Moving forward with part three I would like to go back to the beginning, WARM-UPS. I have all the athletes who train with me start by doing the proper warm-ups. The warm-ups we do target the CORE specifically. Now the word core has been thrown around lately in the fitness industry. It is one of those “buzz” words that became real popular, and then gets misinterpreted or misused.
When I refer to the core, I am talking about the body’s midsection. We target the entire abdominal muscles and the lower back. The warm-ups are simple enough that once an athlete is taught, he can move about hitting each exercise on his own. We do these in circuit fashion, which means to move from one exercise to another. This gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing. I usually have them go three times through the circuit. I have a minimum of 3 exercises that they must do.
Many of the veteran kids will do more warm-up sets and/or exercises. The warm-ups accomplish several different things; A) the athletes have an immediate direction and work to get done when they enter the gym, B) it works on the most important aspect of getting extra work-outs in: SELF DISCIPLINE, C) it warms the entire body up, and D) the most important thing it does is strengthen the midsection and prevent injuries!
SIT UPS, are 1st on the list. We use a slant board, but if you don’t have a board available you can do them right on the floor. Please note: I said SIT-UPS, I meant SIT-UPS. It baffles me how when EVERY team that I have seen (and I have seen most on LI), the coach says SIT-UPS, wrestlers do crunches. Some genius somewhere must have read how crunches are better then sit-ups. I love the answers I get when I ask, “Why are they doing crunches?” Coach, “it targets the abs. doesn’t involve the hip flexors, and sit-ups are bad for your back.”
I’m not going to go into how ridiculous this is. What I will say is, the real reason they do them is because they are easy and you let them! Watch the wrestlers doing these crunches! They go from bad, where the shoulders barely come off the mat, to worse. I like to call them “turtles”, because they look like a turtle on his back with his head moving but nothing else. Bottom line, if you train like some lady in spandex in an aerobics class, don’t expect great results on the mat.
The second exercise I would like to discuss is side bends. Hold a dumbbell in 1 hand and bend to that side so the dumbbell goes down the side of your leg to about your knee. Then straighten back up using the oblique muscles on the opposite side of your body. Do 10 reps., switch hands, and repeat. You have now hit the front and side of your midsection (CORE).
Now we need to hit the lower back and this is where a “special” exercise comes into play. We do REVERSE HYPEREXTENSIONS(white machine pictured in this article). We have at our gym a Reverse Hyper Bench, and every gym should have one! It was invented by the legendary strength coach and Powerlifter LOUIE SIMMONS of the monster maker gym WESTSIDE BARBELL.
Mr. Simmons invented The Reverse Hyper in part to rehabilitate his own bad back. In Short, a regular Hyperextension has your feet secured and your upper body moving, in the Reverse Hyper your upper body is stationary and your lower body moves. This has several advantages. Louie says, “the motion creates a slight stretch in the spinal column allowing fluids to enter.” This is good for the spine and they point out that, “since Westside started using it, they have had no back problems.”
Another advantage is the ability to use the machine for strength gains by using weight. The bench has a foot attachment so weight can be added easily. You can work up to quite a bit of weight which will help build a very strong back. As Louie stated in one of his latest articles, “A weak man has a weak back, a strong man has a strong back.” I would make the same statement about a wrestler.
When I was working at a local high school and we did not have a Reverse Hyper, I had the athletes use an adjustable “Jump Table” that the track team had. I raised it all the way up so the kids legs could swing under it, and we had a make shift way of performing the movement. Maybe you have something like this or better yet, maybe you should find a new place to train.
We do several other warm up exercises like T-bar and Russian Twists, straight leg sit ups with spread legs, Ape hangers, among others, but the three listed are a good start. I would add in NECK WORK! If you have a mat available, do your bridging! If not, put a towel or the likes on the floor and get your work in. A neck machine is another option.
Your neck cannot be big or strong enough. The unbelievable 21 inch neck of FARMER BURNS immediately comes to mind. Not only was he an amazing wrestler (holding the world title) and coach (trainer of Frank Gotch), his feats of neck strength seem impossible! I will not list them, but here is a piece of advice…DO NOT TRY THEM! You will get seriously killed!!!
We will now talk about ASSISTANT EXERCISE. As was previously stated in this article, you want to train the body as a “complete system.” You must take into account the relationship between your nervous system and your muscles. This is called NEUROMUSCULAR SPECIFICITY. In other words, the general pattern in which you gain strength must be the same as the way it will be used. Again, this is why we try to avoid most machines, isolated movements, and exercises that have you sitting down.
With this in mind here is what we like to do for leg assistants work; LUNGES, many variations to chose. We have an open area down the middle of our gym where we can perform my favorite, the lunge walk. You can also lunge forward or backward and then push back to the start. When you are strong enough, add weight by holding dumbbells or with a barbell.
ONE LEGGED SQUATS is another good choice. This exercise hits the QUADS (front of thigh) hard. It has the added benefits of working on balance and hitting the stabilizing muscles of the ankle too. Once you are strong enough, again, add weight. This time though I would only recommend holding dumbbells because of how tough it is to balance. This way if you lose your balance, you can drop the weights and not get injured.
We also do STEP UPS onto a box. The box height is set so your thigh is raised to a 90 degree angle to your body when you step. Again, when you become strong enough, add weight by holding a pair of dumbbells. All three of these exercises work the legs and hips, plus bring the calves and balance into play.
The SLED is next up and this piece of equipment has endless uses that I will write about in future articles. Now I am not talking about some wooded toboggan heading recklessly down some snow covered mountain with no direction (like your old work-outs maybe?) hoping you don’t hit the next tree. Admittedly this can be loads of fun, and good conditioning, too, dragging the stupid thing back up that hill. No, I’m talking about a weight sled.
You can drag this thing forwards and backwards, pull it with a rope and if you have the right one you can push it. One can train all parts of the body with the SLED and it brings strength conditioning into the equation.
At the start of this article you see the piece of equipment we use for doing the GLUTE/HAM RAISE. A tremendous exercise for the entire hamstring. You need this bench or one like it to perform them. If one is not available at your gym or if the athlete is not strong enough to do them correctly, a leg curl would be the next option.
For extra Triceps work you can do PUSHUPS with a close hand spacing or dumbbell extensions. I feel that STRAIGHT BARBELL CURLS are an important exercise for athletes. Here I must warn you; don’t do these in Kirt Karwoski’s Power Rack or a 45lb. plate may come flying at your head! The Biceps are the primary movers, but I like the fact that they build the forearms.
This should translate into greater gripping power which cannot be over emphasized. All you have to see is the brutal DAN HODGE (who you all should know) break a pair of pliers with his grip strength, and I am sure you will agree.
In conclusion, the 3 parts of TRAIN have given you all the exercises you will need to start a proper work-out program. Next week’s article will outline how to put that program together. Please ask any questions you may have or better still, make an appointment to come down and train. I thank you all for your support. Coach Ellinger