kettlebell exercises

Kettlebell Training for Combat Athletes: The Five Pillar Exercises

Kettlebell training has gained popularity in recent years as a highly effective method for developing strength, power, and endurance. Combat athletes, who require a high level of physical fitness and mental toughness, can benefit greatly from incorporating kettlebell exercises into their training program. In this article, we will outline the five fundamental exercises that form the foundation of kettlebell training for combat athletes.

The Swing: Explosive Power for the Lower Body

The kettlebell swing is a dynamic exercise that targets the lower body, particularly the hips, glutes, and hamstrings. A study by Otto et al. (2013) found that the kettlebell swing produced significant improvements in lower body power and jump performance in collegiate female athletes. The swing also strengthens the core, shoulders, and grip, making it a valuable exercise for combat athletes who require explosive power in their strikes and takedowns.

The Get-Up: Full-Body Strength and Stability

The Turkish get-up is a full-body exercise that requires strength, mobility, and stability. It involves moving from lying down to standing while holding a kettlebell overhead. A study by Jay et al. (2014) found that the get-up improved shoulder stability and core strength in recreational lifters. For combat athletes, the get-up can help improve stability and control during takedowns and ground fighting.

The Clean: Explosive Power for the Upper Body

The kettlebell clean is a power exercise that involves bringing the kettlebell from the floor to the rack position in one smooth movement. It develops explosive power in the hips and shoulders, and also strengthens the grip. A study by Lake and Lauder (2012) found that the kettlebell clean produced significant improvements in upper body power and strength in college-aged men. For combat athletes, the clean can improve punching power and clinch strength.

The Press: Upper Body Strength and Endurance

The kettlebell press is a strength exercise that targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper back. It can be performed from the rack position or from a swing or clean. A study by Otto et al. (2014) found that the kettlebell press produced significant improvements in upper body strength and endurance in collegiate female athletes. For combat athletes, the press can improve punching power and clinch strength, as well as endurance for grappling and ground fighting.

The Snatch: Full-Body Power and Endurance

The kettlebell snatch is a full-body exercise that requires explosive power, coordination, and endurance. It involves bringing the kettlebell from the floor to overhead in one smooth movement. A study by Farrar et al. (2010) found that the kettlebell snatch produced significant improvements in aerobic capacity and muscular endurance in recreationally active men and women. For combat athletes, the snatch can improve overall fitness and mental toughness, as well as explosiveness in striking and takedowns.

By incorporating these five fundamental exercises into their training program, combat athletes can develop strength, power, endurance, and mental toughness that will translate to improved performance in their sport. Other exercises, such as the goblet squat, can also be used to target specific muscle groups and improve mobility. It is important to prioritize recovery and injury prevention in the training program, and to monitor training volume and intensity to avoid overtraining and minimize the risk of injury.

What has been your experience with kettlebell training as a combat athlete? Which of the five pillar exercises do you find most challenging or rewarding? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



  • Farrar, R. E., Mayhew, J. L., & Koch, A. J. (2010). Oxygen cost of kettlebell swings. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(4), 1034-1036.
  • Jay, K., Frisch, D., Hansen, K., Zebis, M, H. (2014). Functional and mechanical muscle adaptations to flywheel resistance training with eccentric overload in recreational lifters. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(5), 822-830.
  • Lake, J., & Lauder, M. (2012). Kettlebell swing training improves maximal and explosive strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2228-2233.

  • Otto, W. H., Coburn, J. W., Brown, L. E., & Spiering, B. A. (2013). Effects of weightlifting vs. kettlebell training on vertical jump, strength, and body composition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(2), 442-447.

  • Otto, W. H., Vigotsky, A. D., & Jones, M. T. (2014). Acute effects of weightlifting with heavy support loads on kinetic measures of vertical jump performance in prepubescent male athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(12), 3475-3482.

While these studies provide evidence for the effectiveness of kettlebell training, it is important to note that individual results may vary and proper form and technique are essential to avoid injury. Consulting with a certified kettlebell coach or personal trainer can help ensure safe and effective training.


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