Wrestling Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Wrestling stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with wrestling injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published December 19, 2008 | Updated August 11, 2017
The history of wrestling goes back to 3000 BC to the Sumero-Akkadian civilization. Similar Egyptian civilization paintings date back to 2400 BC. As a sport, Wrestling was recorded in the 708 BC Olympics.
Out of hundreds of styles, there are four main international amateur competitive forms of wrestling:
- Greco-Roman wrestling;
- Freestyle wrestling;
- Judo wrestling; and
- Sombo wrestling (Not included in the Olympics yet).
Wrestling was the main focus at the first modern Olympic program in 1896. Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling have been a part of Olympic competition since 1920. Before that, only one style was contested. In 2004, four classes of women’s wrestling were introduced at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Competitors compete in different categories as per their weight. For men, the range is from 55 to 120 kg. For women, it is from 48 to 72 kg. For Olympics, women compete only in 4 categories between 48 and 72 kg. Modern professional wrestling is designed more for entertainment than sport.
Wrestling requires a great deal of muscular endurance and strength. The ability to move an opponent and control their body while maintaining one’s own balance and space requires a great deal of body control. Balance and muscle control are essential components of wrestling. A wrestler must be able to react to his or her opponent during moves and holds.
Upper and lower body strength is very important to the wrestler. Core strength will help a wrestler secure and maintain many holds, and at the same time escape holds by an opponent. Quickness and agility are also important keys to wrestling success. Overall conditioning is important to last the 2 minutes of grueling physical stress of each period.
Wrestlers use the following major muscle groups:
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle; the pectorals, the latissimus dorsi, the teres major, and the deltoids.
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the gluteals, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps.
- The muscles of the forearm and upper arm; the wrist flexors and extensors, the biceps, and the triceps.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
- The muscles of the neck and the trapezius.
Wrestlers spend a lot of time preparing their bodies for the physical rigors of a match. A good overall conditioning program that includes muscular endurance and strength work, along with cardiovascular conditioning, and flexibility training is important for the wrestler to pin down their success.
Most Common Wrestling Injuries
Wrestling is a contact sport in which the body is contorted into many different positions. This puts the muscles and joints under great stress. The repetitive training required to condition the body for matches can also lead to chronic injuries.
Like any contact sport wrestling can be dangerous. Rules have been implemented to reduce the danger, but there are still some common injuries associated with wrestling. These include neck injury, nosebleed, cauliflower ear, and knee sprains.
- Neck Injury: Throws, especially those done incorrectly, can lead to injury to the neck. Holds where the wrestler’s head is caught at an awkward angle can also cause neck injuries. Not every neck injury will result in spinal cord injury. Some injuries are only to the muscles of the neck, and some fractures are not dislocated. However, every neck injury should be treated as a spinal cord injury until ruled out by a medical professional. Spinal immobilization is the most important step in treatment. This will help prevent future damage to the spinal cord if it is involved.
- Nosebleed: This is probably the most common injury in wrestling. It can be caused by contact with an opponents head, shoulder, or knee during a hold or reversal. A nosebleed should be treated with pressure, by pinching the nostrils. If there is no break the nosebleed should stop with direct pressure. Ice may be applied to the bridge of the nose to slow the bleeding, as well. After a nosebleed the blood vessels may be more susceptible to rupture again immediately after. If the nose is broken it may need to be set, and return to activity after may be delayed to allow it to heal.
- Cauliflower Ear: A blow to the ear may cause blood or other fluid to collect between the skin and the cartilage of the ear. The ear will be swollen and tender, and resemble a cauliflower. The ear will be soft at first, but as the fluid is replaced with fibrous tissue it will begin to harden. If the fluid is drained by a medical professional before the fibrous tissue begins to form the ear may return to normal. Once the tissue forms it will require surgical intervention to return it to normal. While the ear is swollen with fluid it will be very tender and painful. Protection of the ear and draining are the first steps in treatment.
- Knee Sprain: During a wrestling match the knee may be twisted and turned in many different directions. The ligaments supporting the knee are under a great deal of stress trying to hold the knee together. If these ligaments are stretched or torn the knee will lose some structural integrity. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament, and both the lateral and medial collateral ligaments are subjected to external forces that could cause tearing. The ACL is the most commonly sprained in wrestling. A partial tear will require immobilization, ice, and rest to help with recovery. A complete rupture may require surgery and many weeks of recovery.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Practice for how and when to use specific moves and holds, along with a good overall conditioning program, will help a wrestler stay healthy and keep wrestling.
- Strength and muscular endurance are both important to a wrestler, so a program that stresses both aspects will help a wrestler avoid injury.
- Wrestling under controlled conditions and supervision will also help prevent many injuries.
- A good conditioning program that will help delay the onset of fatigue, the leading cause of injury in most sporting events, will prepare the wrestler for the intense physical activity of a match.
- A good flexibility program will help prepare a wrestler’s body for the various positions it may be forced into. Well stretched muscles will respond better to the constant stretching and contracting of a match.
The Top 3 Wrestling Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for wrestling; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.
Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.