Is The Bench Press A Good Exercise For Wrestlers? This is a topic that has been long debated in the wrestling community. In other grappling arts like BJJ, you often grapple off of your back. So naturally, it makes sense to build pushing strength through exercises like the bench press. But should wrestlers bench press even though they never really fight off their backs?
Yes, the bench press is a great exercise for wrestlers. Even though wrestling involves more pulling than pushing you still need to develop your pushing muscles as well. You still use these muscles when wrestling and it helps you to prevent muscle imbalances.
The truth of the matter is that wrestlers and other athletes need to develop their whole body even if they use some muscle groups more than others. Not only will this help you become a better athlete but it can help you to prevent injuries as well.
Why The Bench Press Is Good For Wrestling
As previously stated there is more pulling in wrestling than there is pushing. Because of this, it is obviously important that wrestlers develop pulling strength for their sport. Unfortunately, if you do this without working your other muscles you can create a muscle imbalance.
Your pulling and pushing muscles are two sides of the same coin. You do not want one to be significantly stronger than the other. So even though you should develop pulling strength, you need to counter that with nearly equal pushing strength. I suggest doing a pushing exercise for every pulling exercise along the same plane.
So if I do 8 sets of horizontal barbell rows per week then I will do 8 sets of flat bench press. If I do 8 sets of pull-ups then I will do 8 sets of the overhead press. Not that you have to do these exact exercises but you get the point. If I do a pulling exercise in one direction then I will do a pushing exercise along the same plane.
In my opinion, the bench press is one of the best compound pushing exercises that you can do. You can also do dumbbell presses or machine presses or whatever. The main thing is that you are getting a well-balanced workout and are hitting all of the major muscle groups. Not just the muscles you think you will use the most wrestling.
What Other Exercises Should Wrestlers Do?
I believe that a good strength training program for wrestlers should be built on compound exercises. Compound exercises are simply exercises that use multiple muscle groups at the same time. When performing a bench press for example you are working your chest, triceps, and front delts.
There are really 6 compound movements that I believe should be part of every strength training program. That is the bench press, the squat, the deadlift, the barbell row, the shoulder press, and pullups. Or at least a machine variation of each one of these exercises.
In addition, you can also add corrective and protective exercises that are more suitable for wrestlers. A good example of this would be incorporating neck training. Wrestlers need strong necks to help prevent certain injuries. You can also incorporate twisting exercises. A good example of this would be the full contact twist.
Bench Press Alternatives For Wrestlers
Though the bench press is a great exercise for wrestlers there are other options. I do understand that the bench is not the best exercise for everyone. This is especially true for people with certain shoulder or elbow issues. Or perhaps you simply do not have access to a bench press.
There are thankfully some great alternatives. As far as bodyweight exercises you could do pushups. If you have a set of dumbells then you could replace the bench with dumbbell presses. Some people with shoulder problems might have better luck with a decline bench than a traditional bench as well.
You can also check out this great video from Athlean-X where he shows you 8 chest exercises that are not the bench press.
So should wrestlers bench press? I do think that wrestlers should bench press if they can. You want to work out your whole body as a wrestler and athlete. That said, the bench press is one of the best pushing exercises for wrestlers. If you cannot do the bench press there are still some good chest exercises to choose from.