Neck Bridge Drills for Wrestling
The neck bridge is one of the most important skills for wrestlers to practice. Not only does the neck bridge help increase your overall neck and back strength, but it also allows you to keep from being pinned. For these reasons, you should routinely perform a variety of neck bridge exercises and drills in order to be successful. This guide will teach you a few simple drills that will help you become a better wrestler. Read on to get started!
A great way to improve your neck strength and to practice bridging is to perform bridge-ups. This is a very simple exercise and it’s extremely beneficial for intermediate wrestlers. This is how they are done:
- Start lying on your back with the palms of your hands resting on your stomach.
- Get into your neck bridge. Make sure your feet are flat on the mat and you are supporting your weight on the back of your head. (Your back should not be touching the mat.)
- Use your feet to push off the mat and arch up. As you do this, “roll” on your head so that the very top of your head is touching the mat. Arch up as high as you can — try to touch your forehead or nose to the mat.
- As you arch up, extend your arms along the mat next to your head. The backs of your hands should touch the mat when you are fully arched.
- Lower your body and return to your original position. Move your arms down towards your legs and rest them on your stomach. Don’t let your back fall to the mat, support yourself!
- Repeat this motion for 20-25 repetitions.
Hot Tip: Bridge Your Partner
If you want a bit more of a challenge when doing bridge-ups, have a partner straddle your midsection while facing you as you perform them. Make sure your partner keeps good posture with his head above his hips so he can keep his balance. This will help you increase your neck and back strength, and it will also simulate the action of bridging an opponent off of you.
Knowing how to switch bridges is essential to being able to escape when you’re on your back — and, of course, for increasing neck strength. Switching from a front bridge to a back bridge, or from a back bridge to a front bridge is quite simple. It requires a few basic movements that are the same no matter which bridge you’re transitioning from or into. Remember, you’ll follow these steps in either position:
- While in either bridge, bring one leg under the other. This is known as “shooting your leg through.”
- Keep your head in contact with the mat.
- Turn your shoulders and twist your body towards the side of your body you just moved your leg from. This will allow you transition from one position to the other.
- You may need to use your hands to keep your balance when transitioning between bridges. When using your hands, remove the same-side hand (as the leg you just moved) from the mat.
- Repeat this motion for 10-15 repetitions. Also, it’s good to vary the side that you switch bridges on. So, mix it up and switch bridges through both directions as you go.
The “Step” Drill
The “step” drill is an exercise that can be done with a full team of wrestlers, but it can also be modified to fit smaller groups. This is an exercise that will help increase your neck and back strength, and it’s also a fun drill for the wrestlers to practice. Here’s how to do the drill:
- All of the wrestlers will lie on their backs in a circle, with their heads facing towards the outside.
- On the signal, they will arch up into a back bridge. Wrestlers must remain in their bridge until it is their turn to move.
- One wrestler (it doesn’t matter which) will be designated to start the drill:
- He switches from a back bridge to a front bridge, and then gets to his feet.
- Next, he places one of his feet on the abdomen of the wrestler to his immediate right. He then uses that wrestler to support his weight as he brings his other leg over to step onto the mat. Essentially, he is walking or “striding” over the wrestler to his right, using only one foot to step over him.
- Once a wrestler has been stepped on and over, it is his turn to get to his feet and step on and over the wrestler to his right.
- Each wrestler will go around the entire circle, stepping on and over each wrestler until he returns to his original spot. Then, he will get back into his bridge and the process will continue.
- The wrestlers will continue until each wrestler has stepped on and over all of the wrestlers in the circle 5-10 times.
- Heavier wrestlers should only step on wrestlers with adequate strength. The bridged wrestlers (on bottom) should have the choice on whether or not to allow heavier wrestlers to step on them.
- There is no jumping or stomping to put unnecessary amount of weight on the wrestler in the bridge position. This can be dangerous. Simply having to hold the bridge for a long period of time and having to support the weight of other wrestlers is difficult enough.
Continue to Improve
These drills will undoubtedly give you the strength and skill you need to succeed at higher levels of wrestling. Don’t be discouraged if these drills don’t come easy at the beginning. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how strong or skilled you are when you begin these types of drills. The only thing that matters is that you are working hard to make progress. For more information on exercises you can do to increase your strength, check iSport’s guide Wrestling Strength Workouts. Now get out there and get working!