Friday, 29 May 2009

Kettlebell Training

“If you lose a match because your opponent has more skill, that’s okay. If you lose because of your conditioning, you have a personal issue.”

I have never been a fan of gym based workouts. Maybe it’s just me, but I never found a gym routine that built strength I could use in athletic activities. It didn’t translate into fitness in the surf, hiking, mountain biking, jiu-jitsu or other pursuits.
Kettlebell training solved a lot of this. Being pressed for time (and somewhat by cash), I really didn’t want to shell out for a hideous direct debit at some nightmare health club/fitness first/body sculpting/designer studio.

For a couple hundred bucks, I got a lump of iron I could keep in my room and use in a multitude of ways. I can even take it to the park or use it as a doorstop. Anything to keep me out of those horrible semi-solariums, being subject to crap music and surrounded by guys with gelled hair do’s churning out dumbbell curls while talking into their blue-tooth headset.

A kettlebell costs about as much as a couple of months membership to a local gym but you get far more physical and mental bang for your buck with a kettlebell.

Kettlebell lifting can be tough and there is a fair amount of technique. But it has a diverse range of applications: Build strength. Develop flexibility. Raise your level of conditioning. The list goes on. In fact, there is quite a diverse range of materials to work with depending on your goals. Fat loss with kettlebells is no doubt a very welcome side effect of KB training. Kettlebells can be used for:

  • Building Strength
  • Increasing conditioning – muscular & aerobic & anaerobic
  • Developing whole body coordination & explosiveness
  • Balance

A couple of other BJJ/Kettlebell related factors include shoulder health, grip strength and conditioning.

Shoulder Health

Most BJJ practitioners I know have sore shoulders occasionally. Many of my team mates at Novagen Academy use glucosamine or other joint support formulas to help with shoulder pain. The shoulder has an extremely wide range of motion which also makes it susceptible to injury. Kettlebells help build healthy shoulders because the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the shoulder joint are continually exercised with even the most basic exercises. For instance, if you squat a barbell, you can support it on your back, effectively disengaging your shoulder. If you squat with kettlebells your shoulders will be engaged even if you hang the bells like suitcases at your side. If you squat with the bells racked, shoulder engagement will be much greater..

Grip Strength

The no-gi game emphasizes arm and head control. The gi game emphasizes collar and sleeve control. Either way good grip-strength is a key to a successful BJJ game. Nothing is worse than losing a clean set-up when an opponent breaks your grips. Kettlebell training is uniquely beneficial for grip strength. Unlike conventional weight training, you don’t need a separate set of exercises for your forearms and wrists. The handle of a kettlebell is quite thick and you need to fully engage your forearms just to establish a good grip. Even in “rest” positions like the rack, your grips are always working to stabilize and position the bells, resulting in fantastic grip strength. After I started working out with kettlebells I found that my forearms don’t get burned out anymore.

Resistance + Cardio

A lot of people understand “conditioning” to mean running and other forms of aerobic cardio. BJJ however is characterized by explosive movements like the double-leg takedown, as well as sustained resistance as with the rear-naked choke. Because you have to resist a human opponent, BJJ is inherently unpredictable and you rarely have an opportunity to pace yourself or “groove” as you do with running or swimming. For this reason, I believe that long-duration aerobic cardio training is a poor fit for BJJ. Interval training with kettlebells affords great cardio benefits in addition to a challenging anaerobic resistance workout.

In my next article Ill look at a realy cool training protocol that has really helped my game in all of the above factors and all from the comfort of my own room (and with my choice in music :-) )On top of this the workout only takes about 20 minutes 2-3 times a week!

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