Improving a fighter’s core strength will have a direct impact on performance. This group of muscles provides the foundation for holding your ground during explosive maneuvers, postural balance, and agility, not to mention their important role in injury prevention. Unfortunately, most trainers and trainers overlook the importance of this muscle group and even have a distorted understanding of what it really is. It is impossible to train it if you don’t know what it is. For the purposes of this article, the “core” muscle group includes the abdominal wall, obliques, lumbar erectors (lower back muscles), hips, and glutes. While the hips and glutes are often considered part of the lower body, the best performance benefit can be gained by training them with the abs and lower back.
On the mat, a fighter uses his core strength for many maneuvers and can expect better performance when strength gains are achieved here. Picking up your opponent during a takedown or return to the mat relies heavily on a strong and explosive core. Super strong lumbar erectors and glutes are what it takes to successfully arch your way out of a pin when it gets stuck at the bottom. Improving your core strength will also help you explode from the bottom position for a faster lift or transition to a reversal. When pushing and pulling to control your opponent while fighting with your hands, a strong, tight core is important in preparing your next move for a dominant position. The fact is, improving your core strength will improve almost every aspect of your game on the fighting mat.
During the season, the best fighters constantly train to improve their conditioning and perfect their technique. With such a hectic competition and training schedule, there is very little room for anything other than wrestling training; When can you go the extra mile to strengthen your core? The answer is all the time! During fighting season, focus on maintaining the strength you have and only make small efforts to improve so as not to detract from your core skills training. Consider adding some exercises at the end of practice 2-3 days a week to maintain your core strength, tone, and conditioning. During the off-season, put extra effort into training your core for further development. This is best accomplished in an accessory lifting program, but can still be done after off-season wrestling practices. To ensure ultimate improvement, keep records and try to gain strength with exercises specifically done to build a stronger core.
With limited time, it’s important to get the most out of your training sessions. The time and effort spent doing exercises that won’t make you noticeably stronger for wrestling are a waste. The fact is that not all exercises are the same; Sit-ups are great for improving the overall tone of your stomach, however, they do nothing for functional strength. For the best transfer to the fight mat, train your core for strength, not tone or conditioning. To do this, always train your abs with weights, rarely with body weight alone. Always keep your reps in the 8-12 range, never more than 20, no matter what the exercise is. Use heavier weights for lower rep sets and lighter weight for explosive reps, but still no more than 12-15 and always use weights or training bands for added resistance. Isometrics are also valuable for training your abs and core for wrestling. This can be done with light resistance from a partner or with light weights. Abs / core training for timed reps is also an effective type of isometric conditioning.
When training your core to improve your wrestling strength, it is important to hold your breath when performing your sets; do not exhale as you complete each repetition. Take a new breath between reps when you can’t hold it anymore, only to hold it again for the rest of the set. For your stomach, choose exercises with your legs straight rather than bent. For example, leg raises are far superior to crunches with the knees bent. This is because when the knees are bent, the abdominal wall is secondary to the hip flexor; Bent-knee stomach exercises work the hip flexors more than the abdominals. Sit-ups with straight legs are preferred. When setting up your program, it is important to choose exercises that allow for balanced development. In other words, don’t just train the abdominal wall and never the lower back or you could unbalance. Muscle imbalances can eventually lead to injury if they become pronounced or prolonged long enough or, at the very least, do not allow you to realize the full potential power at your core.
During the season, choose exercises that can be done in the fight room and save the weights for the offseason. To add resistance to core exercises while on the wrestling mat, a set of elastic training bands will go a long way. Stretch-leg crunches with a leg-supporting partner are great, but even better against the resistance of a training band. The leg lifts are great, but the leg throws (with your partner pulling the legs down and to the side) are even better. If your gym is equipped with a chin-up bar, hanging leg raises (to the front for the abdominal wall and to the sides for the obliques) will make your abs very strong. Training bands of varying strengths also allow you to work your lower back when worn around your neck for high rep good days. Anchoring a band to a stationary object will allow for weathered lateral bends or wood cutters for impressive oblique rotational power. Heavy chains can be purchased from a hardware store to use as resistance to train your core as well. Chains around the neck are great for adding resistance to the good morning movement or adding weight to leg lifts.
Bands and chains should also be used in the off-season to strengthen the core, however, there are many more exercises available in the weight room. With time off from competition and less time on the mat, the weight room is a great place to improve core strength with the right exercises. The use of kettle bells is excellent for developing explosive strength in the hips and glutes. Back lifts and good morning with weights, bands and chains should definitely be used to strengthen the lower back and glutes. In the weight room, train your abs and / or obliques twice a week and your lower back hard at least once a week (and sometimes twice). Stretch-leg crunches with weights and using the side pull machine to train your abs with weight are excellent. Use one side of a cable crossing machine to perform heavy explosive wood chippers for the obliques. Side bends with heavy dumbbells and a balanced back squat bar are also great for oblique power.
Some of the best functional forces in the core can be developed simply by transporting heavy items a short distance. The farmer’s walk (carrying heavy weights in both hands) and the carrying case (carrying weights in one hand) do wonders for building the upper and lower back, as well as the obliques and abs. Carrying heavy dumbbells (or a very heavy kettle bell) in front of you (approximately chest level) for distances of 50 to 100 feet. works amazing to build massive power at the core. For faster and more complete development of musculature and core strength that will translate to better performance on the wrestling mat, your weightlifting program should have a special emphasis on the posterior chain. Spend an entire day doing nothing but core exercises, extra hamstring work, and grip.