Why Kettlebell Workouts Are Good For Jiu Jitsu and Other Combat Sports

The variability, scope, and benefits of kettlebell training are virtually endless.

In fact, not only can a bell challenge your body from pretty much any angle, but the training you can do with it is just as versatile.

When many people think of kettlebells, they think of one movement: the swing. Now, the swing is in itself an epic power move … but there is also so much more you can do with a kettlebell.

For instance, kettlebells are unbelievable for sport-related training. And to be even more specific, they are gold when it comes to training for combat sports like MMA and Jiu Jitsu.

Training to be a winner at your combat sport of choice requires a very specific skillset of power and stamina, so the training is intense to say the least. If you participate in jiu jitsu or any other martial art, you know that you need to be strong, explosive, and able to outmaneuver and outlast your opponent, all at once. It’s a pretty tall order! 

Just like any other athlete, you probably put a lot of stock into building both your strength and stamina. Kettlebell workouts can hit both of these crucial points at the same time, making them an ideal one-two punch (ohh yeah, pun indeed!).

What’s more, kettlebells work a ton of muscles at the same time while still improving your endurance, which could very well mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Let’s go deeper below on why kettlebell workouts are some of the best kinds of workouts you can incorporate into your training routine to get a leg up on your opponents.  

Builds Core and Stabilizer Muscles

One of the key components of winning in combat sports is maintaining control, which is why coordination and agility are key. Having strong core and stability muscles, which are groups of smaller muscles within your core that help stabilize your larger muscles and skeleton) are crucial for jiu jitsu and other combat sports to help you stay on your feet and maximize both your strength and speed. 

Kettlebell workouts are great for targeting these, which translates to stable speed and coordination on the mat or in the ring. 

Unlike using other types of weightlifting and resistance equipment, kettlebell compounds aren’t meant to target muscles in isolation. Every time you use a kettlebell, you’re dealing with an uneven distribution of weight. So in order to maintain control over the weight, your body needs to counterbalance and activate your core and stabilizing muscles. 

It’s a really effective way to train those muscles, too. One study found that participants incorporating kettlebell workouts were able to increase their core strength by a whopping 70%! [*

You engage your core muscles with virtually every kettlebell movement you do, and it’s especially true with two of the classics: the swings and the cleans. 

Increases Endurance 

In addition to building muscle, all those kettlebell workouts are great for promoting your endurance – and if you participate in any combat sports, you know that sometimes the key to winning is simply being able to outlast your opponents. 

Unlike other strength training movements that you would typically do with standard equipment, a good kettlebell training routine isn’t targeting a small set of muscle groups. Instead, you’re generating force while also being in constant motion. As a result, you hit several muscles at once, and the unique combination of cardio and strength training is great news for your stamina! 

There’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that incorporating kettlebell workouts can increase the amount of force that your muscles exert, which in turn increases your muscle endurance as they don’t need to contract as much to generate the same power. This can really help you overpower your opponent without leaving you completely exhausted! 

The role this can play on your cardio also can’t be understated. One study found that people who participated in kettlebell workouts saw a 13.8% increase in aerobic capacity. [*]

Incorporate kettlebell training into your conditioning work to get your stamina up and build strength, simultaneously. 

Watch: High-Intensity Kettlebell Conditioning 

Teaches You How to Handle the Weight of Your Opponents. 

Another awesome aspect of kettlebell training that sets it apart from more “traditional” weight training methods is that it teaches you how to handle asymmetrical weight, which is key for facing an opponent in any combat sport. 

Because of their handled design, when you work with kettlebells you’re working with a center of gravity that’s a couple of inches away from your grip, so you’re constantly dealing with weight shifts in a manner similar to what you’d be facing in a match when you’re handling the weight of your opponent’s body.

Unlike other weightlifting equipment like dumbbells that let you maintain full control over the load for the entirety of the workout, kettlebell workouts introduce complex movements and a shifting center of gravity, which can mimic the conditions in a combat sport – after all, when’s the last time you were up against an opponent who was completely still? 

Single kettlebell training is especially effective for this: Single Kettlebell Conditioning 

Encourages Synchronization 

Finally, one of the best perks of adding kettlebells into your workouts is that it helps you utilize full-body, coordinated movements. When you’re in a match, you have to move your entire body in sync, so your athletic training should also be a full-body affair. 

These full-body movements are what can really separate kettlebell training from other forms of weight-training. Kettlebells can be used in compound movements that work out multiple muscle groups at the same time, rather than isolating and training them one-by-one. 

Kettlebell training is even better for functional fitness than bodyweight training alone. Bodyweight training is one of the key components of whole-body, functional fitness since it engages multiple muscle groups at once … but there’s only so much difficulty and resistance your bodyweight can provide. Kettlebells introduce added weight resistance into these full-body circuits to really amp up the intensity. 

Kettlebells are also diverse enough that you can use them in circuit training for a full-body flow. For the best results, try adding some full-body kettlebell complexes and flows like the one below to your workout routine. 

Heavy Full-Body Kettlebell Complex 

Conclusion 

The bottom line is that if you’re looking to increase your strength, endurance, and functional movement with one exercise, you should be incorporating more kettlebell training into your routine. It takes all of the most important goals of your conditioning – strength and stamina – and combines them into one functional movement.  

Next time you hit the gym to train for your combat sport, switch it up and grab those bells!  You’ll be getting:

• Stronger stabilizer and core muscles (essential for balance for striking/takedowns)
• Increased endurance
• Ability to handle the weight of opponents
• Enhanced synchronized, full-body movements

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