Specialized Wrestling Workouts
by Bill Welker, EdD
You will sometimes want to incorporate “specialist wrestling workouts” that
add variation to the traditional wrestling session, and also enhance skill
Too often in contemporary scholastic matches the bottom wrestler will attempt
to escape or reverse his opponent by using only one or two moves. If they don’t
work, his opponent ultimately ends up riding him. We seem to have forgotten a
lost art—chain wrestling, a fast-paced bottom maneuver and top counter-
maneuver wrestling activity. The most common chain wrestling skills include the
following multiple moves:
Standard Chain Wrestling Workout
Step 1 Sit-out to turn-in (bottom wrestler)
Follow sit-out to turn-in (top wrestler)
Step 2 Sit-out to turn-out (bottom wrestler)
Follow sit-out to turn-out (top wrestler)
Step 3 Switch (bottom wrestler)
Re-switch (top wrestler)
Step 4 Side roll (bottom wrestler)
Re-side roll (top wrestler)
Step 5 Granby roll (bottom wrestler)
Granby roll follow-through on head (top wrestler)
Step 6 Stand-up (bottom wrestler)
Back heel trip to mat (top wrestler)
Wrestlers repeat this chain wrestling process as many times as instructed by
the coach (usually three to ﬁve cycles) with wrestler W1 on the bottom. Then
wrestler W2 would assume the bottom position, repeating the cycle the same
number of times.
Of course, you may develop variations to this chain wrestling format to suit
your particular mat wrestling concerns. No matter how you plan your chain
wrestling activity, the key purpose of the workout is to train the bottom wrestler
not to stop after one or two moves.
Another beneﬁt of chain wrestling is that it teaches the top wrestler how to
follow moves performed by the bottom wrestler. Likewise, it is a superb
conditioning tool for workout sessions. You may even want to create a practice
competition out of chain wrestling, timing the wrestlers to see which pair is
quickest in completing the cycles.
In recent decades, coaches have placed so much emphasis on
takedowns that many have ignored the importance of moving on the
bottom. Chain wrestling is a snappy workout activity that doesn’t take
much practice time and leads to improved mat wrestling.
Situation wrestling is usually incorporated during the season. It is much like a
regular workout session with one exception: the wrestlers are placed in various
wrestling positions and begin wrestling from that point. As with typical wrestling
workouts, the coach should periodically stop the wrestlers to demonstrate what
they are doing wrong.
There is a twofold purpose for including situation wrestling in daily practice
sessions. First, you can use the strategy to work on new moves and to
demonstrate how they should be performed during real wrestling situations.
The second rationale for adding situation wrestling to practice plans involves
the scouting phase of coaching. While scouting rival teams, the coach often
observes certain moves that members of these squads use the most to score
points. Wisely, the coach will place his wrestlers in these various move situations,
having them counter the maneuvers in preparation for an upcoming dual meet or
tournament. This wrestling strategy has been very successful over the years.
Let’s now consider two examples of situation wrestling—one for perfecting new
moves and the other to prepare for competition.
Drilling a New Move
The coach has just completed demonstrating the standing suicide switch
reversal maneuver. At this point, the wrestlers perform the maneuver in the
1 After standing up, the bottom wrestler fakes a standing switch, turning
from one side to the other.
2 Then the bottom wrestler drops forward to the mat head ﬁ rst.
3 Finally, just before the bottom wrestler’s head hits the mat, he executes a
quick hip-heist switch, scoring the reversal.
After the wrestlers passively perform the move, the coach then places the
wrestlers in the standing position and blows the whistle. With the top wrestler
resisting fully, the bottom wrestler is given 15 seconds to complete the standing
suicide switch. This is an all-out burst of wrestling effort by both wrestlers, with
the coach periodically stopping the action to correct mistakes.
Drilling for Competition
When scouting the next dual meet opponent, the coach learns that the majority
of wrestlers are very proﬁcient at scoring double-leg takedowns.
At practices leading up to the meet, the coach places the wrestlers in the
neutral position. He instructs the attacking team members to deeply penetrate the
opponents’ defense, clamping their hands around the knees.
On the whistle, the wrestlers defend themselves from the double-leg take-down
counter, performing the following steps:
Step 1 Cross-face and sprawl
Step 2 Whizzer and hip into opponent with whipping action
Step 3 Force head down with free hand and push away
This process continues until all practice partners have demonstrated the ability
to properly counter the double-leg takedown.
Situation wrestling will greatly enhance the skill level of all team members. Do
not fail to make it part of your workout repertoire.
Round-robin wrestling is another action-packed workout. One advantage to
round-robin wrestling is that the entire squad participates simultaneously.
This routine involves the following procedure:
1 Divide the team into groups of ﬁve wrestlers who weigh as close to
each other as possible.
