Top 6 Mobility Exercises For Wrestling
In the sport of wrestling, mobility is absolutely key. The crazy positions that wrestlers get into are unreal. Splits, shoulders behind the back, and a slew of other wacky body positions seem to always occur. A key factor to being a mobile wrestler is that being mobile allows the athlete to escape out of precarious situations a lot easier. Being mobile makes it easier to defend a take-down or take a shot; it also enables the wrestling athlete to hold better positions.
Think about it. Getting heavy on an opponent’s head requires lengthened lats. Lengthened lats mean stronger muscles. Stronger lats allow us to apply more force to control the opponent’s head and help us move their center of mass, giving us an advantage on the offensive prowl. We need to think about this idea over the realm of the sport of wrestling.
Mobility for wrestling is key for defense, offensive positioning, controlling an opponent, and, maybe most important, staying healthy. Wrestling is a sport that demands really mobile hips and a mobile upper body. Think about someone cranking an armbar and the damage it can do to an immobile shoulder. Not only will mobility help with performance, but it will also help athletes maintain structural stability during a match.
6. Pigeon Stretch
We love this stretch for every sport. We like to use the pigeon stretch more as an active and dynamic stretch, performing the movement by working through the eccentric over the course of time. We do this to open up the hip flexors, lower back, and work through the piriformis to really loosen up the lower back.
Wrestlers tend to get stiff in their lower back based on the stance. Wrestlers are a little eternally rotated with a rounded back, depending on their style of wrestling. This can lead to some lower back pain and the glutes shutting off--this can potentially happen.
We will do this stretch before a big lift for two to four sets of two to three reps of eccentrics lasting up to eight seconds. We also recommend the pigeon stretch needs to be done three to four days a week at home. Stretches should be done over the time of ten to fifteen minutes at home. The pigeon stretch needs to be one of the stretches performed.
5 & 4. Kneeling Thoracic Extension & Half Kneeling Windmill
The kneeling thoracic extension is a simple lat stretch that can be performed on a bench or a box. It helps wrestlers a ton. When a wrestler is in a heavy collar tie, their head may be below where their head is located. This means that if the lats are more mobile, the wrestler can utilize the strength of their lats in that position on the mat. This is why we love the kneeling thoracic extension.
Not only will the athlete’s opened-up lats make them stronger through the muscle, but it will also help wrestlers throw underhooks and pummel out of collar ties into other moves. This lets wrestlers apply force more effectively. We also like this movement because we notice wrestlers struggle racking a clean because of that position of being internally rotated in the neutral position. This is where the half kneeling windmill comes in.
We like to use the kneeling thoracic extension with the half kneeling windmill because the half kneeling windmill helps with thoracic rotation, thoracic extension, and will also help wake up the side-abs, feeling the intercostals. We have seen athletes get a little spasm performing this movement with a kettlebell. But this is cool.
What is cool about the little spasm is that when the wrestler goes back to the kneeling thoracic extension the stretch triggers a drastic improvement in the position of the stretch. Performing the half kneeling windmill for anywhere from four to five sets of three to five reps on each side. In between, do the kneeling thoracic extension for ten to twenty seconds. This can be utilized before practice or when going into the weight room to hit some big upper body lifts.
3. Couch Stretch
Again, this is one of those movements every athlete can benefit from. This is a movement that is really difficult for individuals that tend to be tight. It hammers the hips. A big key factor in wrestling is having strong and mobile hips. We need to target the hip area, the hip girdle. Over time, this will also protect the health of the wrestler’s knees. The health of an athlete’s knees can be measured by how well they can do a couch stretch.
For instance, trying to turn out from someone in on a low single and hit a switch or whatever to get out of that position, with immobile hips the athlete will not succeed in turning the position to their advantage. However, with more mobility throughout the hips, the wrestler will be able to apply more force, be more stable, and be able to get out of defensive positions more effectively.
Utilize the couch stretch before practice, before a heavy lift, or after a heavy lift for three sets on each side for fifteen to thirty seconds.
2 & 1. Hip 90/90 & Squatting Internal Rotation
The top mobility wrestling movements have to be focused on the hips.
The hip 90/90 drill starts by being seated on the butt. From there athletes rotate their knees back and forth to the ground like windshield wipers. This will help with the strength of the hips, open the hips drastically, hit deeper positions in the weight room and on the mat, and will allow the athlete to change levels more effectively, cut the corner to the shot more effectively, and utilize less energy from being able to get deeper.
We like to pair the hip 90/90 with the squatting internal rotation because they require the hips to be mobile throughout the entire hip girdle. The movements create hip strength and the ability to pressure opponents with that hip strength. Wrestlers have got to be mobile inside the entire hip girdle to help deal with any lower back pain and changing levels from multiple different angles. When athletes can create angles and change levels on the mat, they will be able to take down opponents easier.
Do these movements before practice, before lifting, after lifting, or at home while watching TV for three to four sets. Do seven on each leg and side more each movement. The hips will open up and the benefits will transfer directly over to the mat.
Not only will these movements help in the weight room, help with recovery, and feel nice and limber, these moves will actually help wrestlers be more effective in executing their wrestling moves. Being a super-stiff hinders a wrestler’s capability to handle attacks because of a lack of mobility. Make sure to perform all six of these movements three to four days a week. They can be done before practice or lifting sessions as a warm-up. They should also be performed at home three to four days a week for all of the reasons we mentioned throughout the blog. Healthy athletes stay on the mat; mobility work helps increase the health of joints and muscles to be able to stay on the mat.
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.