Do you have the habit of washing your belt in Jiu-Jitsu or are you one of those grapplers that are afraid of losing their “Mojo”? If you are in the first category, you probably already know that there’s no one tool that’s perfect for improving your Jiu-JItu off the mats. If you belong to the “non-belt-washing” type though, you might just think that BJJ and kettlebells are a match made in heaven. Well, regardless of what Joe Rogan says about them, the reality is that even he doesn’t exclusively do kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu. Face it, people, he has kettlebells to sell, so he has to hype them up. It is not that they don’t work, they’re just not the magical tool to get you into fighting shape on their own.
In fact, Ketllebelss is just that – a tool. Just like with any other tool they have a purpose. However, that purpose is not specifically grappling strength and conditioning. Kettlebells are designed for strength and conditioning training. To that extent, you can use them to train many different qualities, ranging from pure strength to cardiovascular training and explosiveness. However, they also have certain limitations, just like any other tool. In all honesty, kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu are great, but they have been hyped up way too much lately, thus creating unreal expectations.
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Benefits Of Kettlebells For Jiu-Jitsu
Kettlebells are a Russian invention that came about by accident. These iron bells with a handle were used to balance scales in markets. Suffice to say, someone thought of training with them and an entire sport was born. Today, there’s a kettlebell rack next to the dumbells in any gym worth visiting across the world. That said, kettlebells are awesome tools for developing certain athletic qualities. Certain, not all of them. And, when it comes to kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu, those athletic qualities are even fewer.
One of the main benefits of kettlebells is explosive strength. If you know which exercise to use and how to perform and program them, you’ll become extremely explosive. The nature of kettlebell training is such that most movements have a ballistic component. Moreover, you need to use most of your body’s muscles to perform certain exercises. The more muscles exercises recruit, the better. This is particularly true when training explosiveness for grappling, where you never explode with just one body part.
Another huge caveat of kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu is balance and coordination. While you can hold a kettlebell with both hands, most exercises involve using one hand. That means you either train unilaterally or train both hands with a kettlebell in each. This not only helps you with balance but also hand-eye coordination which is massive for grappling. Pair that with the explosive component form above and you really have something.
Finally, there’s general strength and conditioning benefits. Training with kettlebells is essentially still weight lifting, just in a more Olympic lifting style. Depending on the program you can train to become stronger or build up your conditioning. In terms of general preparation, kettlebells are the best thing you can use as a grappler/fighter. For specific preparation, you need to utilize them much more carefully.
Drawbacks of Kettlebell training For Grapplers
So, what are the cons of kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu? To be honest, there aren’t many, but those that present themselves are actually really important. For one, kettlebells area a variation of Olympic weightlifting. That means that they employ complex movements where the weight shifts a lot. Moreover, everything is done at great speed. IN essence, this means that you can’t just pick a kettlebell up and start training. You need to learn the proper form, and that takes time and attention. If you’re looking to get ready for a tournament but have never done kettlebells before, you might want to skip them in favor of more traditional methods. Plus, you need to hire a trainer to teach you how all the moves should be done correctly.
Unless you learn from an expert and train with the correct weight, you expose yourself to two main risks. First up, the potential for injury is huge, particularly during unilateral and complex movements. After all, you are swinging an iron ball through the air and above your head. Secondly, you risk overtraining due to the explosive nature of the movement, which will definitely hinder your Jiu-Jitsu. IN many cases, if you’re not experienced and rush with kettlebells for JIu-JItsu, you actually risk both at the same time.
Finally, a word of caution for those that hate training at commercial gyms. I can’t stress the point about hiring a trainer to teach you how to manipulate kettlebells. At least at first, until you master the basics. Moreover, keep in mind that kettlebells are not cheap. In fact, they are quite expensive and you won’t get away with just one. SO, if you’re thinking about stacking up on kettlebells for your home gym, be prepared for some major investment.
How To Train Correctly
Finally, let’s look at how you can avoid the drawbacks and only get the best of what kettlebells have to offer to grapplers. The first thing to know is that you need to focus on specific movements only. The variations you need will come with sets, reps, weight, and intensity. Skip all the throwing and juggling stuff that’s becoming increasingly popular nowadays. It is not safe, and it doesn’t yield results that you can take to the mats.
To that extent, let’s cover a few crazy effective kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu moves and how heavy you should go. The one exercise that should be first on any grappler’s program is kettlebell swings. This is also where you can go heavy, particularly with the two-hand swing. Remember that you can easily throw your lower back out, so make sure you have perfect form. Other than that, you’ll hardly find a better exercise to train your hamstrings, glutes, core, shoulders, and hips at once.
If you want to use medium weight, it is time to go single-handed. In that sense, snatches get the nod before swings. Here, you get to work all fo the muscles of the swing, plus your traps and lats, which are hugely important for JIu-Jitsu. Also, as far as full-body explosive moves go, snatches are right at the top. Plus, doing them with kettlebells (correctly) is way less risky than snatching with a barbell.
Finally, the one exercise to rule them all – Turkish get up. You won’t find a more grappling specific exercise anywhere! The thing with this one is, you HAVE to start light, It is deceivingly difficult and has the most potential for serious injury.
Finally, some honorable mentions you should consider are the clean and press, Overhead lunge, floor press, Russian twists, and kettlebell carries.
Are kettlebells the best thing you can do for grappling strength and conditioning? Definitely not, however, they can help you become a much better grappler. How? You need to know the secret to train with them. Kettlebells for Jiu-Jitsu require smart programming and knowledge. You can’t just go out and do the same thing Girevoy (competitive kettlebell lifting sport) competitors do. Instead, you need to know what can help your game, and what can hurt it. Other than that, swing away!