2 Assign a number from 1 to 5 to each wrestler in the group.
3 Wrestler 1 steps in the center of his group. He is given 30 seconds
to score a takedown on each member of his group as follows:
Wrestler 1 vs. wrestler 2
Wrestler 1 vs. wrestler 3
Wrestler 1 vs. wrestler 4
Wrestler 1 vs. wrestler 5
4 If a takedown is scored in less than 30 seconds, the participants
stand up and go at it again (and again) until time has expired.
5 Then wrestler 2 does the same with wrestlers 3, 4, 5, and 1. The
process continues until everyone in the group has spent his time in the
6 This round-robin session would include wrestling in the referee’s
position, emphasizing escapes, reversals, rides, or pinning combinations.
7 The inactive wrestlers for each group may act as spotters,
protecting the active wrestlers from going out of bounds or colliding with
As you can visualize, round-robin wrestling consists of a very
invigorating workout. The prime objectives are quite obvious: conditioning
and further skill development. Following are some interesting variations
that make this alternative wrestling strategy even more intriguing:
1 Each group member as the primary wrestler would be required to
counter maneuvers directed toward him by his round-robin rival, per covert
instructions given to his practice opponents from the coach. This would
encompass countermoves from both the neutral and referee’s (bottom and
2 The inactive wrestlers in the group could be instructed to run in
place, rather than just stand there.
3 The coach could include an intragroup competition of the round-
robin exercise by keeping track of who has the most takedowns (for
example) in each group during the session workout. One appropriate
incentive would be to exempt the winning wrestlers from closing exercises.
Of course, the creative coach may come up with even more novel
approaches to enhance the round-robin experience. That’s fantastic! Just
remember to follow the previous guidelines, and it will be a productive and
successful substitute to the traditional workout scheme.
Blindfold wrestling is another beneﬁcial practice innovation. The workout
session is the same, with one exception: the wrestlers are blindfolded.
Though the wrestlers may be a little hesitant at ﬁrst, they will soon realize
that they really don’t need their eyes to wrestle.
Proper body positioning in wrestling is really a matter of feel, a sense of
where you are or should be. Of course, such mat sense can be achieved
only via years of practice. Blindfold wrestling is one workout medium a
coach can implement to achieve this wrestler-oriented goal. The only props
needed are blindfolds cut from old bed sheets. Following are a few basic
guidelines for incorporating blindfold wrestling into your daily practices:
1 When ﬁrst introducing the wrestlers to blindfold wrestling, blindfold
only one of the wrestlers in each pair. The sighted wrestler will help stop
his opponent when going out of bounds.
2 After both wrestlers have experienced being alternately blindfolded
and feel comfortable with the technique, blindfold both of them.
3 To start in the neutral position, the two wrestlers will use the “ﬁngertouch”
method as described in Rule 6 of the NFHS Wrestling Rules
Book. This will also prepare the wrestlers should they ever have to
compete against a wrestler with a vision impairment.
4 No variations are needed for the referee’s position, even if the
optional offensive starting position is used.
5 The wrestlers must stay in continuous contact with each other
throughout the entire workout.
Safety measures must be taken into consideration. First, there should be
fewer wrestling pairs competing on the mats than usual during blindfold
wrestling. Second, those wrestlers waiting to work out must act as
spotters, stopping their peers as they are about to go out of bounds. Third,
these wrestlers should also lead the blindfolded wrestlers back to their
starting positions and restart them. Finally, the coach’s whistle must be the
signal for all blindfolded wrestlers to stop immediately.
During a blindfold wrestling session, the coach should stop the wrestlers
and ask them what they are experiencing. The most common response will
be that the wrestlers found themselves reacting to their opponents’
movements rather than thinking about what to do.
You will learn by watching whether your wrestlers are responding
properly and swiftly enough, relying primarily on their sense of touch
rather than sight. And as we all know, this tactile (or mat) sense is a
characteristic observed in all champion wrestlers.
Chain wrestling, situation wrestling, round-robin wrestling, and blindfold
wrestling have so much to add to a comprehensive wrestling program.
These workout alternatives increase stamina, develop continuous mat (or
ground) wrestling abilities, improve takedown skills, promote mat sense,
and further prepare the wrestlers for competition.
About the Author: An award-winning writer and one of the country’s foremost
authorities on Folkstyle wrestling, Dr. Bill Welker has published a national best-seller:
The Wrestling Drill Book. Most recently, his novel, A Wrestler’s Curse, was declared
the winner in the Sports and Personal Growth Categories by the Beverly Hills Book
A former Pennsylvania State Champion, Dr. Welker is a member of five wrestling
halls of fame, including the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National
Wrestling Hall of Fame (West Virginia Chapter). He has been named twice as the
National Wrestling Sportswriter of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine.
Dr. Bill Welker’s books can be purchased on Amazon.com.