The Three Best Beginner Kettlebell Exercises For BJJ

If you’ve ever looked into strength and conditioning methods for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you’ve undoubtedly heard of kettlebell training for BJJ.

Benefits Of Kettlebells For BJJ

Kettlebells are a great tool for improving strength and conditioning for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They can be used for a variety of goals including strength, aerobic endurance, mobility and explosive power.

A couple kettlebells also take up little space and can be a great start to building a home gym. If you are strapped for time, don’t have a gym membership, or want to improve your arsenal of solo training techniques, kettlebells are a top choice for BJJ strength and conditioning.

The Top Three Beginner Kettlebell Exercises For BJJ

There are nearly endless varieties of beneficial exercises for BJJ using kettlebells. We’ve picked the top three beginner kettlebell exercises you should add to your training for improved performance on and off the mats.

  1. Kettlebell swings

2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

3. Turkish Get-Ups

In the following sections, we will break down these exercises, discuss the role each exercise plays for improving BJJ performance, and provide a sample routine to get you going on your kettlebell training.

Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is probably the most popular kettlebell exercise and is generally among the first exercises you should learn when beginning kettlebell training. The kettlebell swing is a form of explosive hip-extension training and transfers well to a variety of movements used in BJJ. It can be used to strengthen the hips, core, and lower back and improves both strength and aerobic conditioning depending on the number of repetitions.

Mechanics Of The Kettlebell Swing

To perform a kettlebell swing, begin with in a hip-width stance with the kettlebell in front of your feet, not between your legs. 

Bend forward with a neutral spine position, tighten your abs, and grab the handle with a loose but secure grip. Hike the kettlebell backward between your legs and then explosively extend your hips, squeeze your glutes and swing the kettlebell forward. 

At the top of the swing, hike the kettlebell backward just like you did on the first repetition and repeat for the number of reps in the set. 

We recommend starting with 5 sets of 10 repetitions. The following video breaks down the swing mechanics if you are unfamiliar with kettlebell swings.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

The kettlebell goblet squat is another foundational movement that can build strength in the hips, legs and core.  Goblet squats are a great tool for learning proper squat mechanics and improving lower body mobility. Performing kettlebell goblet squats as part of your BJJ strength routine can lead to serious improvements in grappling performance as well as injury prevention.

Mechanics Of The Kettlebell Goblet Squat

To perform a goblet squat, stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold your kettlebell at chest-level by the handle either “bottoms up” or “bottoms down.”  Your feet should be slightly turned outward between five and 12 degrees. 

Begin the movement by bending at the knees and sticking your hips backwards as your lower down. Focus on keeping your knees in-line with your feet, maintaining a neutral, braced spine and keeping your chest upright as your sit “between your legs.”

Go as low as you can without rounding your spine,caving your knees, or leaning forward with your torso.  Once you’ve reached the bottom, drive evenly through both feet to return to the top position. As with the kettlebell swing, starting with five sets of 10 repetitions should give you a good workout as you learn to master the movement.  You can also alternate sets of goblet squats with sets of kettlebell swings.

The following video breaks down the key mechanics of the goblet squat for maximum benefit:

Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get-Up is an amazing exercise for building isometric strength, improving mobility and reducing injury risk in the shoulders and hips. The main purpose of the Turkish Get-Up is to go from lying on your back to standing up, while supporting a weight above your head.  In terms of kettlebell movements for BJJ, the Turkish get-up mimics a number of movement patterns that are transferable to grappling.

The Turkish Get-Up develops familiarity with having a kettlebell racked across your palm, which is a crucial position for more advanced kettlebell movements.

The Turkish Get-Up has multiple phases, each of which contains components that transfer to situations in BJJ where you are building up your base from a position on your back – such as the technical stand-up.

Mechanics Of The Turkish Get-up

Begin on your back with a kettlebell on one side of your body at chest-level. Roll onto your side towards the kettlebell, grasp the handle, and pull up onto one side of your chest while returning to your back. Position the kettlebell handle diagonally across your palm and carefully press the kettlebell up using the arm on the same side as the kettlebell. 

Once your arm is extended straight above your chest, shift your weight to the opposite hip and lift the kettlebell-side shoulder off the ground. From there, bring the foot on the kettlebell side in towards your hips and push through this foot to build up to your opposite elbow as you would in the beginning of a technical stand up. Your other leg should be straight. 

Continue to build up from your elbow to your hand. At this point, lift your hips by pushing through your foot and opposite hand while keeping the kettlebell extended above you. 

Sweep your straightened leg under your hips to switch your base and come to a quarter-lunge position. From here, windshield-wiper your bottom leg into a lunge position and stand all the way up. 

Your eyes should be looking up at the kettlebell until you enter the final stand-up of the movement, at which point you should look forward. From here, reverse the movement step-by-step to return to the ground.

Turkish Get-Ups can be a bit complicated at first – so we recommend checking out the following video to help learn the movement.

Beginner’s Kettlebell Routine For BJJ

Once you’ve learned these movements, we recommend the following kettlebell routine for BJJ. This program has been adapted from Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Simple and Sinister” template.

Two Days Per Week:

Alternate sets of 10 goblet squats and 10 kettlebell swings for a total of 10 minutes – rest for 30 seconds between each set and work to complete five total cycles

Two Days Per Week:

Perform Turkish Get-Ups for six minutes – focus on form and technique and do not count reps, however, make sure to perform the same number of reps on each side. Ultimately, Turkish Get-Ups are a great warm-up and mobility tool before more advanced kettlebell work.

Swing that Bell!

These three beginning kettlebell exercises for BJJ are a great start towards improving your BJJ strength and conditioning. These movements will help reduce injury risk. These movements are just the tip-of-the-iceberg for kettlebell training. However, performing this routine will get you well on your way to being ready for more advanced kettlebell training and improved performance on the mats. 

Good luck and get to swinging!

Jordan Fernandez

Jordan is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu purple belt under Anthony Birchak. He integrates a number of training methods including barbells, kettlebells, and body weight training to help both himself and his clients build strength, muscle, and reduce the risk of injury. He trains and competes in BJJ out of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu Tucson. When not training, lifting weights, or working with clients, he writes about all things BJJ and strength and conditioning.

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