Five Core Exercises for Youth/High School Wrestlers


Hoag Orthopedic Institute is proud to partner with ProSport Physical Therapy and Performance to continue expanding musculoskeletal care to Orange County residents, professional athletes and young athletes alike. ProSport's director of Sport Performance, Matt Camargo, MS, CSCS, recently shared about the importance of core strength for high school wrestlers and the types of exercises that can benefit these athletes.

In order to be an effective wrestler, your core needs to be strong enough to brace against resistance. Being able to effectively brace your core at different positions and speeds during a match can be the difference between finishing a takedown and getting sprawled on. Selecting functional core exercises for wrestlers that are going to carry over to improved performance on the mat are important. Here are five core exercises that should be integrated into training regimens for long term development and success:

  1. Low Plank

Planks require the body to remain stiff with purpose and should demonstrate zero movement. The core is the collection of muscles around the lower back and midsection. It holds everything together, in this case resisting movement. Performing low planks are training the core to be able to resist movement in sport, by falling under the category of core training -- anti extension, which is important in avoiding unnecessary extension at the spine, and excessive extension at the spine over time can be detrimental to the human body. Planks help create better posture by strengthening the erector spinae (lower back) and abdominals. By doing so, it will develop a strong foundation for wrestlers to be able to put their body in a more natural and neutral position to help prevent lower back injuries.

How to perform it:

  • Get on the floor with just your forearms and feet keeping contact with the ground
  • Keep shoulders and hips square towards the ground
  • While shoulders and hips are off the ground, maintain a straight line to keep a neutral spine
  • While you are squeezing your abs and glutes, pretend you are balancing a cup of water on your back; hold for a desired amount of time with good form
  1. Dead Bug

The dead bug exercise teaches how to connect utilization of the core with the lower body. While creating strength in those areas, it is also doing so while lying flat on the ground, which transfers well to wrestlers for the times they are flat on their backs attempting to perform necessary moves to win. The dead bug exercise is teaching the individual how to make proper technique (low back flat to the ground) occur as well as activating the correct muscles while lying flat. To prevent your lower back from arching, the abs must be tight. Implement this exercise into your regimen to teach optimal mind-muscle connection with the core while lying on your back.

How to perform it:

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and knees bent at a 90-degree angle
  • Squeeze your abs and press your lower back to the ground
  • As you exhale slowly, extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead
  • Slowly return your arm and leg to starting position, then repeat with the other arm and leg; perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each side
  1. Beast Crawl

It is not by chance that a person’s first movement is learning to crawl at the beginning stages of life. Crawling creates a strong foundation of strength at everybody part for the individual. The benefits are that it creates total body strength and mobility in all joints. One of the hardest parts of crawling is re-learning the movement to be performed correctly. With the crawl you are using your wrists, shoulders, core, hips and ankles to support your own body weight. Additionally, the beast crawl can help you maintain a neutral spine while moving. Wrestling is a sport of movement that can be on all four limbs while being on the mat. Crawling is great to create a strong foundation of strength, as well as maintaining total body strength once mastered.

How to perform it:

  • Begin in the quadruped position (hands and knees), have a straight line from each hand to each shoulder joint, as well as the knee joint matching up with the respective hip joint
  • Brace the abs to keep a neutral spine
  • While slowly moving forward, focus on moving the opposite hand with the opposite leg at the same time, then repeat with the other limbs; crawl anywhere from 5-15 yards for multiple sets
  1. Hollow Hold

Anytime you can safely challenge the abdominals and lower back muscles to work together properly is a huge benefit. This exercise works the abdominals, diaphragm, hip flexors and quads by building strength, stability and body control. It also provides back friendly positioning by placing the body into a position that makes the mind muscle connection of actively squeezing the abdominals to help prevent the lower back from arching. The idea here is similar to the dead bug exercise, but the big difference with the hollow hold is trying to hold arms and legs off the ground while being fully extended. This provides a different advantage for the core to be stronger long term.

How to perform it:

  • Begin laying flat on the ground while the arms and legs are extended
  • Keep the lower back pressed against the ground while squeezing the abs
  • Maintain that position for the desired amount of time with correct form; hold for the desired number of seconds with good form
  1. Ab Wheel Rollout

When used correctly, this could be one of the best core exercises out there. As the individual rolls forward with the ab wheel, your core must work harder overtime to prevent the lower back from arching. Rollouts train the core the way it was designed to function during daily life and especially during dynamic sport movements. If you cannot perform multiple sets of push-ups with perfect form or hold a low plank for a few seconds, then you are not ready for the rollout. Spend time at the positions that are able to be performed with good technique to create a dynamic and resilient core.

How to perform it:

  • While in the kneeling position, hold the ab roller with both hands
  • Slowly roll the ab roller forward, allowing your body to move forward
  • It’s very important to squeeze the abs tight to prevent the lower back from arching
  • Perform the roll to the point of comfort and adequate technique, do not force bad reps, slowly build up to the distance over time; perform anywhere from 6-12 reps with 3-4 sets
Categories: Sports Medicine