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K-Bell for Boxers

March 14, 2003 07:50 PM

For any combat martial artist, including boxers, stamina and strength are, of course, necessities. However, the sport of kettlebell lifting can be as beneficial, if not more, than traditional weight training in improving overall strength. Let me expand on that for a second before we get into any specific K-Bell exercises for boxers.

With weight training, there are benefits and increases in raw strength. That's a fact. But with boxing and other combat arts, the emphasis on functional strength should be paramount. Conventional weight training as opposed to kettlebell training is more of a collection of static movements and exercises where you may be locked in a fixed position or a machine. There are not any sport-specific exercises that I've seen that you can do with a dumbbell or barbell as far as boxing goes.

Conventional weight training is perfect if your chosen sport is powerlifting or bodybuilding. However, when you need explosive, coordinated, dynamic strength and agility, especially in the extreme ranges of the motion, kettlebell training is just what the doctor ordered.

The use of a kettlebell is more repetition and movement-based, where coordinated movements, breath synchronization and mental focus are more important than getting that last "cheat rep."

For a boxer, the benefits of kettlebell practice are numerous. The various cardiovascular benefits notwithstanding, the gains in functional strength and overall coordination will increase punching power without a gain in weight. Any martial artist will tell you that punching power, when technique is applied properly and efficiently, can increase punching power without an increase in effort or weight gain.

The secret to improving technique is to have the attitude that raw brute strength is not always the answer. Focused, coordinated strength is a more powerful ally in the ring. In my 22 years of martial arts training, I've seen time and again where technique will beat raw strength every time without fail.

Am I saying that raw strength has no place in combat arts? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that focus and coordination makes your existing strength that much better and efficient. If you're a boxer or an eastern martial artist, you know that to waste energy in a fight can be fatal. So if coordination and focus can make you more efficient, why not make that a critical component in your combat training?

The kettlebell exercises in this article will help the boxer by increasing punching power with specific movements designed to work the muscles and joints used in the sport.
The first boxing-specific kettlebell exercise I'll show you is called the "slip-dip." This exercise will increase your leg, back and shoulder strength and will get you ready for the second drill as well.


Begin with the K-Bell in an "inside grip." It should be on the inside of your arm (as if you were holding a football) as opposed to the traditional way of holding it on the outer forearm.

  1. Hold the K-Bell in the inside grip.
  2. Assume your boxing "guard" stance with your hands up.
  3. Dip your upper body as if you were ducking a punch, then rise to the starting position.

This would be one repetition. Make sure to keep your back straight and that you work both sides equally! You do not want to create any imbalances in your back and shoulder muscles. Do as many reps as you like without losing form.

K-Bell Uppercuts

This drill will increase your punching power whether you like it or not. When done correctly, your whole body gets behind the punch and increases leverage simply by putting the body mass into the punch. After doing this drill with the kettlebell, try some uppercuts without any weight and you'll see what I mean here. It'll be the same effect as a batter warming up with a weighted bat and then going to the plate with a regular bat. The swing speed increases simply because he's swinging a lighter bat. You'll have the same feeling after throwing punches with your K-Bell.

  1. Hold the K-Bell with the inside grip as in the last drill.
  2. Do a single slip-dip as if you were ducking a punch.
  3. As you rise, throw your uppercut.
  4. The secret here is to use your whole body to do it. You need to turn your upper body while exploding with your legs and hips in an upward/forward motion.

Use your body to execute the punch, not just by simply lifting the K-BELL up with your arm. An effective punch is thrown with the whole body, not just the arm. This applies to all punches and not just the uppercut! However, with this drill, you'll train not only proper technique, but you'll be training all of the muscles to work together as a team. This phenomenon is explained in detail in Pavel Tsatsouline's Power to the People! Work both sides with this drill and over a short amount of time, you'll see increases in punching power as well as an increased ability to absorb body punches.

Be sure to initiate the movement with your legs as this is where the bulk of your power will come from. Also, do the drill with slow, precise movement with your focus on the proper technique before doing it with explosiveness.

This drill works the shoulders, back, legs, and lungs, and most importantly, the obliques and erector muscles in the lower back, giving you a tremendous amount of rotational power in addition to increased ability to absorb the ballistic shock of body punches.

If you remember what I said before, a focused, more efficient punch is more powerful by default. Efficient punches should be the thing that fighters seek more than anything else. The ability to last in the ring and be as strong in the tenth round as in the first is every fighter's goal. K-Bell training is one way to work towards this.

I have many boxing-specific K-Bell exercises that I will be sharing with you in the future and hope to make an instructional video in this subject within the year.

Good luck and keep punching!
Mark Anthony Montaquila

Mark Anthony Montaquila is a Defensive Tactics Instructor at the Massachusetts Department of Correction and a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Montaquila holds two internationally certified black belts and Sanctioned Sensei Title in Kokon Ryu Aikido and Aiki-Jitsu with over 22 years in martial arts. Mark is also a boxing coach who used to fight for the famous Massachusetts State Police Boxing Team and an instructor at Rick LeClair's School of Self-Defense in Leominster, Ma.

Mark Anthony Montaquila's website is