More Exercise Variations for Grapplers

Dont get me wrong I love squats and deadlifts, but variety is the spice of life right?

Im not keen on sports specific exercises, at least not for the majority of work a day athletes. I wrote a post sometime ago called “great exercise variations for grapplers” it was fairly popular. When people post up “top ten exercises for grapplers” or something similar its usually either what we know works (Squats and Deadlifts) or way out stuff. But here are some variations ive been using, that lets say grapplers could make the the most of! I am of the opinion that movements that require flexibility, stabilisation and heavy isometric components carry across well to grappling or to any sport.

Some of the video’s I recorded myself some I’ve plunder from youtube. Anyway enjoy!

 Koji Overhead Squat Great for teaching and reinforcing controlled eccentrics, I’m not a big believer instability training, but this encourages tightness by compromising our base. Koji himself suggests that these movements improve proprioception and movement sensitivity. I find these movements useful for tapping into our proprioceptive abilities and sense of balance, which is why it makes a terrific warm-up, it kind of turns everything “on”.

Koji Overhead Press On both Koji movements key is to keep the loading light. This much like the overhead press forces you to rack the back and stay tight throughout the entire movement. Its attacks core, shoulder stability far more than conventional press.

Heavy Chinese Dumbell Row or Deadstop Rows 
Before form nazi’s get all crazy both of these rows allow for “some” body English, this should really be done with heavy weights for fairly high reps to get the most out of them. The Deadstop kills all the tension and requires more explosiveness off the floor while the Chinese row places you under constant tension; choose according to your needs. A strong posture all the way down the spine and upper back is key here, along with tight hips and good base and translates well to grappling.

With more weight you get a good grove for form, I like doing these for 10-20 reps. In the vid you can see I drift a fair bit, this probably would’nt happen as much with more weight. I usually alternate between these and pendlay rows.

Here is the original video of Chinese weightlifters doing their ubiquitous row.

As you can see from this picture of Olympic Champion Shi Zhiyong doing them the dumbell is rowed very high and out at an angle.

Doing them myself in the video below with 50kg for 10 reps, as long as you keep the back flat and hips braced there is little risk to the lower back, I would only use these with athletes with decent pulling experience. Very similar to the kroc row only different is im trying to drive my elbow out wide as difficult as that is. Where as with the kroc row you are keeping the elbow closer and or are using something to brace against.

Grappler Press 
This can be performed with a neutral bar or with dumbbells. Grappler presses build isometric and eccentric strength in the biceps, shoulders and back which is great for grapplers. If you try these I suggest going light they are harder than they look.


 Heavy Freaking Goblet Squats and Kettle Bell/Dumbell Swings

Heavy KB Swings and Heavy Goblet Squats

Often used as a progression for beginners to squatting or as a warm-up. With heavier weights their unwieldiness becomes useful. Heavy Goblet squats present a isomteric thorasic (upper) spine and isometric arm/shoulder challenge, along with a core battering. It requires you get comfortable staying tight in the hole. The other thing is with goblet squats people often achieve the best depth versus other squat variations, so its useful for grooving flexibility too. I have had clients do reps with 70-80kg dumbells without too much difficulty, it helps if you place the Dumbell on a high surface to load and unload the movement.

The Heavy KB swing is an awesome assistance exercise, I’m at a lack of kettlebells that are heavy enough, so we will often do heavy dumbell swings instead, This requires 2 things, chalk and a understanding gym. Ive not had a slip yet, as the force of swing fixes the dumbell in the hands, but still caution is required. Breat Conteras (pictured with the KB above) wrote an excellent piece on the benefits of heavy assed kettlebell swings (HAKS).

So there you have it, variations that are currently in favour with me, not only will these benefit grapplers but players of most sports. Commonalities in these movements are stability, core strength, isometric strength for the back and torso. Any questions head on over to the powering through facebook page.

If you like this content please share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *