International Kickboxer Magazine, Vol. 19, No.2
Martial arts conditioning is a fairly well-trodden path; most trainers have ‘traditional’ methods that they inherited from their trainers and don’t tend to diverge from. When you find a new piece of equipment or a new kind of drill, if it enhances your performance in one way, it becomes a valuable addition to your skill-set. Kettlebells will revolutionise your conditioning, changing every aspect of your game for the better. Here are the most significant contributions they can make.
1. Full body movements
‘Traditional’ weight training follows methods designed specifically for body-builders and more often than not people who are looking for cosmetic development. Kettlebells, however, provide a far more specific workout. Resistance training does far more than make you ‘big’, ‘ripped’ or ‘strong’. It effectively conditions the way your muscles work, fast or slow; bulky or athletic. To begin with, you swing a kettlebell standing up, in a co-ordinated movement pattern. When you throw a punch, you don’t just use your bench press muscles. The shoulder, chest and tricep fire together, in relation to your legs and hips. All these different muscles tie in to your ‘core’. All these muscles and their relationships are powerfully developed through kettlebell exercise.
2. Peculiar movement patterns
Martial Arts requires co-ordination. This often-abused word basically describes the ability to perform separate movements in series or concert. Co-ordination is the process of effectively sending neurological impulses, from the brain, to the extremities, the arms and legs, in a precise manner. Kettlebell drills such as the Turkish Get-Up require a complex and sophisticated set of muscular contractions and make an excellent warm up for the business of technique training.
3. Combination of muscle contractions and cardio – fast-twitch contractions at maximum heart rates
The body’s energy systems operate differently once the heart rate becomes anaerobic, which is in the over-85% range of its maximum beats-per-minute. So many martial artists find that when they compete, the techniques they have trained in class just don’t come out as well in competition. Kettlebell training is an excellent means of combining fast-twitch muscular contractions with high heart-rate cardio.
4. Hard-core conditioning
When people talk about the core, they are referring to the mid-section. This is so much more than just your six-pack! The core is the four layers of muscle that support your spine, give you balance and protect your organs. Just as a martial artist has to stay on balance while throwing their arms and legs away from them as hard and fast as they possibly can, so too do you have to use your core to control the path of the kettlebell.
5. Works the posterior chain to counteract harmful over-development of anterior ‘pushing’ muscles
Most of life is spent pushing forward out of the anterior muscles with a rounded spine. This can lead to postural problems and spinal health issues for the average person; for an athlete, the risks increase exponentially. Kettlebell training is unique in that more than almost any other form of exercise, it focuses on the muscles in the posterior chain, which is to say, the posterior muscles of your legs, back and shoulders. Regular kettlebell training will ensure your posture remains upright and by conditioning your posterior delts, your arms will be far less prone to overdevelopment and possible dislocation.
All this makes kettlebells an attractive addition to anyone’s training. The fact that they are cheap, easy to use, uncomplicated pieces of equipment makes their appeal undeniable.
So get swinging!