|Pro MMA fighter Sean Carter and Grappler @SexyCurlsMMA representing!|
I’ve been quoted in the past as not being fond of sports specific exercises in the weight room. I’m keen on the idea that athletes should “do what is necessary not necessarily what is new!” especially for beginners who want to do exercises that they view will have direct correlation to their sport. Often this includes awkward movements and a lot of weight and massive potential for injuries. This can be problematic when you have poor physical literacy beyond your sport. For Instance “sprawl to deadlift is a great conditioning exercise”. But what point is there in trying this if you can’t deadlift properly in the first place.
Master the basic patterns first then diversify, having good fundamentals allows for informed abstraction. Point is after your physical “weak links” are taken care of, the you can start to think about being more specific in your exercise selection and conditioning arrangement. You can develop conditioning protocols that mimic the rigours of a match. You can implement exercises to improve hip drive, grappling specific core strength and grip strength. But earn the right to this stuff first!
Wrist and ankle weights, banded guard passing, barbell in your open guard, circus exercises on swiss balls this stuff ruins the mechanics of your grappling, save the grappling for grappling. And coaches resist the temptation to do these with athletes, try to understand biomechanics, motor learning and force when resistance is added.
Once you have planned out your squatting, deadlifting, squatting some more and front squatting your probably left thinking well what do I feel the rest of my workout with. Accessory movements are an opportunity to fix weaklinks, target specific movement patterns relevant to sport (not that the fore mentioned aren’t relevant!). For instance a tennis player might do some external rotation work for their shoulder, a ice hockey player may do single leg or ankle work. There are however exercises I like that are still gross/compound movement patterns but have a nice grappling lilt.
The applicability of hip thrust is instant to anyone with any sort of grappling background. This exercise is excellent for improving hip extension, plus glute and hamstring strength.The other benefit is the removal of spinal loading that a deadlift or squat might bring. Video below to see me demonstrating the movement.
I really like the floor press, it’s like the bench presses benevolent cousin, less horrible to your shoulders which is great for beat up grapplers and MMA fighters. Plus the deadstart helps to improve starting strength from the low position. This can usually be loaded pretty heavy allowing us to really attack the triceps, you can see why powerlifters swear by this movement for helping to bring up the bench press. Bret Contreras explains a nice set up for those without a spotter below.
Zercher Good Morning
Terrific for back extension strength, glutes, hips hamstrings and spinal erectors all benefit from this exercise, the isometric act of the upperback and core to help stablise is surpising, after a few sets of this your core will ache. It forces thorasic spine extension due to the anterior loading and need to resist shearing force on the spine. This is great for countering the slouched sitting posture grapplers often take. Arch like you mean it and push those hips back!
These are just three to get your started on your quest to become a stronger grappler. Grip work is probably worthy of its own future blog post. Make sure you squat, hinge, pull and push then spice things up with accessory work that is both challenging, relevant and interesting.