For years before I actually got into kettlebell training, I heard how kettlebell training ran hand-in-hand with martial arts. I read tons of kettlebell articles saying how functional it was, but I never heard any specifics on why it was so beneficial for martial arts. So, after learning the fundamentals of kettlebell training, I started to discover the relationship between kettlebells and the martial arts that I teach, including boxing, muay thai, Brazilian jiu jitsu and wrestling, also known as Mixed Martial Arts.
Here are a few reasons why I feel that kettlebell training is conducive for MMA. First of all, kettlebells strengthen your core like nothing else! Bruce Lee once said, “the core is the center of your power.” This is true; without a strong core, your mma game will suffer. Another reason is that kettlebells teach you to use your body as a single unit. There is never a point in combat where you do anything that resembles muscle isolation exercises. MMA moves involve compound movements that involve multiple muscles at once. Grip strength is another key element in MMA. There is constant grabbing that requires the development of your forearms and hand strength. Almost every kettlebell exercise develops your grip strength tremendously.
I’ve received plenty of emails asking what exercises are best for MMA training. So, what I’ve done is list the top seven kettlebell exercises for mixed martial arts. Keep in mind that this is my opinion based on my experience with kettlebells and using them to train my MMA fighters and students over the years. Here are the kettlebell exercises and a brief description of why I feel that they work best for combat training.
1. Kettlebell Swings
The “grand daddy” of all kettlebell exercises. Excellent core developer. Mastering the kettlebell swing and its variations (double kettlebell swings, single arm swings, alternating swings, etc.) will help you develop the hip strength to master the sprawl. The sprawl is an essential technique that must be mastered in order to have solid take down defense.
2. Kettlebell Cleans
Cleans involve the same movement as swings, but you bring the kettlebell to the “rack” position instead. Doing this puts a little more emphasis on the biceps. I equate the clean to sprawling and digging for an under hook while defending takedowns and your opponent's attempts to clinch with you.
3. Dead Clean & Press
This compound exercise involves your entire body. It also teaches the proper mechanics of lifting something off of the ground and over your head. Using the double kettlebell version with heavy weight also develops tremendous power.
4. High Pulls
One of my favorites; the high pull has almost identical mechanics to throwing a straight punch. It has a pushing and pulling action that develops quick hands.
5. Deck Squats
More dynamic than a regular squat and involves more muscles since you roll to your back and back to your feet. Getting off your back is a common practice in mixed martial arts.
6.Turkish Get Up
This exercise is almost identical to a BJJ technique commonly called “standing up in base.” This is the foundation to scrambling (getting back to your feet) in an mma fight.
7. Dead Snatch
Dead snatches develop more explosive power than a traditional snatch. They involve more muscles than the regular snatch, plus, I have already listed a few movements that have the same mechanics and utilize the same muscles as the regular snatch.
There you have it! The 7 best traditional kettlebell exercises for MMA! Again, keep in mind that this is simply my opinion based on my experience with weight training and martial arts. If anyone has other ideas of what kettlebell exercises work best for MMA, please let me know. I’m always open to new ideas!
Joey Alvarado is the owner and head trainer of Socal MMA Fitness based in East Los Angeles, California. Joey Alvarado is a former professional MMA fighter and competitive grappler, and the developer of Combat Kettle-Jitsu, a unique blend of Jiu Jitsu bodyweight exercises and newly developed kettlebell exercises. Joey Alvarado has released two workout DVDs titled Combat Kettlebell Systems and Shadow-Jitsu Bodyweight Training. Find out more at www.Kettle-Jitsu.com
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