It’s no mystery that the kettlebell is an effective tool for BJJ strength and conditioning. It’s versatility and construction make it extremely useful for developing functional strength, power, and endurance that will carry over to the mat. If you haven’t added kettlebell training to your S&C program it’s time to start, as you can also expect improvements to your core and grip strength, stamina, and strength endurance. We put together the five best and most effective kettlebell moves for grappling, so be sure to add these to your workout asap!
One Arm Kettlebell Thruster
This exercise works your entire body and improves power, strength, and cardio capacity. It will tax your legs and shoulders while requiring you to keep a tight core to balance the offset load. Rarely in BJJ do we find ourselves moving symmetrically. Often, we’re pushing or pulling to one side and managing awkward, uneven loads. The goal of the One Arm KB Thruster is to generate power through the legs and shoulders to explode the KB overhead while maintaining an upright and symmetrical torso. You can use a heavier KB to work power and strength or a lighter one for conditioning and endurance.
This exercise puts a twist on the Single Arm Bent Over Row and assumes a low takedown stance as if starting a match. This will not only develop the pulling muscles of the upper back and arms, but work the core to maintain upright posture while developing stamina in the legs to remain low throughout the set. If you ever get tired of staying low while on the feet, this one is a must. Do not rest the non-working hand or arm on your knee, but use the core to maintain the position with a flat lower back.
Kettlebell Cossack Squat
The Cossack Squat is an excellent move for grapplers and fighters because it works single leg strength and mobility. If you’re new to the Cossack Squat, chances are you wont have the adequate mobility to get full range of motion for the movement. Work on hip mobility and un-weighted Cossacks first before adding weight. This exercise works the small muscles around your hips and upper leg that get extremely tired from playing guard and forceful passing from the feet.
One Arm Swing
A staple in the kettlebell toolset, the swing delivers explosive hips, enduring grip, and lungs that won’t quit. The one arm variation will tax your grip even more and require your core to work overtime to prevent the torso from collapsing. The goal is to maintain a symmetrical positon with the body while managing an offset load, similar to the One Arm KB Thruster. Again, we rarely find ourselves pushing evenly though our muscles when grappling so this movement will develop unique strength and endurance that translates perfectly to the mat. Challenge yourself with either heavy low rep sets or grueling light weight and high reps.
Turkish Get Up
This may be the most beneficial KB exercise to grapplers, as it works the entire body, develops mobility, and reinforces proper movement patterns when standing up. It builds healthy and resilient shoulders and requires you to perform a sequence of specific movements while under stress (much like BJJ.) The TGU was not meant to be a cardio exercise, but rather performed slowly and deliberately with heavy weight. You can get a full explanation of this exercise for BJJ here. Add this as a warm up drill before any workout or for repetitions as its own exercise in your routine.
For Strength and Power
Turkish Get Up 1 rep / side @ 72lb
One Arm KB Thruster 5/side @ 53lb
Grappler’s Row 5/s @ 53lb
Cossack Squat 5/s @ 35lb
One Arm Swing 10/s @ 53lb
For Conditioning and Strength Endurance
Half Get Up To Hand @ 53lb
Complete 5 Rounds w/ 90s rest between rounds:
Cossack Squat 10/s @ 18 or 26lb
One Arm KB Thruster 10/s @ 18 or 26lb
Wrestler’s Row 15/s @ 26lb
One Arm Swing 20/s @ 35lb