8 Exercises Wrestlers Should Never Do

April 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Wrestling, Coaches Corner

This is a guest post by Steve Preston, Wrestling Performance Specialist and author of Ultimate Wrestling Power. Matside Hawaii is an affiliate for Steve’s program.

The top 3 body parts that wrestlers injure are the knee, shoulder and ankle joints.  In order to help prevent injuries in these areas your strength training should help you develop overall strength, power and speed, while addressing the more detailed needs of your knee, shoulder and ankles.

Here are some exercises or style of exercise that you should stay away from as a wrestler…

1.  Don’t do Bench Dips In this exercise you have your feet up on a Bench or Chair and your hands are braced against a Bench behind you.  You lower into a Dip position and push back up.  I’ve found that this exercise tends to put undo pressure on the Rotator Cuff, due to the Scapulae being forced forward and up (like when you apply a Chicken Wing on a fellow wrestler).

2.  Don’t do Bounce Reps on Calf Raises Most guys tend to do Calf Raises way too fast.  When you’re a wrestler, your goal when you train the Calves is to increase the strength of the Gastrocnemius, Soleus and Tibialis Anterior.  When you bounce up and down from start to finish with your Calf exercises, you bring in too much momentum which in turn, minimizes muscle involvement.  Also, you neglect the benefit of increased stability to the ankle joint when you train too fast.

3.  Don’t do Bench Presses if it hurts your Shoulder I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I love the Bench Press.  I used to be pretty good at it too, with a 500 pound Bench at a 189 pound bodyweight (I competed as a “light” 198 lber at that time).   But… for wrestlers, the Bench Press is optional.  If you feel a lot of stress in the Shoulder joint when you Bench Press, just drop ‘em from your training arsenal.  The Bench Press is an ‘Open Chain’ exercise.  This means that when you perform it, you push your hands away from your body.  Open Chain exercises are notorious for causing ‘stress’ and ‘shearing’ on your joints.  In the case of the Bench Press, it isn’t worth it to tweak your Shoulders if you are prone to Shoulder issues.  There are other choices.  I’ll discuss in my next post.

4.  Don’t Do Any Exercise for More Than 4 Weeks Straight Sometimes it’s not the exercise itself that is bad, but the lack of variety that can cause injuries.  Think about Major League Baseball players.  They play a schedule that is close to 200 games, doing the same repetitive actions every time.  They are loaded with little nagging injuries.  The same thing can happen with your wrestling strength training.  You need to train your body through phases of about 4-6 weeks, then switch. (My Ultimate Wrestling Strength and Ultimate Wrestling Power programs utilize 4 week training phases, with amazing results:))

5.  Don’t Do Exercises That Force Your Knees Over Your Toes If you perform Squats, Deadlifts or Lunges and allow your knees to travel forward over your toes, you put yourself in an anatomically compromised position.  This puts stress on the Patellar tendon, leading to knee pain.  The key is to perform these exercises while keeping your tibia (shin) upright throughout the exercise.  In order to do this for Squats and Deadlifts, you will need to use more hips and glutes, which is the result your looking for when strength training for wrestling.

6.  Don’t Do Pullups or Pulldowns Behind Your Neck For ultimate wrestling strength you need to develop your Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Biceps and Brachialis (forearm).  By performing Pullups or Pulldowns with a Cable and Bar is not a favorite of mine because you are limiting the range of motion required to fully-involve the Lats throughout.  You also put stress on the Rotator Cuff muscles.  This makes them poor choices when developing strength and conditioning programs for wrestling.

7.  Don’t Do Twisting Exercises… Without Clearance First! One of the fastest ways to increase a wrestlers speed and mat performance is to increase the strength in the Internal Obliques.  These muscles are developed with twisting exercises such as Russian Twists.  2 things about this:

  • Start with Bodyweight.  This is more about developing form, range of motion and stability than it is about cranking a lot of weight.
  • Make sure you don’t have an underlying issue with your Intervertebral Discs.  Have a Doctor check you out.

8.  Don’t Do Presses Behind the Neck Shoulder presses should always be performed either to the front or neutral (when you use Dumbbells).  Presses behind the neck are notorious for the stress they put on the Rotator Cuff as well as impingements in the Neck area.  Your range of motion is limited as well, allowing less muscle involvement.


About Steve Preston
Steve’s keen interest in Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology led to years of research and development of training and nutrition tactics to take his athletes to new levels of athletic performance. This resulted in exclusive training of wrestlers who were seeking gains in their mat performance. He is the creator of Ultimate Wrestling Power.


2 Responses to “8 Exercises Wrestlers Should Never Do”
  1. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE THESE!! keep posting!!

  2. You suggest NOT to do lat exercise yet they are the largest upper body muscle group. I personally disagree with that advice. Other than that most of your suggestion make some sense.

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