WSBB Blog: Effective Lower Body Exercises for Grapplers
Grappling is one of the most ancient tests of skill, strength, and endurance in the world of sport. Since the times of the Roman Empire, having the ability to control and defeat another person in hand-to-hand combat has been respected and admired. Becoming a competent and skillful grappler can take many years of focused and dedicated training. Fortunately, becoming a strong grappler with high general endurance can be accomplished in a much shorter time frame.
For many years, athletes have avoided training with heavy weights in fear of becoming slow and immobile. As we know today, this belief couldn’t be more off base. When properly programmed, a powerlifting-influenced training program is one of the fastest, most effective ways a grappler can improve their performance on the mats. Through the use of squats, presses, and deadlifts, a grappler can gain the absolute strength, strength, endurance, and general endurance needed to become a top-level competitor. Below, we will cover a few of the lower body exercises that are most effective when training grapplers.
One of the best ways to develop strong hips, glutes, hamstrings, and an athletic base is through the use of sumo deadlifts. As a grappler, your ability to be strong and well-balanced while on your feet is essential to not only execute takedowns but avoid them as well. At Westside, we have long been proponents of the sumo deadlift, using a variety of setups to manipulate the training effect.
Some of our go-to setups for grapplers are sumo deadlifts versus bands, sumo rack pulls both from a low and a high pin, and deficit sumo deadlifts. Sumo deadlifts versus bands along with deficit sumo deadlifts will also give you the lower body and trunk strength necessary to lift, throw, or suplex your opponent. When executing sumo deadlifts, you want to avoid setting up too wide. The appropriate stance is legs shoulder-width apart, similar to the stance you would use to squat. When performed as the main exercise, we recommend using rep ranges of 1-3; when used as an accessory exercise, we recommend rep ranges of 5-12.
Cambered Bar Goodmornings
When building strength in the posterior chain, few exercises compare to the cambered bar goodmorning. This exercise places a great demand on the hamstrings, glutes, hips, and low back. To execute correctly, you will want to begin the goodmorning almost like a squat by pushing your hips back slightly while creating a bend in the knee. The bend in the knee is critical; this will place the barbell load primarily on the hamstrings and glutes, alleviating any unnecessary or unsafe pressure on the lumbar spine.
Once you have correctly started the cambered bar goodmorning, you will bend your torso over until you are near your deadlift starting position. Once you reach this position, you will elevate your torso to lift the weight and complete the rep. To accomplish this safely, you must brace your trunk correctly, similar to a squat or deadlift. When performed as the main exercise, we recommend rep ranges of 3-5 reps; when used as an accessory exercise, we recommend 8-10 reps. Always load weight you are confident you can lift safely; goodmornings are not the exercise you want to take risks with. However, when appropriately performed, few posterior chain exercises compare to the goodmorning.
Safety Squat Bar Low Box Squat
If you want to shoot strong takedowns, it is no secret you will need a strong set of legs. Fortunately, the goodmornings and sumo deadlifts will contribute to building your legs up; however, a specific squat movement will be necessary to have a proper rotation of lower body exercises.
One of the best ways to improve leg and torso strength is by using low box safety squat bar squats. The SSB will place a great demand on the legs, with the high bar position including extra anterior chain quadriceps work to add to the posterior chain focus of the goodmornings. Box height should be set as low as possible, as long as the athlete can safely execute the lift.
At Westside, we will add bands or chains to the safety squat bar to manipulate the training effect experienced when performing SSB low box squats. When used as a max effort exercise, we recommend rep ranges of 1-3; when used as an accessory exercise, we recommend rep ranges of 5-8.
For more information regarding the Conjugate Method and the training of grapplers, please visit the Westside Barbell Blog. If you are interested in how we program for fighters and grapplers at Westside Barbell, please visit the Conjugate Club to access our MMA monthly programming built specifically for fighters and grapplers.