The benefits of the wrestler’s bridge for combat sports athletes are extraordinary
Read on to discover why you should add the wrestler’s bridge to your training regimen.
“He just weightlifter. […] All wrestlers beat weightlifters. Barbellers have veak necks. Atol, you beat Samson, strongest man in vorld, mit neck lock I think. You know what I say true.” – Karl Pojello (Sir Atholl Oakeley, Blue Blood on the Mat. The all-In wrestling story. 1964.)
When Karl Pojello, the great wrestling coach, trained Sir Atholl Oakeley for his pro-wrestling career in the USA in 1932, he forbade him from working out with weights. Oakeley had to wrestle for nearly six hours a day, and the only body part he was instructed to give special attendance to was his neck. Pojello had been wrestling for over twenty years, having fought in Lithuania, Russia, China, Mongolia, Japan and the USA; so he knew quite a bit about full contact fighting.
In grappling sports the neck should be strong to attack an opponent with one’s head. Choking out the opponent becomes much easier when your own neck is strong. Our body is composed of different parts which work together, and like a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link (or limb).
When being choked it has to be strong in order to defend the cervical spine from breaking. In a striking situation, including punching, kicking, elbows and knees, a strong neck serves as a shock absorber. It prevents the brain from getting beaten against the skull, resulting in a knock out.
Although there are many exercises to strengthen the neck, there is just one exercise that brings many benefits beside neck work when done correctly. The wrestler’s bridge.
The wrestler’s bridge strengthens the muscles that erect the spine, while making them more flexible at the same time, so the motion prevents the discs from slipping. The whole reverse muscle chain has to work together with the legs in order to bridge up, so the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes are engaged too. These muscles are essential in combat sports for stamina, explosiveness, strong knees and powerful hips.
When practiced correctly the muscle at the jaw (m. masseter) has a great training in order to keep the teeth together to stabilize the cervical spine. So when fighting with a mouth guard, you get used to controlling your jaw, keeping your mouth shut and keeping your teeth in place.
All benefits combined, you can recognize one major benefit: time saving. In a short time, you can train many abilities leading to neuromuscular coordination, more effective neuronal networks, better inter and intramuscular communication, what leads to more nerve force. In order to do so, you should practice the wrestler’s bridge as an isometric exercise as well as a dynamic one. This combination will give you maximum strength, dynamic force, endurance, pain resistance and will power.
“Chain no stronger than veak link- mat game only sport which builds strong neck.” – Karl Pojello (Sir Atholl Oakeley, Blue Blood on the Mat. The all-In wrestling story. 1964.)