Kettlebell Circuits for MMA, BJJ, and Martial Arts

Kettlebell Circuits for MMA, BJJ, and Martial Arts:

The first thing to understand about kettlebell circuits is that they are not just training exercises. They are a complete body conditioning routine designed to increase your overall fitness level and improve your athletic ability. You will need to do them every day if you want to get results from them.

There are many benefits of doing these workouts regularly, but the main benefit is that they will keep your joints healthy and strengthen your muscles.

There are two types of kettlebell circuit routines. One type consists of sets with a weight that increases in size over time while the other type consists of sets with no weight at all until failure. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

You might think that the same exercises would work for both types of circuit routines, but this isn’t necessarily true. For example, when you perform a set with a weight that increases in size over time, you’re actually strengthening your muscles because the muscle fibers get bigger. However, when you perform a set without any weight at all until failure, your muscles aren’t getting stronger; rather they’re becoming weaker due to lack of oxygen.

So you need to stick with the same exercises for both types of routines otherwise the routine will end up being very confusing.

But regardless of which type of routine you engage in, your muscles will get bigger and stronger over time. The routines also improve your endurance which is an added bonus! With these types of routines, there is no pain no gain.

You have to work hard if you want to see results.

So what are some of the different kettlebell circuits?

Well, the one I just explained is the most common and is used by most professionals. Another type of routine that you can experiment with is the one set to failure method. In this routine, you do one set of exercises until failure with no rest in between. This routine isn’t as effective as the other routine, but it’s good for beginners who are just starting out with kettlebells.

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Another type of routine is called the “ladder” routine. In this routine, you would start with a light weight and do one rep, then add weight and do two reps, then add weight and do three reps until you can’t go any further. You then rest and repeat the process until you’ve done it a certain number of times.

Like I said, this routine isn’t as effective as the others, but it’s great for beginners who just want to get a taste of what kettlebell training is like.

Moving on, you can also experiment with the traditional 5×5 routine. This routine, like the name implies, consists of doing five sets of five reps. You should start light and add weight as your strength increases.

The benefit of this routine is that it provides balanced development while also allowing you to increase weight over time.

For your information, there are other routines you can experiment with as well. There is the 6×3 routine where you do six sets of three reps and the 4×4 routine where you do four sets of four reps. These routines are great for increasing strength as well so if you find that the 5×5 routine isn’t working for you, you might want to try these.

Now that you know a few routines, let’s move on to the equipment side of things.

Kettlebells come in all different shapes and sizes, but for the most part they can be classified into two different types: adjustable and non-adjustable. As you might expect, adjustable kettlebells allow you to increase or decrease the weight by adding or removing plates. Although this might seem like a good idea, I highly recommend against using them.

Most adjustable kettlebells are very poorly designed and can easily crush your fingers if you aren’t careful. If you’re looking for a kettlebell, I recommend looking for a non-adjustable one that suits your needs.

In any case, once you have your kettlebells you’ll be ready to begin. I’ll explain the basics of the two most common routines listed above so you have a general understanding of what’s expected of you.

The first routine is the 10 week program:

Week 1: 3 sets of 5 reps (easy right?

Just 3 sets of 5 reps for the whole week! You can do this!)

Week 2: 3 sets of 6 reps

Week 3: 3 sets of 7 reps

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Week 4: 3 sets of 8 reps

Week 5: 3 sets of 6 reps (take a breath, only one more week until the next increase)

Week 6: 3 sets of 9 reps

Week 7: 3 sets of 10 reps

Week 8: 3 sets of 11 reps (almost there! You can do it!)

Week 9: 3 sets of 12 reps

Week 10: 3 sets of 13 reps (You did it, now just 3 more weeks until the next increase)

Week 11: 3 sets of 14 reps

Week 12: 3 sets of 15 reps

Week 13: 3 sets of 16 reps

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Here are a few pointers for those of you just starting out:

Don’t rush! Make sure to perform each rep correctly.

Only increase the weight if you successfully complete the required number of reps. If you can’t complete the reps, don’t try to push yourself. Give yourself at least one day of rest and then try again.

