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For a long time, people have considered Kettlebell training as one of the best form of strength and conditioning training for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Kettlebell training will help develop your power, strength, endurance, and mobility.
The problem is most people have no idea what to do with them, worst still they perform the exercises incorrectly. So this fantastic tool ends up becoming a glorified drop stop or paper weight.
If you are considering adding Kettlebell training to your workouts, you should learn how to use them correctly. Like any method of training they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
Assuming you know how to use Kettlebells correctly there are a number of great ways to incorporate them into a workout.
To get you started here is a fantastic 22-minute workout from Strength & Condition expert and Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Steve Maxwell.
The great thing about this workout is it only takes 22-minutes (including your warm-up) and will work just about every muscle in your body and push you conditioning to its limits.
You may also want to use a lighter kettlebell than you think you need the first time you perform this workout. By the end of the workout, you’ll be happy you did.
Minutes 1 and 2:
Around the Body Pass. This is my first exercise for every kettlebell workout. It is a beautiful opening move and helps prepare my mind as much as my muscles for the coming real work.
One minute in a clockwise direction, and then one minute counter-clockwise.
Minutes 3 and 4:
Halos. I’m showing a slightly different version of this exercise. Holding the kettlebell by the ball, handle downward, move the kettlebell in a slanted orbit, the back of the orbit is at head level and the front of the orbit is at chest level. Inhale and open the chest while the kettlebell is behind your head.
One minute in a clockwise direction, and then one minute counter-clockwise.
Minutes 5 and 6:
Figure 8s. Keeping your back flat, and the weight on your heels, pass the kettlebell through your legs in a figure 8 pattern. This will open your groin and adductors.
One minute in one direction, and then one minute in the opposite direction
Good Morning Stretch. Time to stretch the lower back and hamstrings. Cradle the kettlebell close to your chest with folded arms. Bend over with a straight back until you feel the stretch reflex of your hamstrings. Then bend your knees slightly, round your back, drop your head, and roll up slowly. Finish each repetition by lifting your chest
Now, you’ve completed the warm-up. It is time to begin the body of the workout.
Windmill, left arm. The Windmill is a great movement, working the core and upper body, while developing hamstring strength and flexibility. Whenever I include this exercise, I put it close to the beginning of the workout, because it is the most technically difficult movement, and therefore has the highest risk of injury. Remember to point your feet away from the kettlebell and to keep looking at the kettlebell.
Squatting Around Body Pass. Feet shoulder-width apart, knees forward. Squat, as though you were sitting on a chair and perform the Around Body Pass, except when you pass the kettlebell behind you, it is passing under your thighs. This exercise works your lower back, hips and thighs statically while your arms are engaged in moving the kettlebell.
Windmill, right arm. Of course, you have to work both sides.
Squatting Around Body Pass. Your thighs may be complaining a bit at this point.
Single Arm Swings, left arm. Now we’re getting to the real work.
Turkish Get-Ups, left arm. Don’t put that kettlebell down, hold on to it. Lay yourself down and perform Turkish Get-Ups with your left arm. Keep your eye on the kettlebell.
Single Arm Swings, right arm. Keep your back flat and concentrate on that hip-thrust.
Turkish Get-Ups, right arm. It probably feels good to lay down at this point, but don’t stop. These 4 minutes are actually the most difficult ones and the centerpiece of the workout. The alternation of Single Arm Swings and Turkish Get-Ups is actually good news and bad news. The good news is that after the Swings, you get to lie down and perform a slower exercise. The bad news is that your blood is moving from one end of your body to the other, and there’s a level change. Both of these factors will tax all of your energy systems.
Side Lunge. Back to hip, thigh, and lower back work, with emphasis on the groin. Hold the kettlebell in front of you and keep your chest forward. Your lower body is working dynamically and your upper body is working statically.
Minutes 17 and 18:
Snatch. Still working the lower body dynamically, with more emphasis on the core and shoulders.
One minute with the left arm, then one minute with the right.
Minutes 19 and 20.
Clean and Press This is not as much rest as you think, all of the blood is now racing to the upper body to fuel your traps, shoulders and triceps. There is an order here, the Swing is more difficult than the Snatch, and the Snatch is more difficult than the Clean and Press. Still, you may need to use your legs to help drive the kettlebell up.
One minute with the left arm and one minute with the right.
Just two minutes to go, but they’re going to be two very tough minutes. During these last two minutes, think about the last two minutes of a martial arts match. You’re tired, but the other guy has to be just as tired. Reach down inside and pull out everything you have left for these last two sets.
Swing-Catch-Squat: Perform a Swing. At the top of the arc, release the kettlebell, and grab it by the ball. Pull it into your chest and perform a squat. After completing the squat, give the bell a slight toss, and then re-grip it by the handle to swing it again. The entire body is involved in this movement, which also provides some excellent grip work.
Deck Squats. Grip your kettlebell by the horns and perform your last set of total body, torment. If you’re really good, you can re-grip your kettlebell by the horns after your last toss of the kettlebell after your final squat of the Swing-Catch-Squats. Squat again, but move into a set of deck squats for your last minute of exercise. Breathe.
In the full version, you are supposed to perform each exercise for 1 minute. If this is too difficult here are a couple of variations;
30 seconds work / 30 seconds rest – this gives you a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Try to go as fast as you can during the work period
40 seconds work / 20 seconds rest – this is slightly more advance as it will give you a negative rest period (2:1 work rest ratio)
Instead of using time use a set number of reps per exercise. This will make some exercises easier and some harder. For example 10 round the body passes will be fairly easy, 10 single arm swings will be a lot more taxing.
What about if you don’t have a Kettlebell?
The majority of the exercises can be done with either a dumbbell or a weight plate, and will you’ll only need to make small modifications.
This is a great general kettlebell workout that takes a little time to perform and can help improve your conditioning for Jiu Jitsu. Remember, before attempting this workout make sure you can perform all the techniques correctly. Start slowly, and work your way up to the full 22 minute workout.
With all things are equal, strength and conditioning can be the deciding factor between victory and defeat. And in many cases strength and size can even overcome a superior skill level.
Do you want to rely on strength and size? Of course not. You want your technique to be perfect and you never have to rely on strength or size.
Having said that, strength makes you more efficient it, it makes you less susceptible to injury, makes your joints more resilient, and it can even improve your cardio.
Your goal should be to be as strong as possible, but use as little strength as possible when training.
So how do you improve you strength and conditioning for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Thankfully it’s not that complicated and you can start making improvements today.
To get you started here is an interview with BJJ Black Belt and Strength and Condition expert, Steve Maxwell.
This interview, Steve discusses all things related to Strength and Conditioning, how to you should train for Jiu Jitsu and combat sports, and contains a lot of actionable information in it.
Steve Maxwell has been training for over 50 years. He started BJJ in 1989 and is the first American-born Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Relson Gracie.
He is known as one of the pioneers of Jiu Jitsu in the East Coast of the United States and is considered one of the best strength & conditioning coaches for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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