Kettlebell Training for MMA (mixed martial arts)

Kettlebells are a great tool to use for getting fighters in top shape for MMA or BJJ. Kettlebells can be used for cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, power, strength, agility, flexibility, and injury-proofing.

The key is to first identify the area in which the athlete needs to improve and then find the right exercises to work with. Of course, some exercises are always great for a fighter, for example, anything with rotation in the spine. The Turkish Get-up, Bent Press, and Windmill are great exercises that provide a focus on this area.

Kettlebell Turkish Get-up

Apart from the thoracic spine, the TGU delivers plenty more benefits, like shoulder stability, hip flexibility, and so much more.

Kettlebell Bent Press

Just like the TGU, the Bent Press also provides many other benefits like shoulder stability and lat strength.

Kettlebell Windmill

There are many kettlebell Windmill variations, many get-up variations, many bent press variations, and so much more that focus on stability, strength, and flexibility in our CAVEMANROM program. There is a book available for those that just want to dig into it by themselves, and there is an online certification for trainers and those that want to make sure they’re doing it right.

In our shop, you’ll find everything you need to start kettlebell training yourself or learn how to train your athletes. Everything from the fundamentals, clean, press, swing, snatch, to advanced kettlebell complexes.

Workout for MMA

A strong stable core is the foundation for any strength and conditioning program. The core is defined as the muscles that make up the body minus the legs and arms. This predominantly includes the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, external obliques, erector spinae (lower back), and even the glutes. As you already know, the body is composed of hundreds of individual muscles. What you may not know is that in any type of athletic movement you do will use all of these in conjunction. Example: In an MMA fight, when you shoot for a takedown, the entire body (head to toe) is incorporated in order to produce the maximum force possible to take your opponent to the ground.

Where does core stability fit into the mix? Every time you move, you will utilize your core to some extent. I know what you’re thinking, “What about isolation exercises?” Try this. Take a heavy dumbbell and curl it with one arm. At the same time, take your other hand and feel the obliques (abdominal muscles on your side) and see if they contract. I can promise you that your obliques will contract and tighten. As you can see, even a simple isolation movement like a curl will employ your core to a certain extent. It is imperative that you not neglect this portion of the body. Let’s compare a tree to the human body for instance; have you ever seen a tree with massive roots (your legs), huge hulking limbs (your shoulders, chest, and arms), but a skinny trunk (your midsection)? The answer is NO. A strong wind would snap that tree in half. Your body is no different.

I am going to show you a foolproof circuit for developing a strong core while incorporating MMA specific movements. You can do this workout routine almost anywhere, as long as you have a TRX suspension training band (or equivalent), a set of dumbbells, and some kettlebells. In the absence of kettlebells, you may substitute with a dumbbell of the appropriate weight.


  • This workout will be done in a circuit fashion, meaning that there is little to no rest in between exercises.
  • You may do each exercise for repetitions or time. Example: each exercise could be 12 reps OR you could choose to do each for 30 seconds before moving onto the next.
  • When you finish every exercise that will count as 1 set. Try to see how many sets you can accomplish in 20 min time.
  • You may rest as long as possible in between sets, but remember your opponent probably won’t be so push yourself.


  1. Kettlebell Side to Side – While lying flat on the ground, hold a kettlebell (or dumbbell) with your arms locked out above your chest. Now slowly rotate your body to the left, bring your right leg across, slightly bent at the knee. Bring the foot all the way across until your toe touches the ground. Now rotate back to the right and do the inverse by bringing the left leg across. Note: the weight never touches the ground.

Why This Movement: This exercise is slightly similar to a shrimping movement or what you would do to create space from your opponent while in the bottom position. It will also be useful for sweeps.

  1. Guard Attack 45° – Laying flat on the ground, plant the feet flat on the floor with your knees up. Grab two dumbbells and hold them in front of the face, as if protecting the face from an attacking opponent. Contract the abdominals upward into a situp movement and punch forward with the right arm towards and past the left knee. Return the arm back to the starting position, and repeat with the left side. While punching, the dumbbell will twist until it is horizontal with the ground. While the other hand is protecting the face with the palm facing inwards. Use the shoulder in the movement to get more reach and power behind the punch. The punch is at about a 45-degree angle (thus the name)

Note: Always make sure one hand is protecting the face at all times

Why this Movement: This movement is similar to that of fighting off an opponent from within your guard. It mimics punching or possibly grabbing for an arm or hooking the back of the head. Be sure to bring the hand back quickly as this may cause a bad habit that may leave you vulnerable.

