Killer Kettlebells! -

Kettlebell Fighter Strength & Conditioning Workout

Written by Funk Roberts

Want to become the best fighter you can be? Kettlebell conditioning is the most effective way to torch calories, build muscle, burn fat, and develop all the skills a fighter needs to succeed.

Fighters are some of the toughest and most adaptable people in the world. Most folds are under the impression that fighting is just about using strength and speed to defeat the opponent, but it’s so much more.

The repertoire of skills that fighters need, whether you’re competing or not, is beyond what anyone can probably imagine. It takes both mental and physical toughness to compete in these kinds of sports; it takes power, strength, speed, endurance, agility, mobility, coordination, and the list goes on. So, while strength and speed may play a small role, combat sports are more about overtaking your opponent through technique.

Nevertheless, if you’re going to compete as a fighter, training is no easy feat. It’s not about hitting the gym a few times a week for some heavy lifts. You need discipline. Commitment. Consistency. It’s going to take some major blood, sweat, and tears to get you through the training sessions requires to whip your butt into the best shape you’ve ever been in.

Whatever the reasons you’re training like a fighter, kettlebell conditioning is some of the most effective training you can do that hits on every aspect a fighter needs to succeed. I’m giving you the ultimate kettlebell metabolic conditioning workouts that will take you from 0 to 100 in no time flat.

Benefits of Using Kettlebells for Fighters

Low-impact, time-efficient cardio

Fighter or not, nobody wants to spend hours on end daily trying to burn calories and make weight. If you want to reduce your workout times in half and double your results, a killer kettlebell conditioning circuit is how you do it.

Using high-rep ranges at a consistent pace, kettlebells can easily skyrocket your heartrate while at the same time building functional strength to offer many of the same benefits as traditional cardio or HIIT. Since kettlebell workouts are performed at ​​submaximal loads for short periods of time, they place a good amount of positive demand on your cardiovascular system, which means you can improve your cardiovascular endurance in substantially less time than other methods of training.

A 2010 study published by ACE looked at the energy cost and exercise intensity of kettlebell workouts using 10 male and female volunteers. They found that ​​just a 20-minute kettlebell workout burned roughly 272 calories, and that didn’t account for any additional calorie burn due to the substantial anaerobic effort (EPOC). Broken down, that added up to an energy expenditure of about 20.2 calories burned per minute, which is equivalent to running at a 6-minute mile pace. How does it have such a massive effect? Kettlebells involve total-body movements done at a fast pace due to the interval-training format, which means you’re getting a massive ROI in minimal time.

Reduces Muscle Imbalances

Most people are more dominant on one side than the other, but if you want to be an effective fighter, evening out those imbalances is key. Muscle imbalances may not seem hugely problematic, but when left unchecked, they can derail your progress long-term and create the potential for serious injuries. Muscle imbalances happen when a group of muscles are unequal in size or strength compared to the opposing group of muscles. The overactive muscles can pull your body into poor posture or poor movement patterns, which can result in impaired mobility in joints and muscle stiffness. Although most muscle imbalances occur at highly mobile areas of the body (hips, shoulders, thoracic spine), they can develop pretty much anywhere.

However, there’s a simple fix—kettlebells. A lot of exercises we do with traditional weights are bilateral, meaning you’re using both sides of your body. That’s things like a barbell press, rows, squats, etc. However, the beauty of kettlebells is that they offer the option for unilateral movements, which means that strength and muscle imbalances don’t stand a chance. If one arm or leg is constantly outperforming the other, adding kettlebell training will give the other limb an opportunity to develop and catch up.

Boosts Hormones

If you want to gain strength, increase muscle mass, and shed fat, maintaining a consistent level of anabolic hormones is key—and that goes for both men and women. Here, however, I’m targeting men and their levels of testosterone and growth hormone (GH), two key hormones heavily involved in body composition and muscle growth.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the hormonal response to an intense bout of exercise with kettlebells. Ten resistance-trained men performed twelve rounds of 30s kettlebell swings using a 24kg kettlebell followed by 30s of rest.

Here’s what researchers found:

  • Testosterone levels increased by 14% immediately following kettlebells swings, however, this level returned to below baseline values after 30 minutes
  • Cortisol levels increased roughly 45% and returned to baseline within 30 minutes
  • Growth hormone increased 18x its resting level immediately following exercise and continued to increase up to a whopping 21x after 15 minutes, then dropped back down to 16x after 30 minutes

As evident by this study, when done with a light-moderate weight for time, kettlebells can be an awesome tool to effectively spike the hormones needed to induce exercise adaptations.

