they are:

1.  Buttocks/Hips –  Having strong “glutes” helps you with everything from sprawling to standing up from the bottom position, to takedowns.  They are the cornerstone of your wrestling strength.  Some of the best exercises for them are:

  • Barbell Squats with bar held low
  • Reverse Hyperextensions
  • Glute/Ham Machine
  • Leg Press with Feet High and Wide

2. Thighs – Strong Thighs allows you to finish your moves.  They give you stability on the mat.  They allow you to be a fierce “leg-wrestler” too…  Specifically, we want to get the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Abductors and Adductors strong to make up a complete “Thigh” workout for wrestling.  Some of my favorite “Thigh” exercises are:

  • One Leg Squats
  • Standups on a Bench
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Deadlifts off a 4 inch box

3.  Shoulders - The Shoulders are the machine behind a strong upper body.  The 3 “heads” of that make up the Shoulder region are the Anterior, Posterior and Middle.  The Middle Head is particularly important for wrestling.  This allows you to crank a half on your opponent and is heavily involved when you turn your opponent for a pin.  Some of my favorite Shoulder exercises are:

  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  • Standing Thick Bar Press
  • Clean and Press
  • Manual Resistance Lateral Raises

4.  Chest – With all of the Pushups wrestlers do, it’s unlikely that the Chest will get neglected.  It’s important to keep the Chest area strong because any time you are squeezing your opponent like when you’re pulling in a leg for a takedown you are activating your Chest muscles.  The Pectoralis Major and Minor are the muscles that we call the Chest.  Some of my favorite Chest exercises for wrestlers are:

  • Weighted Dips with forward lean
  • Weighted Pushups with Shoulder Width Hand Placement
  • Close Grip Incline Press
  • Blast Strap Pushups

5.  Arms – It’s not hard to convince a wrestler to work on their arms to improve wrestling.  Who wouldn’t want bigger, stronger arms while improving wrestling at the same time.  I like to tweak traditional bodybuilding arm exercises to make them more sport-specific for wrestling.  Some of them are:

  • Thick Bar Curls
  • Thick Bar Reverse Curls
  • Thick Bar Shoulder Width Pushdowns
  • DB Hammer Curls

6.  Hands – Increased grip strength is absolutely necessary for ultimate wrestling performance.  Having a steel-grip will make you a force on the wrestling mat.  Generally, your grip will improve while the rest of you gets stronger.  Using a Thick Bar as with arm training will also develop your hand strength.  To help the grip along, some of the exercises are like are:

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts with 20 + reps
  • Pullups with a Towel
  • Farmers Walk
  • Plate Grip for time

7.  Waist - Core training for wrestling is not like training your abs for a bodybuilding contest.  Wrestlers need to have a really strong Internal Oblique area.  These are the muscles under the “love handles.”  They really help your mat speed by initiating twist at the core, which in turn acts as a whip for moving your body.  Some of my favorite Core movements for wrestlers are:

  • Glute/Ham Raise Static Hold (in parallel position)
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Planks and varieties of Planks
  • Medicine Ball Slams
  • Tuck Jumps

8.  Neck - The Neck is a must for any wrestler.  You can really increase your performance off the bottom as well as any defensive wrestling with improved neck strength.  You also avoid situations where you could be turned by having improved neck strength.  Some favorites of mine for wrestlers seeking improved neck strength are:

  • Shoulder Shrug with Barbell
  • Bridges for time
  • 4 Way Neck Machine
  • Stability Ball Isometrics against a wall

These are the 8 areas that a wrestler should emphasize in their strength training.  I’ve given you just a few basic exercises that will help you develop strength as it relates to the needs of a wrestling match.  This is just a sample that I pulled off the top of my head.

I hope this helps you kick some @$$ this season!!

8 Responses to “8 Body Parts To Emphasize for Wrestling!”

  1. Luka I. Says:

    Wow thanks Mr. Preston, I didn’t think you would actually have the time to do it, with all these tips from you im going to be tossing those kids around on the mat :)

  2. wrestling workout Says:

    Coach Preston- This is an unbelievable that covers TONS of different training modalities (from thick bars to manual resistance) that, as you know, will surely maximize the results and on-the-mat performances of wrestlers no matter where they are in their development! Keep up the much appreciate work!

  3. Coach B Says:

    Good list. However I feel the most important muscle group is left off!!

    The back is by far the most important muscle group a wrestler must develop for success.

    I have wrestlers who are also on our championship football team who can squat/deadlift/press ridiculous amounts yet cannot do many (or any) pull-ups and use proportionally light weights when rowing. I find that they cannot hold someone down or pull in a single leg (for example) as easy as they should. Being able to hold someone down or pull a leg in (amongst other wrestling motions/maneuvers) are almost completely tied to back strength.

    Pulling/rowing motions such as pull-ups, dumbbell/barbell rows, lat pulls help develop total back strength while also targeting biceps and forearms.

  4. mark chitty Says:


  5. Regaining some strength and muscle - Need help Says:

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  6. Belt Says:

    Awesome post! You have a fantastic blog, absolutely the greatest Ive read so far. I will be looking forward to your next entry. Thanks again.

  7. stevepreston Says:

    A common misconception is that the Back is a priority muscle for wrestlers. While I’ll be the first to admit that having a strong back certainly won’t hurt your wrestling, it still isn’t a priority. Let me explain…

    When you shoot a takedown, you initiate from the hips, legs and core to move towards your opponent. You reach out with your arms to grasp a leg. You pull in from there. But… you don’t pull your elbows back into your waist, do you? No… you are limited as to how far the elbows move back due to the circumference of the leg or waist that you’ve grabbed a hold of.

    This lack of a full range of motion automatically places the emphasis on the arms, not the back. The back is an excellent stabilizer and does have a place… just not as much as the arms.

    Now… this means that the Lats are not the priority as far as the Back when wrestling. However, the upper back (Traps) and Lower Back (Erectors) are hugely involved in wrestling. The Neck work and Leg work you do will address these areas.

    Holding someone down on the mat is most often done with the arms bent and therefore a primary stimulus of the Biceps Brachii and the Biceps Brachialis.

    Don’t neglect the upper back work… just recognize that the arm involvement that occurs while performing exercises for the upper back is more effective than the upper back itself as far as involvement on the mat.

  8. Doug Says:

    I agree with both sides of the back discussion. The part that Coach B may partially be referring to is on a ‘failed’ single, where your opponent sprawls too quickly for you to complete the snag/takedown. The lower back, as you have mentioned, does play a big part, but as you try to keep the lock on the leg you involve muscles that range almost from a ‘good morning’ position to a stretched out ‘row’. To simulate the actual movement is not easy to replicate without a training drill, but weightlifting could improve the strength of these muscles separately.

    I find value in both of the comments you and Coach B provided.

    Thanks for the article, as usual! Good information.

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