  1. Side Guard Attack – Lay down on your back. Hold two kettlebells (one in each hand). Hold them tightly in the rack or bench press position. Move to your left side, keeping one weight on the chest and punch upwards at a 75-degree angle with the other weight.

Why This Movement: This movement is similar to fighting an opponent that is leaning over you or that has you mounted. Do not leave your arm extended too long as it will leave you vulnerable to possible armbars or a head and arm choke.

  1. Ground ‘n Pound – Kneeling over your “opponent” as if in a mounted position, take two dumbbells, punch downwards with one while alternating, first focusing on getting the technique right and then picking up speed. Twist the hands while punching, when they are at the chest the palms are facing in, as the arm extends, rotate the hand.

Why This Movement: This movement is clearly training your body to pound out an opponent while having him mounted. This specific exercise is very useful as many fighters tend to burn themselves out while attempting to finish the fight in this position.

  1. MMA Get-Ups Left – This exercise resembles the Turkish getup, however, it’s done without a kettlebell. The hand is pointing to the front to keep your opponent at bay. There is also a push/kick to the opponent’s knee to off-balance him/damage him and to help gain momentum to get up. Lay flat on the ground, left leg flat (45 degrees to the left), right foot planted and knee up, right hand out to keep opponent at bay, come onto your left elbow, come onto your left hand, then push your hips up while kick/push with foot and switch out moving the left leg back as far as possible and stand.

Why This Movement: There is not a martial artist alive that will tell you that this is the incorrect way to stand up while facing an already standing opponent. This movement incorporates strength, stability, balance, and technique to keep your opponent from striking a deadly blow while you attempt to get to your feet.

  1. MMA Get-Ups Right – Same as above using the opposite side
  2. Knee on Belly – Using a kickshield. Place your hands on the ground directly under your shoulders, with your right shin on the. kickshield (shin is perpendicular to shield). The left leg is out and perpendicular to shield with the knee upwards, now switch to the other side while keeping the hips low to the ground.

Why This Movement: One of the most advantageous positions to be in is the knee on belly position. The only downside in MMA is that your opponent will be slippery and not have a shirt or gi to grab onto unlike Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Your opponent will be very uncomfortable and most likely switch back and forth from hip to hip in order to shake you off. If you are able to hold this position by switching from side to side, you will be able to end the fight in no time.

  1. Roll-Outs – This movement begins on the knees with enough distance between you and the trx to allow for a rollout, the further you move away from the TRX the more your midsection will contract to stabilize your weight. Extend the arms fully with the elbows locked out. Come forward slowly while always keeping tension on the trx. Go as low as possible before coming back up. Be sure to engage all the muscles required for this exercise. Come all the way up and roll out again.

Why this Movement: There are very few exercises that will activate the abdominis rectus muscles quite like this. Imagine having a downed opponent turtle up while slamming your knees into his side in order to end the fight.

  1. Explosive TRX Squat Jumps – Find the correct position so that when you’re in a deep squat position and arms fully extended there is tension on the trx and so that you are not too far away that it pulls you forward. You will need to be lean back slightly. From the deep squat position (feet at shoulder width or slightly wider) explosively jump backwards into the air as high as possible. Land directly into the deep squat again and repeat.

Why this Movement: Explosiveness is the name of the game in MMA. If you can explode with a punch, knee, kick, or takedown, no opponent will be able to stop you. In order to do so, you must train the legs and most notably the glutes to be able to contract at a high rate of speed in order to produce maximal force.

  1. ½ MMA Get-Ups Left – Very similar to the full MMA getup except that the hand does not leave the mat. There will be constant tension on the shoulder of the hand that is on the mat. When you’re down and the leg is out, your eyes need to focus on your foot. As you come up, your eyes should focus on your hand on the floor. This helps with the twisting of the body. Sitting on your butt, the right foot will remain planted with the knee up. The left leg will then straighten out on the floor while the left elbow fully extends outwards. Push upwards with the right leg. This allows you to switch the left leg out. When moving the left leg back you will again push off with the right leg to allow some space to get the left leg back in.

