Top 5 Kettlebell Exercises For Fighters
A kettlebell workout offers some of the best all-around full-body training, requiring a unique combination of strength and conditioning, both of which are needed for improving your boxing and kickboxing skills.
What Are Kettlebells?
With their history dating back centuries, kettlebells were first utilized in strength-based competitions during the late 19th century in Russia, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that they started to catch hold as a worldwide sensation. Today, kettlebells are used by athletes, fitness enthusiasts, elite armed special forces, and everyone in between.
If there's one thing required to be a successful combat sports athlete, it's being able to use both strength and power in combination with the actual fighting skill set. A punch thrown is almost useless and ineffective without power and explosiveness. The kettlebell is one of the best training tools a fighter can add to their repertoire to take their game to the next level.
Here, FightCamp’s Coach PJ takes you through his top 5 exercises using a kettlebell to improve your boxing and kickboxing skills. When first using a kettlebell be sure to start with a lighter weight and gradually increase the weight once you feel comfortable with the moves. To get the most of these exercises, be sure to properly warm-up, by going through a dynamic warm-up routine to prime the body. Try incorporating these exercises into your current training routine or at the end of a boxing/kickboxing session for an even greater caloric burn!
Kettlebell Swings (10-20 swings)
The foundation of kettlebell training, the kettlebell swing is a dynamic hip-hinge movement. This movement is excellent for developing posterior chain power and endurance which is crucial for fighters in later rounds of a fight.
- Start in an athletic stance, similar to that of a slightly wider shoulder-based sumo-deadlift stance, kettlebell on the floor in front of you
- Hinge your hips back and bend over grabbing the kettlebell by the handle with both hands
- Focus on keeping your lats engaged and your core tight throughout the entire movement
- Hike the kettlebell through your legs to initiate the swing, keeping your knees slightly bent and your spine in a neutral position
- Forcefully drive your hips up and forward, attempting to propel the kettlebell up into the air in front of you
- Focus on thrusting the kettlebell up, your arms should not be the driving factor in the raising of the kettlebell
- You should now be in a vertical, tall position, with the kettlebell no higher than shoulder height
- Allow the kettlebell to travel back down and between your legs in a controlled manner
- As the kettlebell travels back down through your legs, your hips should be hinging back, your spine neutral, lats and core engaged, moving smoothly into the next rep
- On your last rep, control the kettlebell back down to the ground in front of you safely
Squat Jumps (10-20 reps)
Squat jumps are a great lower body exercise to help develop lower body power and build muscular endurance, especially in the legs. A key known fact in fighting is that the legs are the first to go when getting hit, this exercise will help build up that muscle endurance.
- Assume the same starting position as the kettlebell swing
- Jump up, exploding as high as you can off the ground
- Arms should be steady throughout the movement and hanging straight down as you hold the kettlebell by the handle with both hands
- Land athletically under control and squat back down, allowing the kettlebell to tap the ground and explode back into the next rep
- Continue for the remaining reps
Rotational Swings (10-20 reps)
- Start in a tall athletic stance, holding the kettlebell with both hands, arms straight down, in a relaxed position
- Start swinging the kettlebell side to side, using upper body motion, while keeping the elbows slightly bent
- The kettlebell should start following the path of a grandfather clock
- Slowly gain momentum while keeping your core engaged, driving your hips and rotating your heels until the kettlebell reaches shoulder height
- As you pivot through, make sure the kettlebell is clearing your knees out in front of you
Kettlebell Halo (5-10 reps each side)
This exercise is perfect for core stabilization as well as getting a great shoulder burn. Another bonus is that it can be a great conditioning exercise in helping fighters deal with body shots.
- Start in an athletic stance, holding the kettlebell upside down by the horns at chest height
- Rotate the kettlebell back clockwise and around the head in the motion of a circular path
- Once the kettlebell passes back and is in front of your body, rotate it back counterclockwise
- Continue to rotate and switch back and forth for 5-10 reps while keeping your core engaged the entire time
Wrist Pronation and Supination (10-20 reps)
An excellent exercise for wrist and forearm strength. This exercise can also help a fighter get more snap in their punches.
- Start on the ground next to a bench or flat surface with the kettlebell lying on its side
- The bell should be facing to the right, perpendicular to you, resting on the surface
- Starting with wrist pronation, grab the horn of the kettlebell with your right hand, palm facing the sky
- Slowly rotate and flip the kettlebell on the axis of the handle until the bell is facing towards the left, your palm should now be facing down
- Use your left arm to help flip the bell back over to the starting position
- To start incorporating supination movement, flip the bell back to the starting position without using your left hand
- Continue, slowly and controlled, flipping the kettlebell back and forth along the handle for 10-20 reps
- Switch hands and repeat
There you have it! Coach PJ’s top 5 kettlebell exercises to help make you a stronger fighter. Strength training is key for boxers and kickboxers and incorporating new equipment like a kettlebell will assist you in reaching your fitness goals. These kettlebell moves can be added to your training throughout the week in a circuit form at the end of your training or as a strengthening workout, burnout, or finisher and get you more power with each strike.
How Heavy Should My Kettlebell Be?
To determine the weight of the kettlebells to use for each exercise, this is going to be largely based on your experience with them as well as individual strength levels. Start with a lighter weight and focus on the proper technique for the movements before increasing the weight to avoid injury.
If you love these exercises and want to train with Coach PJ, be sure to join FightCamp and get ready to take your fighting skills to the next level!
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The Author: PJ Shirdan is a FightCamp Founding Coach who claims that boxing wasn’t his first love, but it saved his life. PJ grew up in the Philadelphia area and played football as a young athlete. After a life-changing event, he found boxing as a way to heal, escape, and, ultimately, rebuild his life as he became a competitive fighter. PJ came to Los Angeles and continued to hone his skills as a boxer and as a NASM and TRX Certified Personal Trainer. He began to train other boxers, UFC fighters, and athletes using a holistic approach. This included mental and physical training, nutritional counseling, and empowering his clients with his hallmark motivational style. Today, he is known throughout the FightCamp Team as the go-to person to close out company-wide meetings with the same optimism and positive messages he delivers in his FightCamp workouts. When PJ isn’t filming workouts, he’s enjoying a great burger with his wife, Lindsey, and living his #BestDayEver. Coach PJ is also USA Boxing Coach certified.