Why Explosive Pulling Strength is Essential for Wrestling

By Carmen Bott

It is a known fact that pull power is greater in world-class wrestlers when compared to National level wrestlers (Naka et al., 2017 JSCR). Pull power also declines slower in world-class wrestlers, indicating superior power-endurance in world-class wrestlers. In Naka’s research, they examined 20 wrestlers, 3 of them winning Gold Medals at the Olympics in Rio.

It is important to pay attention to what the successful wrestlers are doing in their training.

In wrestling, to pull an opponent closer, single or repeated movement of arm pulling is executed at a wide range of loads. Wrestlers need to be able to continuously exert high upper body pulling power in a match (Naka et al., 2017 JCSR). Pulling ability is an important and highly trainable quality which hasn’t been evaluated until recently in the literature. In a match, power must be maintained. In a recent study by Naka et al., they evaluated pulling power and power-endurance under various loads.

For those interested in the data/findings on world and national level Female wrestlers, have a look at the table. For those who simply want more pulling power, skip this section.

pulling strength wrestling

Load Power of Word-Class Wrestlers Power of National-Class Wrestlers
@ 10 kg 4.9 W/kg +/- .2 4.8 W/kg +/- .2
@ 20 kg 6.7 W/kg +/- .2 6.1 W/kg +/- .3
@ 30 kg 6.4 W/kg +/- .2 5.8 W/kg +/- .3
@ 40 kg 6.1 W/kg +/- .2 5.2 W/kg +/- .3
@ 50 kg 5.2 W/kg +/- .2 4.6 W/kg +/- .6

The comparison between the World and National Classes confirmed differences in upper body pull power in a range from low to high loads (Naka et al., 2017). Power is high at 20, 30 and 40 kg in world class female Japanese Wrestlers. It was highest at 30-50% of the athlete’s 1RM at 20kg.

This data can be used as a training TARGET.

Since techniques and rules do not differ for Male World-Class Wrestlers, the assumption might be made that males should value pulling power equally, but likely at overall higher loads due to higher levels of absolute strength. Also, athlete with higher training ages (more training history) will likely produce more power at higher loads. Power at higher loads is a by-product of years of strength training.

It also appears that a RANGE of LOADS must be trained to ensure maximal pulling power development in the Wrestler.

30-50% of the athlete’s 1RM is the optimal range for explosive pulling power (Naka et al., 2017)

Are you convinced to train your pulling power?

Here’s how.

Explosive Pulling Strength for Wrestling

Ideally, you need a ‘Bench Pull’ strength station. They look like this:

However, many commercial gyms lack this type of equipment, so you might need to get creative and put a flat bench atop of two short boxes and have your training partner hold your feet down. An incline bench won’t work.

The most important part of this drill is that you knee your JAW, CHEST and ABDOMEN in contact with the bench as shown here:

Bench Pull

  • Hold the barbell with a shoulder width overhand grip.
  • Extend the arms down vertically from the shoulder
  • Raise the barbell directly up, in a straight path until it contacts the underside of the
  • Posture must be maintained.
  • Tempo is EXPLOSIVE!

weight for  wrestlingFirst, find your 1 Repetition Maximum. Do not comprise your form to make a rep. If you can do more than 3 reps, then the weight is too light and you need to test again. Rest for 4-5 minutes.

If you do TWO or THREE reps, then use this equation to calculate your 1RM:

Weight ÷ (1.0278 - ( 0.0278 × Number of repetitions ) ) Source: Brzycki, 1993

If you are following a strength and conditioning program, here is how you can put this into your current workout:

After a dynamic warm-up and some explosive exercises like plyometrics or sprints, perform 5 sets of Bench Pulls.

Set 1: 8 explosive reps at 30% 1RM – rest 75 seconds
Set 2: 6 explosive reps at 40% 1RM – rest 75 seconds
Set 3: 4 explosive reps at 50% 1RM – rest 75 seconds
Set 4: 6 explosive reps at 40% 1 RM – rest 75 seconds
Set 5: 4 explosive reps at 50% 1RM – rest 75 seconds

*The key is to move the weight as fast as possible. With effective explosive power work, you will NOT feel a pump or a burn.

Perform this 2 – 3 times per week before any max strength work.

You might follow this with Olympic Lifts or Explosive Chest Work and then move to Grind Lifts such as Squats or Deadlifts and Pull-ups. Wrestlers can also use the Bench Pull to increase their maximum strength, working above 80% of 1RM. Do it as a grind lift after your squats and deads.

Finally, as a finisher exercise, this can be used to improve power-endurance. In this case, a feeling a burn is acceptable. Select 40% of you 1RM and do as many reps as possible as fast a possible. FAST AND MANY is the key. Rest 3 minutes and repeat for a second set.


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