Build Muscle and Power

Posterior chain strength plays a major role in combat sports. Whether you’re a wrestler, boxer, Muay Thai fighter, or grappler, having strength in all the muscles along the back of the body is beyond important.

A well-executed kick requires power in the hips and legs; regardless of how strong your upper body is, without strong and mobile hips and legs, your kicks will always be suboptimal. Similarly, grapplers require strong glutes to bridge; mobile and strong hip flexors are essential for shrimping. The erector spinae support your upper torso and without a strong, stable back, your technique is useless.

If you want to strengthen your entire posterior chain, kettlebells are amazing. The unique design of a kettlebell means its mass extends beyond the hand, which facilitates total-body ballistic movements similar to those seen in things like snatches and cleans during powerlifting or CrossFit. While there are plenty of movements that build posterior chain strength, there’s nothing quite like the kettlebell swing for doing so. It’s one of the best kettlebell movements for developing thick back muscles, strong and powerful glutes and hamstrings, and major trap strength. Since kettlebell movements can take on one of two forms—slow and deliberate, or fast and explosive—you’re maximizing muscle activation to build maximum strength and power.

Improves Balance and Coordination

Balance and coordination are essential regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not. As I mentioned before, kettlebells are some of the best equipment for reducing muscle and strength imbalances that can lead to injury, but in order to use a kettlebell, you need coordination and mobility. Unlike other types of free weights, the offset weight of a kettlebell requires impeccable form and coordination in order to perform the exercise correctly and avoid injury. Without proper kinesthetic awareness, mobility, and stability, there is no way to perform many of these movements. The best part is that all of these improvements in coordination and balance transfer from your kettlebell training program to your sport of choice.

Strengthens the Core

A strong core is at the heart of every athlete. Core strength isn’t just about repping a six-pack; it’s about having strength and stability to support your entire body. The core is literally the centre of the body and core strength is required for maintaining good posture, stabilizing the spine, supporting the trunk, regulating internal abdominal pressure, supporting internal visceral organs, and assisting with forceful expiration.

Contrary to what most people think, crunches aren’t the way to achieve that. If you want core strength, compound and unstable movements are some of the best things you can do to build strength and stability in all the core muscles. Thanks to the nature of kettlebells, they change your centre of gravity and force you to engage and brace your core, thus building functional strength and stability in the spine with every movement. When you add in rotational movements, you’re strengthening it further.

Reduces Injury Risk

Injury sucks—there are no two ways about it. There’s no end to the list of things that can result in injury, whether it’s a twists ankle, broken wrist, or a dislocated shoulder. While many of the injuries that martial artists experience may be from insane levels of physical impact or improper technique, many others can be attributed to muscle imbalances and asymmetries that can lead to overuse injuries.

The best way to prevent injury? Use kettlebells. They engage virtually every muscle in the body—the big prime movers and the tiny stabilizers—which help to improve the stability and strength of the entire body. That way, you’re not worrying about compensation and poor movement patterns due to strength imbalances.

Kettlebell Khaos Super Shred Workout

With all of that covered, it’s time to get to what you’ve been waiting for. I’m giving you one of the most intense kettlebell conditioning workouts designed specifically for fighters or anyone that wants to look like a fighter.

Whether you’re training to compete or training for purely personal enjoyment, these workouts will whip you into shape as you’ve never been in before.

Circuit #1

Lower - Perform each exercise for 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds rest one after the other for 2 rounds

  1. Racked Curtsey Lunge to Forward Lunge Right
  2. Racked Curtsey Lunge to Forward Lunge Right
  3. Alternating Swing to Racked Squat -
  4. Alternating Swing to Racked Squat
  5. Split Stance Deadlift
  6. Split Stance Deadlift

Circuit #2

Upper - Perform each exercise for 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds rest one after the other for 2 rounds

  1. Chest Press Bridge Right
  2. Chest Press Bridge Left
  3. Bent over Row To Clean to Shoulder Press
  4. Bent Over row to Clean to Shoulder Press

Circuit #3

Conditioning - Perform each exercise for 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds rest one after the other for 2 rounds

  1. Step Back Lunge Swings
  2. Push ups
  3. Step Back Lunge Swings
  4. Abs Bicycles
  5. Burpees
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