A kettlebell is an incredible tool for Martial Arts training. You can do many things with a single kettlebell, and they can help improve your kicks.
What is a kettlebell?
It looks much like a bowling ball with a flat bottom and horn-shaped handle on top for those who have never seen or used a kettlebell. Kettlebells take up a minimal amount of space and are available in weights from five pounds to 132 pounds. There might be kettlebells heavier than 132 pounds, but I think that would be enough for most. I am still working up to the 44-pound one pictured to the right.
The heavier kettlebells can be expensive, but Amazon and other companies like Dragon Door have them on sale every so often. Be sure to look for free shipping, or it will cost as much as the kettlebell itself. The links are not affiliated, and I do not receive any compensation for mentioning them.
The workout is simple and can be done in a short amount of time. It consists of kettlebell swings, goblet squats, kicks, and stretching movements.
The swing is meant to make the body hinge which means bending at the hips and pushing the butt back. To test your hinge, stand with your back in front of a wall, your feet are about one foot or less away, bend at the hips and try to touch the wall with your butt. Another way to check your hinge is to place your fingers in the crease at the front of your hips, bend over and push your butt backward. You bend from your hips when doing the swing, not your knees. You shouldn’t lock your knees, but there should be minimal bend in them throughout the movement.
The goblet squat is a regular squat, but you hold the kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest when squatting. You cradle the horns in your hands and squat down, trying to keep your back upright as much as possible. When you get low enough into the squat, push your knees out with your elbows. This helps open the hips, and after just a few reps, I can move lower while keeping my posture upright.
I used to do a lot of barbell squats in years past, but I would lose my posture when going low, and it didn’t do much good for my lower back. Holding the weight in front gives me better balance and control without putting strain on my lower back by doing the goblet squats.
Stretch your hips
After the swings and squats, I do moving hip flexor stretches for 30 seconds because I feel that they help improve all kicks. You can do any type of stretch for whatever you think you need to improve.
The kick that I have been trying to improve for a long time is my side thrust kick. Like the stretches, you can use whatever kick you are trying to improve or rotate different kicks with each set.
Putting it all together
One example of the routine that I do regularly is done as a superset. A superset is doing each of the movements in succession without a break until you finish all four exercises.
- Kettlebell swings – 6 to 15 reps
- Kettlebell goblet squats – 6 to 15 reps
- Stretch – 30 seconds
- Kicks – 5 to 10 reps with one leg
You can do this superset between two and six times depending on how much energy you have and how heavy the kettlebell is that you are using. I usually do at least two sets depending on my energy levels, but sometimes up to six. I started with a 20-pound kettlebell and am now using the 44-pound bell.
Do not get caught up with the amount of weight you are using. Make sure that you start out light with perfect form and only increase the weight after it gets light. Doing swings with too much weight and poor form is a back injury waiting to happen, so put your ego on the side and strive for a good workout with perfect form.
Start with 6 reps on the swings and goblet squats, and then increase the weight when you reach the top end of the rep range for a couple workouts.
I only do the stretches for 30 seconds because I am trying to keep my heart rate from dropping too much, and I am doing hip flexor stretches on one side per superset. Keep the kick reps lower or higher to get at least 20 kicks per leg workout.
My current workout is outlined below:
- Kettlebell swings – 44 lbs for 12 reps
- Kettlebell goblet squats – 44 lbs for 6 reps
- Hip flexor stretch – 30 seconds with one, then the other leg on the second superset
- Side thrust kick – 10 kicks, then the other leg on the second superset
I do not rest in between supersets at this point, but if you are starting out, you might want to take 30 seconds to a minute rest in between. After doing the total amount of supersets for the day, I do some core work doing v-sits, ab wheel rollouts, planks, crunches, side crunches, or any type of core training.
Give it a try
You have four things to do to improve your kicks and add to your functional strength for your Karate or other Martial Arts training.
I have found that I can do this workout four to five days a week and not burn out from it. I do a minimum of two sets, but I will do more if I am rested and full of energy.
Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you.