Kettle bells offer a truly practical solution to improving your performance in the ring while at the same time avoiding burn out and stopping niggling injuries often related to over training. Movements used during an MMA fight are very mixed including: balancing on one leg, split stances, jumps, core rotations, floor scrambles, and uncomfortably forced mobility positions.
MMA fighters also need to stay lean and not carry any worthless muscle mass that would stop them from making competition weight or slow them down during combat. Kettle bell training, unlike bodybuilding, relies on full body, integrated movements that will connect head to toe through your kinetic chain, great for generating kicking and punching power along with grappling strength.
Plus if you use the correct kettle bell exercises you can also better stabilize and mobilize your joints to prevent injury and generate better strength through your full range of movement. Below I have included 4 workout categories : Preparation, Cardio Endurance, Strength and Explosive Power.
The cardio endurance phase will develop your aerobic capacity and anaerobic threshold, meaning you can last for longer and tolerate more lactic acid when the going gets touch. These workouts can be performed by themselves to replace a regular cardio session but with the bonus of adding more transferable benefits.
The strength phase will condition your full body using the MMA fighters natural movement patterns. You will develop practical strength that you can transfer to all movement within the ring while at the same time reducing injury potential.
Explosive workouts for MMA need to be used carefully because they have the potential to cause injury if overdone or with a weak strength base. A word of warning : many fighters over train reducing their appetite for combat and causing niggling and debilitating injuries.
The ability to stabilize your body during movement is paramount for the mixed martial arts fighter. Mobility is also important for the fighter because a full range of movement means a longer reach, more power and a reduction in injury.
The objective of this kettle bell workout is to introduce you to a series of movements that will challenge your single leg stability, shoulder mobility, and rotational core strength. As most MMA movements involve 100’s of muscles at a time the unconditioned fighter will get tired very quickly.
The two handed kettle bell swing will develop your triple extension, hips, knees and ankles, along with full body condition. Your grip strength, shoulder stability and full body condition will be developed with the one handed kettle bell swing.
Squat thrusts will improve core strength through flexion and stabilization while at the same time ramping up your heart rate. A fun kettle bell workout that involves some major changing in positions from lunging, to rolling and finally front stabilization.
The changing in positions from standing to being on the floor will quickly increase your heart rate while at the same time strengthening your body in the various movement patterns. The kettle bell thruster will develop full body condition from head to toe while the high knees exercise increases speed.
A solid strength foundation also means a reduction in injury along with an increase in potential power production. For this kettle bell workout you will improve your single leg strength as well as pulling, pushing and forward flexion.
Pistol squats are very demanding, but they can be practiced using just body weight and holding a Tax or band in order to assist the movement. The inverted row exercise will help improve pulling strength and balance out all the excessive pushing that is often performed in the gym.
Your core muscles will equally be challenged as the overhead lunge connects upper body to lower and the renegade row works on stabilizing strength. Power is basically producing strength as quickly as possible, which is ultimately what all MMA fighters should be looking to achieve.
Those who fail to build an adequate strength foundation or lack stability or mobility can easily get hurt. All three exercises: the Snatch, Double Swings and Cleans will overload and increase your hip extension and pulling power.
One of my favorite single arm explosive power kettle bell workouts involves 3 exercises that focus on the dead lift movement pattern. Above I have listed 17 kettle bell workouts for MMA fighters and those interested in improving their performance inside the ring.
Using the above workouts will enable the MMA fighter to simultaneously develop strength and power while improving cardio and endurance. Workouts are designed to improve all areas of condition fully integrating movements used during combat.
“Strong punches come from the shoulders,” says the old school boxing coach, “Hit the deck and give me 50! In my own gym we have a collection of fantastic coaches, each one an expert in their field having been, or having produced, champion fighters.
But it seems to be a common theme, especially with older coaches, that weight training will steal your speed, leave you slow and muscle-bound. In these circles it was common to hear the advice to “borrow force from the earth,” which is a poetic way of saying that a strike starts by pressing the foot into the floor.
If I “borrow” this force, load it into the Achilles tendon which springs back extending the ankle, the force continues up the leg extending the knee and hip, it then hits the waist turning it and whipping the shoulder forward; this propels the arm out and into the other geezers mush sending him to sleep. The push up, while a great exercise, focuses on the very end of the action. For the rest of the muscles in the sequence, it is a good idea to ignore the coach and hit the weight room.
They strut onto the mat with puffed up chests and bulging arms but half an hour later they are shot, tired, and gasping for breath. But bodybuilding is a purely aesthetic endeavor; it builds a pleasing appearance but has little, if any, carryover to athletic performance.
Strength training for a fighter must revolve around improving the performance in the ring, anything that takes away from this must be dropped without a second thought. This has lead to the development of some very efficient training methods which have taken many average fighters and turned them into exceptional ones.
Earlier in the article we talked about borrowing force from the ground and how the body extends up and out into a knockout punch. The most efficient exercises that develop this skill are the ones that call for hip extensions, like the squat, the dead lift and their variations.
If you’re a grapple, don’t worry about the squat, the dead lift and its brothers, high pulls and power cleans are the lifts for you. To avoid the bodybuilder trap of becoming slow, tight and inflexible, it is vital to work through a full range of motion keeping the reps low, the rest periods long and lifts as explosive as possible.
Lift a heavy weight as fast as humanly possible then rest as long as it takes to be able to do it again with good form. Training with higher reps and shorter rest periods is less effective for building brute strength and power but more effective for adding mass to the body, something you need to be careful of if you compete in a weight class.
I tend to keep single leg work for more advanced athletes and even than they only do it once per week. I find the standard squat and dead lift are better for developing full body explosive power.
I started asking myself if there was a better way and, almost by accident, I stumbled across the power circuit format and both my strength and endurance improved immediately. Power circuits are built around your main lift for that day, usually a front squat or a dead lift.
When choosing the other exercises to put into these circuits, I find it beneficial to see what kind of movements the fighters are performing in their regular training. Our kickboxing coach loves planks, press-ups, and leg raises, so I stay away from them to avoid over use in these patterns. The BJJ coach is all about forward flexion of the spine, which is understandable given the art, so I give the guys drills that counter these movements and keep the body balanced.
For upper body pushing, rather than standard push-ups, I use Hindu and dive bomber push-ups as they both hit the shoulder in a more holistic manner while also extending the spine. I also teach them the one arm clean and jerk with a kettle bell, quite possibly the finest lift any fighter can employ in their training as it teaches power generation from the ground up. This works the entire body through a variety of movements and rep ranges, developing strength and stability through the core, shoulder endurance, and teaches the body to generate huge amount of power from the ground up with both the heavy dead lifts and repetition clean & jerk.
It forces newbies to take a good long rest between squat sets, especially if they’re still mastering technique. Pistol squats challenge the body in so many ways, strength, mobility, balance, the list goes on.
Team these up with the sheer power needed to explosively clean, press and snatch a heavy pair of bells, you’ll be a tired unit in no time! As stated these workouts can be done in as little as half an hour, so are perfectly suited to slot into the routine of even the busiest combat athlete.
Depending on the athlete’s level and needs 2 or 3 of these circuits per week will work wonders for their strength and conditioning. If they still want to go out do hundreds of push-ups and run a 10 km every morning, ask them to give you 4 weeks of this training and see how they feel.
Their road work should be kept to a single long steady jog with chilled out tunes playing on the iPod to help them recover and relax the head. By the end of the month, their ability keep dropping bombs into the later rounds will have significantly improved, and they’ll never doubt you again.