Listen to your body! Although this routine is great for those just starting out, it may not be the best for everyone. Some of you will need to start off slower, while others may need to start off with more intensity.

Listen to your body and adjust the weight or routine as needed.

If you’re struggling at any point in the routine, drop back to the previous week and build up again slowly. There’s no rush!

And that’s it for this week. Remember to just take things slow for this first week and try to get a feel for what you’ll be doing over the next ten weeks. Train hard!

Hey it’s Ian here again. Over the next ten weeks I’ll be sending you new articles every week to help you train for the 2016 Kettlebell Challenge.

The best athletes from all around the world will be competing in this event, so do you have what it takes to make it into the top ten?

Ian Here!

If you don’t remember me, I’m one of the chief trainers here at the Gym and I’ll be helping you throughout this journey. You can trust me, I’m a doctor!

Anyway, over these next ten weeks we’ll be working on three things: Cardio, Muscle Endurance and Strength. You’ll notice that I’ve set up six different training sessions for you, in order to work on these three elements. Each session is designed to improve on the last, but don’t worry; we’ll take it easy on you for the first two weeks!

You might also notice that the exercises get harder as the weeks go on. We start you off with some pretty simple exercises like burpees, jump squats and push-ups, then we move onto more difficult stuff like leg lifts, climbing and one arm push-ups! As the weeks go on we’ll be adding weights into the routines where possible, but for now let’s just focus on getting you used to the exercises!

All you need for this session is some space to move and a dumbbell of moderate weight (anywhere between 5-20lbs should be fine). Let’s get started!

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Cardio Session 1:

This session focuses on warming up your body and getting it moving quickly. We’ll introduce you to the burpee, a great full body exercise which gets your muscles working and your blood pumping.

You’ll do this session three times a week on non-consecutive days (eg: Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

Warm up for at least 5 minutes of light jogging, cycling or using a treadmill.

Complete the sets of burpees below, with a 1 minute break between sets. If at any point in time you start feeling unwell, feel free to stop. Tomorrow, take today as a rest day and do nothing.

After taking two rest days, come back and try again.

5 Burpees

10 Burpees

15 Burpees

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20 Burpees

20 Burpees

15 Burpees

10 Burpees

5 Burpees

You’re done!

How did it feel?

If you’re able to, try and stretch any muscles that feel tight. Otherwise, just get some rest and we’ll do the next session in a few hours!

See you then!

Day 2: Cardio Session 2

Hey there, Ian here!

We’re on day two already?

Wowzers. This is going to be over before we know it! In this session we’ll be focusing on improving your leg strength and balancing skills. These are vital for the more complicated moves in the later stages of the challenge, so it’s important to get a good foundation down now!

For this session you’ll need one empty soda bottle per foot and a wall. You should be wearing shoes suitable for balancing on your bottle, though socks or bare feet are both fine.

Stability Ball Wall Balance:

In this session you’ll be leaning against a wall while standing on top of a balance ball, trying to keep your balance. This is harder than it sounds!

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We’re going to do a warm-up, then do the same routine again, three times. The warm-up will be doing the exercise slowly, while the main routine has you doing it as fast as possible.


For the warm-up, stand on your ball with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Slowly shift your weight back and forth between your feet and the ball. Do this for at least 2 minutes, and make sure you’re comfortable with it before continuing.

Main Routine:

For the main routine, do the same movements as before, but this time balance on the ball. The main focus here is keeping your balance. Do the exercise slowly at first to get a feel for it, then once you feel ready, go as fast as you can without falling off!

As before, we’ll be doing this three times. Each time, take a 30 second break before moving on to the next one.

You’re off! See you at the finish line!

Day 4: Strength Training Session 1

Hey Ian here!

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Today’s the first day in our strength training section! We’ll be focusing on all your weaker muscle groups which are important for everyday life and sports, as well as the main compound exercises which build strength.

For this session, you’ll need either 2.5kg or 5kg weights (1 or 2 pounds), and either a bench or a chair to sit on. You can do this either at home or at a gym (or outside if the weather’s nice enough!).

Take off any bulky clothing you’re wearing such as jackets and hoodies, and get yourself some space to exercise in. We’ve provide a space for you to perform the exercises below.

