kettlebell for jiu jitsu


This 4-part article is by Jason Brown, an intelligent and jiu jitsu coach known for his deep understanding of supplemental training methods.


Kettle-Bell Training for BJJ Part 1

I’ve been working in the fitness and performance field since 1999. And although I’ve worn many hats such a personal trainer and massage therapist, I’ve tried to devote most of my time to helping other BJJ players improve their fitness and performance, both recreational and competitive. In doing so, I took the time to investigate the popular training options being offered to BJJ players inside their academies and online.

Here are the four main categories that I found:

1. Bodybuilding (a.k.a. All show-no-go): This type of training has nothing to do with performance. I’m sure you’ve trained with this type of guy, he looks great with his shirt off, makes sure he walks around your academy bare-chested 97% of the time but once the rolling starts, his face turns beet red and he’s done before the timer hits the 2 minute mark.  Sound familiar?

2. 1000 reps per day club: I’m sure you’ve seen this program. Just pick obscure Indian exercises and perform them for upwards of 1000 repetitions per day….or until your shoulders and knees give out due to repetitive stress and monotony.

3. All-strength-all-the-time: This is a very close cousin, maybe even a brother to the bodybuilding method. At least in the bodybuilding method most people will actually perform some light cardio and throw in a quick stretch prior to getting on the treadmill.

Not so with the All-strength-all-the-time methodology. I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of training with guys that belong to this school. You can tell who they are simply because they kick you in the head while working on triangles and arm bars from the guard. No mobility training, no conditioning and no movement…just muscle. If you can defend for more than 30 seconds you’ll be fine.

4. Just Roll Man: BJJ alone is a great way to stay in shape but eventually you’ll need to add some additional training to support your body and make continual progress in BJJ. If all you do is more rolling, overuse injuries are sure to happen and you’ll be on the sideline or very limited in your training. You need to do some other form of training to balance out your body and help reduce overuse injuries. Doing more BJJ only adds more stress onto stress.

Is there anything you could do to avoid some of these same mistakes? Get stronger, more mobile and have more endurance on the mat?

There has to be a better way right? There has to be a way that’s more enjoyable and have a direct impact on your BJJ performance.

I’ve worked with many BJJ players and what I’ve discovered from our conversations is that they want 3 things.  Maybe a few of these are true for you as well:

  • You want to get the most out of your training, on AND off the mat.
  • You want your training to compliment your BJJ and not take away from it or hinder it in anyway.
  • You want the greatest impact for your time and energy investment when you actually get to train.

I know why you got into BJJ, you love the action, you love the flow, you love the movement and the excitement. It’s this action, flow and grace of kettlebell training that seems to resonate so well with jiu-jitsu players also.

And it’s my sincere desire to honor these elements in this 4-week series on Kettlebell training for BJJ.

Week 1 will start out slowly but by the end of week 4 you’ll have all the tools you need to create your own kettlebell flow for BJJ. You’ll clearly see that the movements and rhythm directly carry-over onto the mat.

Week #1 consists of 1/2 Kneeling Kettlebell Swings and 1/2 Get-ups.

Swings are done for multiple sets of medium to high repetitions, 10 or more. 1/2 get-ups are done for multiple sets of low repetitions, under 5.

You can train as often as possible as long as you stay fresh for your actual BJJ training.  After a brief warm-up, you should be able to complete this short training session under 15-20 minutes.

The final flow in week 4 builds the combination of mobility and stability in all the right places and just where you need it, this is known as “Most-ability” by Gary Gray DPT.

And if we move too quickly, don’t stress. Please stay at the progression that’s best for your own unique situation and fitness. You could in fact stay at week 1 for several weeks and see improvement and gains.

I tried to keep the coaching tips video brief yet comprehensive but questions always pop up. If you need clarity on a details please let me now. In Part 2 we’ll add some complexity.

Kettle-Bell Training for BJJ Part 2

In the first part we covered the ½ kneeling kettlebell swing and the ½ get-up.  Hopefully you’ve played around with and explored those movements and found which details work best for you.

As in Jiu-jitsu, we all move differently, we all bring unique injury profiles, past training experiences and biases into our kettlebell training. I’ve seen dancers and wrestlers do these same exact skills completely differently.

I like to call this “heritage.” A term I read once in a Parkour book. So don’t worry if you move a bit differently than me or Nicolas Gregoriades. That’s your heritage, honor it without getting crazy or dangerous from a technical perspective. Kettlebells can bite back….just like jiu-jitsu.

In week 2 we take each movement 1 or 2 steps forward, simply progressing to the ½ kneeling Clean and Press, or Screw Press if you feel ready for it, and the ½ get-up with a high-bridge.

You can train as often as possible while staying as fresh as possible for your on-the-mat training.

The ½ kneeling Clean & Presses should be completed for multiple sets of low to medium repetitions…6-12 reps.

The ½ kneeling get-ups with high-bridge are still a lower rep movement, under 5. Complete for multiple sets after you’ve completed your ½ kneeling C & P.

If you’d like to throw an upper body pulling movement between these 2 kettlebell exercises it would be a great addition. Something like a TRX Row or pull-up variation. This would allow your shoulders and triceps to recover somewhat before moving on.

Kettle-Bell Training for BJJ Part 3

The kettlebell world is huge, with many techniques and modifications, just like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

But if you choose to focus on a few solid basics, and really work deeply on those, you can start to build wonderful flows into your program. Maybe escape the sets and reps and actually focus on the grace and elegance of your kettlebell skills? Get lost in the flow.

Consider that when we move into week #3.

Work on these new transitions and progressions slowly. Can you move though each of these drills smoothly? Can you perform them slowly and quickly? Play around with the speed of each skill while maintaining control.

We’ve taken the ½ Kneeling Clean & Press (Or Screw Press) from week #1 and deepened its range of motion…taking your hand completely to the floor.

And we’ve added a sit-back to the TGU with high-bridge. That should feel very much like standing up in base or a technical stand-up to you.

Here are the coaching tips from Week #3. Please let me know if I can help with anything. Week #4 for the complete kettlebell flow for BJJ will be here shortly.

Kettle-Bell Training for BJJ Part 4

In week 4 we combine all the elements that you’ve developed in the previous weeks into one seamless flow starting and finishing from the 1/2 kneeling position.

There are 2 ways to work kettlebell flows. You can decide on a set number of repetitions to complete each set or you can work for a certain time period as part of a larger circuit.

If you choose the timed approach:

Be sure not to rush and maintain a high quality of movement and control. Also, consider putting flows at the beginning of the circuit while your most fresh and coordination isn’t limited by fatigue.

If you choose the set and rep approach:

Keep the reps lows, 1-5. I find it’s great to combine kettle bell flows with an upper-body pulling movement like a suspension trainer row or a pull-up. This keeps the upper back alive and helps to maintain shoulder stability and control during the kettle bell movements.


Video Week #4:


Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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