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Rotational Training For Wrestlers

Wrestling is one of the more dynamic sports an athlete can partake in at any level. I'm biased, sure, being a former wrestler and wrestling coach, who now trains a number of wrestlers in the Strength and Conditioning sense. But wrestling is a fast paced, multiplanar sport, which happens in a confined space with two individuals who are usually on offense at all times (though some use defensive styles as a match tactic).

I've written about plyometric considerations for wrestlers before, but I want to highlight something which can be a missing piece for training you don't hear much about: training rotationally.

From a wide angle view, wrestling may not look very rotational. It looks fairly linear or lateral. But when we start to get into finishing takedowns, countering shots, or winning scrambles it becomes key to train rotational movement patterns off the mat. Finishing a single leg, double leg, Fireman's Carry, or bigger throws such as Lat Drops and Hip Tosses all require a high level of force transfer from the floor through the hip within the transverse plane. An athlete cuts the corner, the outside leg drives, and the torso rotates as they drive across and forward through their opponent (for a double leg at least, the exact description is different for each move).

So where do we start to train it? And what tools give us good options to progress them over time?

I want to highlight one tool we've used a lot with my wrestlers, and can be easily applied in almost any setting since it uses common equipment and has easy setup. Personally, the Landmine is one of the easiest ways to progress and teach rotational power for wrestlers. Not everyone has medballs, and some places may not let you do certain medicine ball throw variations due to space, noise, or potential for facility damage. Landmines, however, can be easily setup by shoving the end of a barbell in a corner and rocking and rolling from there.

Here's a brief progression over time of how we progress into our landmine work for rotational power and why:

Phase 1: Half-Kneeling Landmine Press

We use this early in the off-season as we recover from season and go into our main strength building phases. One of the things we utilize in this position is a contralateral stance, placing the opposite knee up, in order to build strength through the shoulder and fully extended hip. For some positions, especially Fireman's Carries, Lat Drops, and Cow-Catcher's, this full flexed shoulder and fully extended hip are similar positions which we can build strength in. We'll utilize this for 8-10 weeks in our strength or hypertrophy phases outside of season, or as a main upper body pressing movement in an undulating periodization for those who are competing year round.

Phase 2: Landmine Punch

This is the first introduction we use for rotational power work, as we take the athlete to their feet and learn to rotate through the hip. One of the big things we look at is the forceful internal rotation of the hip, creating momentum on the bar, and transferring it through the hand and fully flexed shoulder. We use this during power phases for 2-4 weeks, or during power blocks as an upper body power move in an undulating periodization for our year round wrestlers.

Phase 3: Landmine Pull-To-Punch

I stole this one from the throwing world (baseball, javelin, shotput, etc). But when we look at bigger moves like the throws, they have a greater time span which force is created, and also a greater amount of force generated as a whole. This is where we start to see weights go up on what is used (though not heavy enough to make it slow). This will get utilized for 3-4 weeks leading up to season (usually starting at eight weeks out), or as an upper body power move in an undulating periodization for our year round wrestlers.

Phase 4a: Landmine Rapid Punch

For our stronger athletes who need to express more power in a shorter time frame, we regress to the same position as our Landmine Punch, but constrain the time frame of power expression in order to build some power endurance. This is usually one of the last things we use with our wrestlers in the last 3-4 weeks leading up to season, or as an upper body power move in an undulating periodization for our year round wrestlers.

Phase 4b: Landmine Lateral Push Press (Half-Kneeling)

This is one we use as more of a transfer for those who won't use bigger throws as much as they will snatch single legs or double legs. Usually this is the bigger wrestlers such as middle and heavy weights, though it can have great transfer to some throws like hip tosses. Depending on the athlete, we would implement this later in training as an alternate to the rapid punch, implementing it the last 3-4 weeks before season or even during season for wrestlers.

Phase 4c: Lateral Landmine Push Press & Landmine Lateral Lunge to Push Press

These two exercises can be a bit trickier, and are more reserved for more experienced athletes. Personally, I've not taken any of my wrestlers to this level yet, though mostly due to their age and specific needs. For some wrestlers in the heavier weight classes, this can be a similar option to the Lateral Push Press listed above. Especially for those on the heavier end of the heavy weight classes (220lb and 285lb), this can be a viable options for creating more power in a short time frame like the Rapid Punch. Though we haven't used it widely for any of my athletes, I used it in my own training quite a bit when I was coaching on the mat to help regain some rotational capacity after years of weightlifting.

Now, this article only focuses on the Landmine Variations we use in the training of our wrestlers. This is largely because we don't have a solid surface to throw medicine balls into at the facility we train out of. This is not to discount the value of medicine ball throws, slams, and tosses, but to highlight how we've trained rotational strength and power in the wrestling population in a gym setting which is more closely related to being a "globo gym." This is merely a summation of several key things we use to train rotational power in wrestlers, and some of the reasons why we would want to train it in the first place.

If you plan on implementing this, one thing I find it also important to consider is to not miss the forest for the trees. Wrestling is a vastly dynamic sport, and demands a ton from the athletes who compete in it. Training rotation is only part of the puzzle of creating higher performing wrestlers, as it is not an exclusively rotational sport like baseball, softball, or field events such as the shotput. But rotation is a necessary quality to train, and this is one of the means we use to train it in this specific athlete population.

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