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John Gaglione's Off Season Wrestling Training # 3


Teaching Drills for Improving the BIG THREE: Part 3 Deadlift Drills



The deadlift is my favorite lower body exercise for all wrestlers. Pulling strength is key for all wrestlers whether you are pulling an opponent’s leg in on a take downs or lifting him off the ground and return him to the mat. The deadlift will also work the muscles of the grip, which is crucial for gain position in the sport of wrestling. The deadlift will build the muscles of the upper back, glutes, hamstrings and the grip. All of these muscles are of paramount importance if you want to perform better on the mat.

 Most people don’t understand the difference between a squat and a deadlift. A squat is a more vertical pattern and the deadlift has a more horizontal element to it. The athlete must learn to “hinge at the hips” and not simply squat down to approach the bar. Of course when doing a conventional deadlift from the floor the athlete will need to bend their knees a little bit, but they need focus on moving the hips more and the knees less as compared to a conventional squat.



The difference between a squat and deadlift is one is a more of a Knee or Quad dominant exercise and the other is a Hip dominant exercise.  In other words a good squat has more knee range of motion and a good deadlift has more hip range motion. Many beginner trainees will want to round their back in the beginner stages when first learning to deadlift.


The Stick Good Morning


The Stick Good Morning is a great exercise to teach the deadlift. Although the movements of the squat and deadlift are different they do have many similar properties as far as the general set up goes. Many of the principles learned for the squat hold true for the deadlift as well. The athlete wants a tight upper back, brace abdominals, they want to sit back, and drive through their heels.  A good cue is to “keep the chest proud” and be able to “wiggle your toes”.

It is critical that people understand what a neutral spine feels like and they can get in that flat back position. The deadlift works the entire posterior chain, the grip and the core. This will help translate to a good stance when the athlete is on the field or when a regular person is picking up a heavy box or carrying groceries.  Being able to pick up heavy things off the ground with proper form is a critical skill for everyday life. Again most athletes don’t utilize there hip range of motion first and simply just bend at the knees. A deadlift should maximize the athlete hips range of motion first.


The stick good morning helps teach proper spine position in the deadlift. The athlete will set up hold a stick on their back. One end of the stick will remain in contact with their upper back (near head and cervical spine) and the other remains in contact with their lower back (lumbar spine). The athlete will be instructed to perform a “hip hinge”, which essentially is the good morning exercise. If the athlete rounds their back (goes into lumbar flexion) the stick will lose contact with the body. This makes the stick good morning a great self checking tool when working on form for the deadlift. If the stick doesn’t remain in contact with the athlete the movement was performed poorly.

Wall RDL


In the last section we learned how to keep a neutral spine for deadlifts with the stick good morning. The draw back to the stick good morning is the athlete can still “squat” the stick without really sitting back. In order to develop a really solid “hip hinge” pattern for deadlift we like implement the Wall RDL.

The athlete will set up facing away from the wall to start the move.  The wall will serve as a guide to let the athlete know if he or she is truly sitting back. The athlete will sit back and try to tap the wall with his or her glutes. If the athlete fails the athlete is either rounding their back or squatting straight down. The coach should instruct the athlete to get as far away from the wall possible in order to complete the drill.  I also like to instruct the athlete to reach out with their arms in order to feel like there are elongating their spine. This will help the athlete maintain a tight back and a neutral spine.



The wall RDL is a great way to teach the athlete to sit back during a deadlift. It is one of the best ways to teach the athlete to hinge at the hips, which is a critical skill to learn for performance and overall health.



You can even combine both of these drills together to create an even more effective and faster teaching tool for all athletes. The deadlift is one of the best exercises for wrestling because it develops the entire posterior chain. Learning proper form for all types of deadlifts is crucial for developing a strong and bullet proof back and will surely help you be more successful on the mat.

Educate, Motivate, Dominate
Coach Gaglione

 If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at gaglionestrength@gmail.com or check out my website www.gaglionestrength.com

To take your wrestling to the next level and ensure this coming wrestling season is your best one ever go to GaglioneStrength.com and e-mail Coach Gaglione for more information on wrestling training.

 Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York. He is a certified "Underground" Strength coach who specializes in training combat athletes. John’s work has been featured in Elite Fitness Systems, Testosterone Nation , One Result & local wrestling site Long Island Wrestling Association. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at gaglionestrength@gmail.com.