Barbell Squat:

The barbell squat is a classic weight lifting exercise which uses the large muscles of your legs and buttocks to strengthen your legs. It also works your lower back, hips, core and arms to a lesser extent.

Make sure all your burns are taken care of, and that you’ve had a balanced breakfast with some fuel in your tank.

Seated Row to Chest: (3 sets of 10 reps)

For this exercise you’ll need a weight in each hand. Take the weights in your left hand, bend over and place your elbows against your knees.

For this, take a barbell with 2.5kg weights added to each side and holding it at both ends, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower yourself into a chair by bending your knees and going backwards without bending your legs (your knees should only bend in the air).

Push yourself back up to the starting position by using your leg muscles. Hold the bottom position for a second to work your muscles harder, then stand back up again. Slowly pull the weights to your chest, and then push them back to their original position. Do this 10 times, then swap hands and repeat another 10 times.

Chest Fly: (3 sets of 10 reps)

The chest fly is used to strengthen your chest muscles, which are important for everyday life and sports such as running. It also works your shoulders.

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Take a seat and grab the weights. That’s 1 rep.

Do 10 reps, then do the same with the other hand (so 20 reps in total).

Military Press: (3 sets of 10 reps)

For this exercise you’ll also need a barbell and weights, but 2.5kg weights this time. Take the barbell and grab hold of it so that it’s at shoulder height with your palms facing forwards.

Now hold it there while you do the exercise. Keeping your elbow slightly bent and your arms straight, hold the weights above your head. Slowly lower the weights out to each side until your arm is nearly fully extended, then slowly return to the starting position. Do this 10 times for 3 sets with a minute’s break between each set.

Tricep Extension: (3 sets of 10 reps)

The tricep extension is a weight lifting exercise which uses your Triceps muscle to strengthen it. This is important for your overall strength and fitness, and it’s also used in sports.

Using a Tricep Bar, you’ll need to place it on the floor in front of you and grab hold of it using your hands. Take a weight in your right hand and hold it at arm’s length behind your back. Keeping your elbow tucked into your side so that it doesn’t jut out, straighten your arm lifting the weight upwards until it’s above your head.

Slowly lower it back down and when it’s about a foot away from the floor bend your arm and stop it just above the floor. Do this 10 times, then do the same with the other arm (so 20 reps in total).

Seated Row: (2 sets of 20 reps)

For this exercise you’ll need a weight. You can use either a Barbell Row or Dumbbell Row, but for this session use a barbell and perform the exercise as follows:

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Sit on a bench with your knees and elbows tucked in and your back straight. Take the bar in your hands with palms facing towards you, and lift it off the racks (if there aren’t any just lift it off the floor). Now pull the weight to your stomach while keeping it close to you.

Straighten your arms, but keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Slowly lower the weight and repeat. You’ll need to put the bar back into the rack after each set, so make sure your spotter can do this for you while you exercise.

Deadlift: (3 sets of 10 reps)

The deadlift is the last weight lifting exercise in this session. This one works a lot of muscles in your body and is great for overall strength and fitness. You’ll need a barbell and weights for this session, which should total to about 1.25 times your body weight (for example, if you weigh 80kg, you’ll need about 100kg worth of weights).

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and the bar in front of you on the floor. Grab the bar with an over hand grip (both hands facing towards you) about shoulder width apart. Now bend at the knees and hips and lift the bar until your legs are straight.

Keep the bar close to your body at all times during this exercise. Slowly lower the weight back down, at the same time as you do this bend your knees and hips and lift the bar back to the floor. That’s 1 rep.

Sprints: (100m, with short breaks between each one)

After that last session, the rest of this schedule is a doddle!

Sources & references used in this article:

Strength and conditioning considerations for mixed martial arts by P La Bounty, BI Campbell, E Galvan… – Strength & …, 2011 –

Evidence-based guidelines for strength and conditioning in mixed martial arts by C Tack – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2013 –

Workouts for MMA Fighters, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling and other Combat Sports by M Rooney – 2010 – Harper Collins

Find the Martial Art That Makes You Fit by D Garner –