Fundamental Movement Skills: The "Basics" Win

By Matt Krumrie | Oct. 25, 2018, 6:06 a.m. (ET)

Fundamental Movement Skills are the baseline for wrestling says Nick Heflin, assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma.

Head position. Stance. Hip movement. Baseline defense. Level change. Hand fighting.

“It’s essential for young athletes to learn these skills early and learn them correctly,” says Heflin, a three-time All-American for Ohio State and a 2014 NCAA runner-up at 197 pounds who also served a strength coach at the Ohio Regional Training Center and with the Ohio State wrestling and football teams.

Tanner Sewell, President and Founder of the Northern Virginia Wrestling Club (NOVA) and Head Wrestling Coach at Fairfax High School (Fairfax, VA), agrees, pointing out fundamental movement skills are essential to any wrestler being able to properly execute the basic moves and techniques and must be incorporated into any coaching curriculum.

“Essentially, fundamental movement skills are the basis of a wrestler's physical literacy—they’re a pre-requisite to being able to execute the more complex moves and techniques in our sport,” Sewell says. “I think teaching and drilling fundamental movement skills is incredibly overlooked in the developmental process, especially with younger wrestlers. This is one reason why our sport’s Athlete Development Model strongly emphasizes daily agility, balance and coordination drills for wrestlers ages 5 through 12.”

Think about it like this, Sewell says: If a wrestler can’t control their center of gravity while “duck walking,” how can a coach expect them to properly execute a double leg attack, for example? If a wrestler cannot do a proper squat, how can a coach expect them to finish a leg attack by driving and lifting?

To develop physical literacy, Sewell and coaches with the NOVA wrestling club created their own Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) training curriculum (specific exercises listed below). The goal of the training is to develop the strength, flexibility, and coordination necessary to effectively win key wrestling positions and properly execute moves from those positions.

“It’s imperative coaches are scaffolding instruction here,” adds Sewell. “This means teaching and drilling the fundamental movements of a technique before teaching the technique or “move” itself. Or, at a minimum, don’t expect wrestlers to be able to drill a technique progression properly if their fundamental movement skills are deficient.”

All aspiring athletes need to focus on developing their fundamental movement skills, says Rick Howard, who, as Director of Fitness at Wilmington Country Club (Wilmington, DE), trains youth in fitness and sports performance. Howard is also co-author of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Position Statement on Long Term Athlete Development.

“Fundamental movement skills form the foundation for all movement patterns in physical activity and sports and are, therefore, critical for developing overall athleticism,” Howard says.

Incorporating fundamental movement skills as part of a dynamic warmup is a good way to incorporate these movements into a wrestler’s training routine, Howard says. Exercises focusing on lateral motion, level change, hip pop, sprawl, jumping, and rolling, to name a few, can easily be incorporated and teach the basics of fundamental movement skills. In addition, says Howard, incorporating exercises that include dodging, twisting, pushing and pulling that are not inherent in wrestling but help develop overall athleticism (skipping, hanging, and dribbling with feet and hands), can be beneficial.

“Getting creative during your warmup and cool-down is a good start,” Sewell says. “Shy away from your all-too-common jog in a circle routine or, even worse, static stretch routines. We’ve made it a priority to get as creative as possible during our warmup and cool-down times.”

Learning the basics is important for wrestlers of all ages, skills, and abilities. It's also just as important for lower weight wrestlers, middleweights, and upper weights. Agile upper weight wrestlers who can master the basics of fundamental movement skills can really set themselves apart. Heflin was a 197 pounder, but he was agile, and moved well.

“It’s vital for wrestlers of all weights to learn these fundamental movements because they evolve into more advanced wrestling, says Heflin. “I think you sometimes see kids trying to skip levels too soon and skip over basic movements that end up costing them big matches. One of the best ways to separate yourself from the pack is to master the fundamental movements before branching out too far. Basics win.”

Fundamental Movement Skills training
From the Northern Virginia Wrestling Club

1. Animalistic movements

  • Duck walk
  • Bunny hops
  • Sneaking ape
  • Crab walk
  • Horse walk
  • Chameleon
  • Scorpion
  • Scorpion jump
  • Crouching tiger
  • Bear-crab roll

2. Tumbling movements

  • Forward rolls (into good position)
  • Backward rolls (into good position)
  • Cartwheels
  • Round-off
  • Break-fall
  • Front hand-spring
  • Back hand-spring

3. Wall movements

  • Cowboy walking
  • Ninja sweeps
  • Wall surfing

4. Circle movements

  • Hand stands
  • Hand walking
  • Russian clocks
  • Russian kick-overs
  • Funky hip flips
  • Hip-pops

5. Partner assisted movements

  • Starfish footwork
  • Back-arches
  • Front hand-spring
  • Back hand-spring