There is no denying the influence that kettlebell training has had upon Cross Training protocols over the past decade. Commercial, underground and home gyms are now stocked with kettlebells, and they’ve now made their way into most sports-specific training centers. The unique angles which kettlebells are used allow for isolated targeting of many muscle fibers (particularly of the stabilizer variety) which were neglected by free weight and machine training up to this point. They’ve made their mark with athletes of all varieties.
Mixed martial arts fighters know the many benefits to balance, strength, stamina and performance capability that cross training with kettlebells can deliver. And in recent years, MMA training protocols have grown to include some kettlebell training. Unfortunately, most of that kettlebell use has mimicked the standard Cross Training or CrossFit training protocols, for general strength and stamina with little to no thought given to some of the hip and other areas which are of extreme importance to mixed martial arts fighters using grappling, kicking and striking interchangeably on a very rapid basis. Standard MMA training drills can be so much more effective with kettlebells thrown into the mix! Let’s take a look at some of the ways Kettlebells can be used to specifically target the needs of MMA fighters.
The Rocking Chair & Press
Roll from back on the floor, to your knees pressing the kettlebell over your head. This gives you the standard BJJ (Brazilian jiu jitsu) drilling to work on your transition moves, with the added benefit of additional resistance. You’re bringing a kettlebell along with you. Pressing the weight to finish the movement delivers a synergistic boost for upper body strength which standard body weight training alone does not deliver. This one is a winner!
Also known as the “quarter get up”, the full body movements of the partial movement known as the Turkish Press is made much more effective when you’re pushing a kettlebell above your head. Upper body strength is targeted in this movement. Keep the weight light to moderate in order to protect the shoulder joints. This movement should be one you use with each training session, as it targets nearly every muscle in the body.
Bridge & Sprawl
Combining these two movements delivers synergy that the experienced MMA fighter will feel from head to toe, as two of the most effective MMA training strategies are combined in a single exercise. Use the full body bridge while pushing a kettlebell through the full range of motion (painful already!) Then, immediately set the kettlebell down and explode into a standard sprawl. For CrossFit fanatics, this may resemble more of a more brutal version of the burpee! For MMA trainers, the results will be obvious instantly.
Completing your standard snake move used to get off your back is a mainstay in mixed martial arts training. Holding a kettlebell while practicing this move will push the pain you feel (and the results you see) into the stratosphere! You’ll increase core, leg, back, and most importantly, HIP strength while holding a kettlebell due to the added resistance.
Obviously, kettlebell training should only constitute a fraction of your total training. Combined with running, sparring, drilling, weight and flexibility training, kettlebells are a useful tool for improving your capability for performance with minimal time invested, provided you are selecting relevant movements which target those functional areas required for MMA success. Good luck!