How to Develop Explosive Power for Grappling

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Grappling arts are very technical in nature and it takes years to develop proper technique and timing in order to compete at a high level. Once a grappler attains a certain level of technique, the game changes to one of the more athletic grapplers being able to pull off the technique of their choice, this athleticism is based upon 3 traits – Strength, Conditioning and Power.

Today we will speak about power and how to develop proper explosive power for any grappling sport.

How is Power Different Than Strength

Power and strength may sound the same but they are very different athletic attributes, especially when it comes to grappling. Strength is the ability to overcome resistance while power is the ability to overcome resistance within the shortest period of time.

Both are very important and both are different in nature, each attribute needs different exercises and training strategies in order to increase the desired athletic attribute.

What Exercises Produce Explosive Power

A common theme of training for power will be moving an object a distance in the shortest time possible, the object can be the athlete themself or something the athlete pushes, pulls or throws. 

These exercises are not the regular bodybuilding or powerlifting exercises you read about online, they are very task specific and highly effective at producing explosive power for grapplers of all types.

Box Jumps

The box jump is great for developing powerful takedowns as well as for standing up in the guard. Simply stand in front of a wooden box or even a bench squat down and jump onto the box then jump back down and repeat.

Try to start at a lower box height and increase the height as you get better at box jumps.

Medicine Ball Slam – Snap Down Version

The medicine ball slam is excellent for the clinch as well as well as any type of snap down movement. The first version is similar to a snap down from wrestling. You simply grab a medicine ball in front of you, lift it over your head and slam it down in front of you as hard and fast as you can and the repeat.

Start with a light medicine ball and make sure your medicine ball is made for slamming on the ground as some medicine balls may break and explode when being slammed on the floor.

Medicine Ball Slam – Suplex Version

The suplex version of the medicine ball throw is excellent for any type of arching throw and many world champion wrestlers use this specific exercise to create a huge amount of power in their throws.

Simply grab the medicine ball in front of your and throw the ball over your head backwards as hard as you can. Turn around and sprint quickly to get the ball, pick it up and repeat the throw again for reps.

Jump Squats

Stand in a normal stance, squat down and jump up as fast and high as you can, repeat until you are tired. 

The jump squat is excellent for developing shot power and overall speed both for offense and defense. 

Sprawl to Jump

This perhaps is the best exercise for defensive explosive power, the sprawl to jump is excellent for working defense on takedownshots and immediate counter offense power.

Stand in your grappling stance, sprawl (with good technique, heavy hips) and then from the sprawl get to your feet in a crouch position and jump in the air as high as possible.

If you need to add a degree of difficulty then try to bring your knees to your chest when jumping in the air after the sprawl.

Sprints and Uphill Sprints

Sprinting is amazing for building power, it can be done anywhere and has an extreme reward to effort ratio when it comes to building grappling explosive power.

Try to aim for 20 to 50 meter sprints where you run as fast as possible, then walk or jog back to your starting point and resume another sprint when you are ready.

If you are looking for even better results, try sprinting uphill. Uphill sprints are one of the secrets of wrestlers from Dagestan (a mountainous region of Russia known for its world class wrestlers) who are known for their amazing conditioning.

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are excellent for building hip power which translates to being better at finishing takedowns, developing more power for your bridge and passing the guard in BJJ.

Simply grab a kettlebell that is placed on the floor between your legs, lift it up and swing it up to shoulder height and return between the legs and repeat. The movement is very dynamic and fluid in motion with no abrasive stops that you would see in bodybuilding exercises.

Always make sure you are performing the technique correctly and that you are using a suitable weight you can handle.

Plyometric Pushups (Clapping Pushups)

An absolute killer of an exercise, the plyometric pushup is great for developing power to move your body away from an opponent when need be.

Simply get into a proper pushup position and push yourself as hard as you can up so that you are in the air and if you can, try clapping for building coordination and hand speed at the same time.

If you cannot do a plyometric pushup, you can always change the angle you are doing the pushup – for example increase the incline your upper body is at and press yourself into the air and return to position. As you get stronger you can decrease the angle until you re doing the plyometric pushups off a flat surface.

The Sled Push

The sled push is extremely beneficial for finishing off the single and double leg takedown, pushing your opponent out of bounds in the clinch as well as it is great for pressure passing in BJJ.

It is such a simple yet effective exercise that anyone can do. Simply load weight on a sled at your local gym and push as fast as you can go. If you do not have access to a sled you can practice the sled push with a training partner, push against your partners back while they resist, it is not the same as a sled push but it will give you athletic benefits as well.

Hammer Swings

Hammer swings on a tire are fantastic for developing power in the transverse plane of movement, this means you get power in your rotation movement. It is a must for throws and takedowns, wrestling clinch fighting and many bjj guard sweeps and submissions.

Grab a sledgehammer and swing as hard as you can, you can swing from the top to bottom or from the side to the tire. Remember to not hit yourself as that sledgehammer is not forgiving if you do.

Wrestling Dummy Throws

This is simple, grab a wrestling or judo dummy and throw for repetitions as hard as you can. If you do not have a dummy, you can throw a heavy bag. You will develop task specific power with this exercise and your opponents will feel it.

Standing Up Explosively From The Ground

Get into any position on the ground, can be the guard, the turtle, on your knees, on your side and even on your stomach. Once on the ground you stand up tactically as fast as you can and into a proper grappling stance (depending on the grappling art you practice). 

A great example of the benefits of training to stand up explosively are US folkstyle wrestlers as they are notorious for being able to stand up with extreme power out of any position within a split second. Once you get up then return to the ground position and repeat for reps.


The snatch is one of the 2 olympic lifts and it is amazing for developing raw animalistic power. You can do the snatch with a barbell and even with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

The snatch is a very technical movement with the barbell, so it does take some practice to get good at this lift. The snatch can really benefit a grappler’s power for big point throws.

The kettlebell and dumbbell one armed snatch is a much easier version and can be done anywhere although the barbell snatch will bring much more direct power benefits as if done with proper technique the athlete can lift much more weight effectively.

Clean and Jerk

The 2nd of the olympic lifts, the clean and jerk has one benefit over then snatch in that you can lift a heavier overall weight. The clean and jerk can have a great impact on your overall jumping height which will translate to more explosive takedowns.

The clean and jerk can be done with a barbell or kettlebell, the barbell being a much more technical lift with more benefits and the kettlebell being less technical but can easily be done anywhere. 

Make sure that if you are going to practice olympic lifts that you have a knowledgeable and certified coach to help you with your technique as these lifts can be dangerous if not done properly.

In Conclusion

Having explosive power is a great tool for grapplers but it is always auxiliary to technique as technique is always king. If an athlete has both world class grappling technique and explosive power, they will be a nightmare for their opponent to deal with.

Add these exercises into your training regimen a few times a week in order to truly benefit and add power to your grappling game.


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