Wrestling, in both its freestyle and Greco-Roman incarnations, requires quickness, power and anaerobic endurance. Contestants may grapple with one another for up to five minutes without a break, so the accumulation of lactic acid in their bodies is a virtual inevitability. As a result, body-weight exercises such as pullups, which work the upper body and focus on muscular endurance rather than raw strength, are an excellent means of training your system to stave off fatigue in the muscles you need most in this ancient and demanding sport.
The Standard Pullup
Stand beneath the pullup bar with your arms above your head, palms facing forward. The bar should be just out of reach, so that you have to jump or climb on top of something to reach it. Once you have a grip on the bar, pull yourself smoothly upward, keeping your elbows pointed toward the floor or ground. Avoid using momentum from a jump up and don't let your body swing forward as you pull yourself upward. Once your chin is level with the bar, slowly return to the starting position and repeat as many times as you can or is called for by the workout in question.
Standard pullups work various muscles of the arms and back and in particular target the latissimus dorsi or "lats." These muscles are critical in wrestling for both direct takedowns and pulling an opponent toward you so that you can try to pin him.
The Standard Chinup
In this exercise, you start with your palms facing you instead of away from you. This completely changes the dynamics of the movement, as you work chiefly your biceps rather than your back, although the latter does contribute. By making sure that you strengthen as many of the muscles in your arms as you can and not just your shoulders and back, you better your chances of being able to overpower an adversary from various positions and stances, especially if you have to hoist him over your shoulder. Therefore, alternating sets of pullups with sets of chinups in the same workout is good strategy.
The Kipping Pullup
Also called the "kip," this kind of pullup is popular within the burgeoning CrossFit movement and is something of a hot button in the strength community. According to Greg Everett, the author of "Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches," the kip can be very useful if done safely. Start in the usual position, but when hoisting yourself upward, swing forward, leading with your chest; on the descent, maintain tension in your arms and shoulders. If you execute these pullups in a smooth and controlled manner, your shoulders are overloaded in a beneficial way rather than a jarring one. If you do them properly, not only will you build even more shoulder and back strength than you do with regular pullups, but you'll increase your grip strength, which is of immeasurable benefit in a wrestling match.
The Side-to-Side Pullup
According to professional strength coach Charles Poliquin, this type of pullup is a favorite among wrestlers as well as certain martial-arts practitioners. You should be able to knock out standard pullups with ease before moving into side-to-side pullup territory.
Begin with an wide grip -- your hands should be somewhat farther apart than your shoulders. Instead of pulling yourself straight up, aim for one side, alternating left and right. Poliquin says you should imagine kissing your wrists as you move toward the apex of the exercise. Repeat as many times as you can without your form breaking down.
Because you are moving in multiple planes throughout the movement, these pullups more closely duplicate the conditions of an actual wrestling match, during which you may find yourself moving in one direction while attempting to push or pull your opponent in another.
- American Council on Exercise: Pull-Ups
- American Council on Exercise: Chin-Ups
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Wrestling Training Section
- Catalyst Athletics: The Kipping Pull-up: How to Do It Safely and Use it in Training
- Charles Poliquin: Chin-ups: The King of Upper Body Exercises
- Long Island Wrestling Association: The Ultimate Wrestling Playground Workout