Best Exercises to Build Explosiveness For Wrestlers Off Season

At Garage Strength, during the offseason, we push our wrestlers, especially in the offseason, to try to grow physically. We will push them to get a little heavier, a little bigger, a little bit more lean muscle mass on their frame.

We need to get wrestlers to increase their strength, muscle size and their lean muscle mass. Then we need to train them over a long period of time through technical coordination. We need to train them to be more explosive to move things fast. It is also important that we do train absolute strength (bench press, back squat, front squat). We use these simple movements to really, really build. But still, we have to move things fast.


There is a difference between moving heavy weight and moving heavy weight fast. We know that when we start to see our wrestlers move heavy weights fast, that is when we see them dominate on the mat winning state titles, NCAA all-americans and world bronze medals.


We need to think about how to challenge wrestlers to get them more explosive through improving their movement vocabulary, improving the body’s IQ through education by challenging it with different movements, different positions, different rates of coordination. The smarter the body gets, the better it is going to be at adapting on the mat in a match. Training the body fast from different angles will make it more intelligent and know how to respond deep into the match.


Let’s take a look at a few exercises we use to develop champions.

6. Side Med Ball Slams

Side med ball slams are one of the best exercises to use to improve explosiveness in the offseason. With the wrestler pushing themself physically, getting a little heavier, bigger and having a little bit more lean muscle mass, the athlete can start to play around with various weights using the med balls. During the off season, we may get all the way up to 25#. Then when trying to hone in during the season, we will cut that med ball weight down to 12-15# to really focus on speed.

But the reason we really love this movement for explosive work is because we love to see wrestlers that can get super, super heavy on the head and control their opponents trunk. Thinking of abs from an explosive, rotational perspective is key to dominating on the mat and moving and controlling the opponent to set up the offensive attack.


We like to use side med ball slams two to three times a week in the offseason for four to six sets for four to five reps to each side. Play with the weight of the med ball and make sure to perform the movement rapidly and as explosively as possible.

5. Power Snatch

We hear people groaning about this one.


For a complicated movement, this is very simple. First off, the power snatch teaches hip extension. A lot of wrestlers when they start to do technical coordination movements, like the power snatch, they struggle to make contact. Wrestlers are almost always in a position where their lower back in shutting off their glutes. A key factor is that the power snatch will help train the hamstrings, glutes and lower back to coordinate in conjunction so the hips get more explosive and powerful.


Another component of the power snatch is putting the barbell overhead. We all know and have seen wrestlers that are always internally rotated. The power snatch will teach the upper back and thoracic spine how to extend a little bit more and become a little bit more rigid. That is going to improve the wrestlers shoulder cocontration. When the shoulder co-contracts more effectively the athlete will have more stability in their shoulder. The wrestler then can be heavier on the head allowing the athlete to manipulate their opponent’s trunk and manipulate their movement.

We like to use this movement three to four days a week in the offseason. It is a lighter, faster movement that is a technical movement. The technical demands of the movement build an more educated body and a more confident mind in the athlete to dig a well of knowledge on the mat. Go ahead and do five doubles to move it nice and fast. Now if the athlete is athletic enough, utilize the full range of motion and go into a full snatch.

4. Side Gwiz Jumps

We have noticed that it is easy for wrestlers to be explosive going head on. However, the difference between the elite and the sub-elite is the ability to change directions at the drop of a dime. The elite can move rapidly laterally, change levels, move backwards and set up their attacks off the rapid movements.


The reason we like to use this movement is because it helps train a greater range of physical planes of operation. To perform the movement, have the back knee on a pad with the front foot forward. The back foot has to stay off the ground. Get a little bit of a stretch shortening cycle by rocking forward slightly. Have a box perpendicular to the body. Now the quads, hamstrings and glutes coordinate together from a unilateral perspective and the athlete rotates and explodes onto the box.

This movement is really, really good for teaching wrestling athletes how to control the penetration step and set it up from multiple different angles. Wrestlers who are explosive laterally can really mess with their opponents, but all the different angles have to be trained.


Utilize this movement at least twice a week performing five sets of four reps on each leg.

3. Explosive Push Ups To Boxes

We like to use this movement because we can gauge success by how high the boxes will get. We might start at 12” and slowly build up to 18” to 24”. We will train this movement a couple of different ways. We want to see if the athletes can handle a little pause landing off the box, an isometric contraction, and then explode up to the box. We then like to see if they can handle a rebound back up to the box. We will also see if they can get up to the box from a static position from the floor.

We believe wrestlers in the offseason should really focus on their absolute strength. They need to blow up their bench press, pull up, dip and continue to increase their strength a lot. Still, wrestlers need to coordinate quickly. If the athlete is not as explosive, slow even, the opponent’s nervous system can prepare and adapt to the pressure. However, if the athlete is quick and explosive, they can more easily get them off balance. That is where the explosive push ups come into play. It trains the rapid motion to outpace the opponent’s body’s ability to respond.


Do this movement twice a week for five sets of six to seven reps. Not only will the athlete’s bench blow up, but they will demonstrate more control of their opponent on the mat.

2. Split Jerk (Pause)

This is a bonus exercise because a lot of people will not be able to perform this movement because of equipment limitations. Mainly, the access to jerk blocks. However, if the movement can be performed, DO THIS!


The split jerk produces more force than any other movement in the weight room. We like doing this movement with the barbell behind the neck. Load the back, dip with a counter movement, explode and hit the split position with a hold for a brief period.

We love this movement because it produces a ton of force and has a technical component--the athlete has to control the split position (which is a position emulated on the mat). Do this movement once or twice a week for four to five sets of two to three reps.

1. Banded Pull Ups

We want to preface this with the following: do rope climbs if there is access.


Alright, with that out of the way, with banded pull ups the band will be around the hips attached to a heavy dumbbell on the floor. When executing the movement, it helps with explosiveness because of the accommodating resistance. We want that sternum pulled right into the bar to help accelerate through the entire path.


Think of the pull up position. Holding the bar, pulling up and squeezing as rapidly as possible all the way through the movement pattern, we have a movement that simulates the positions of holding a cradle or getting a knee pick. This movement will improve all of those positions.

A little secret here. Do, say, five sets of three. Rest for three minutes and then do three sets of five as explosive or fast as possible without the band. The pull up is a movement that every wrestler needs to be doing, strengthening and utilizing for speed.

Recap

Being strong is great. Being explosive is better. Being explosive over multiple planes of coordination is even better. Utilizing power snatches, banded pull ups, rotational med ball slams, explosive push ups to boxes, side Gwiz jumps and, if you have the equipment, split jerks will all help teach the body how to create a higher rate of force production to move more rapidly, out pace opponents and achieve that all important victory on the mat. 


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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