Why This Movement: This is a more fast-paced variation of the full MMA Get-Ups. This movement will help emphasize and improve the most difficult portion of the full MMA Get-Up (that initial move from the floor to your feet).

  1. ½ MMA Get-Ups Right: Same as above but other side.

Combining these movements together will be the perfect addition to any strength and conditioning workout. Your core will become stronger than ever while training your neuromuscular system to become accustomed to these sports-specific movements. Add this routine into your workouts whenever you get the opportunity and you will not only see a dramatic change in your strength, physique, and conditioning, but you will become a better-rounded fighter.

MMA Nutrition

Without a doubt, the most misunderstood aspect of training for general physical preparedness is nutrition. Nutrition is the key to manipulating the body any way you see fit. If you are in tune with your body and truly understand the science behind everything that you do, then you or any average Joe can become an absolute physical dynamo. Many of the top athletes in the world never reach their genetic potential because they do not understand what they need to eat and why. Sports like MMA and Muay Thai kickboxing are typically filled with a lot of pseudo-sciences passed down from aged fighters that may have been amazing at punching people in the face but have little to no knowledge about the inner workings of the human body. We are going to delve into a few things that will hopefully help you become the monster in your gym that has endless conditioning.

So how exactly does proper nutrition positively affect your body? Think of your body like a steam engine. Every time you eat, it is like throwing fuel in the furnace, which in turn propels the entire machine. Eating the correct foods will keep your engine burning long, hot, and steady. Now introduce processed foods and sugars into the mix and suddenly your engine will burn extremely hot at first, but then flicker out eventually. How do you think that will affect your conditioning? The pipes will begin to get junked up and now your steam engine will be less efficient. What foods should you eat exactly?

Everybody is different. Based on a million different factors such as genetics, training background, and prior eating habits, no two people will need EXACTLY the same things nutritionally. There are a few general rules to follow that will save you a lot of heartaches though.

  1. Whole Foods – Everything you eat should be organic whole foods. Meaning, if it wasn’t alive at some time, either walking around, swimming in the water, flying through the air, or growing out of the ground, it probably isn’t the best thing for you. Processed food is the bane of society. Every day people purchase thousands and thousands of pounds of food that have ingredients that were manufactured in a laboratory somewhere. Our bodies have evolved over the past 2 million years to consume the things we encounter in nature. Chances are, even your meats were fed corn (which they have not evolved to eat), are injected with prohormones to promote size, and given antibiotics to keep them from getting diseased. All of this wreaks havoc on our insides.
  2. Protein – Protein is essential. Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. Everything from your hair follicles, to your eyes, to your skin, to your muscles and organs are made up of protein. Your body is continuously regenerating itself in order to grow and survive. That means the skin you had 10 years ago is not the same skin you have now. Imagine getting cut in an MMA bout. Your body will need to heal itself or else you will walk around with a cut on your face until it becomes infected and you die. In order for all of this to take place, you need ample amounts of protein. General recommendations vary between .8 – 1 full gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.
  3. Vegetables – A ready supply of veggies should be a part of everyone’s nutritional plans. Believe it or not, most people are deficient in a number of vitamins and don’t even know it. The majority of the population is highly deficient in Magnesium, an essential mineral that is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
  4. Fat – Forget what your teacher told you in grade school. There has never been a study linking fat to any negative ailments. In the 80s, a half whitted study was done that placed fat as the main culprit for basically every disease on earth. Despite not having any empirical evidence to back the claim, the results ran rampant across the world. 30 years later, scientists have come to their senses and know better. Not only is fat not bad for your health, but there are a slew of benefits. In the absence of carbohydrates, your body will convert fat to fuel. Fat also helps with the absorption of vitamins. Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and drink out of a deep fryer. There are certain types of fats that are superior, such as animal fats, and the fat that comes from plants like olive oil and fresh avocados.

This is a brief overview of how important nutrition is to your training. Everyone should strive to bring their health and performance to an optimal level. If you plan on becoming an MMA Fighter or even the next MMA World Champion, you will need all the help you can get.

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