Danny Castillo’s Best Kettlebell Exercise for MMA Hip Power

Top 3 Kettlebell Exercises for MMA Hip Power

Written by
August 20, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018

I have been a professional mixed martial artist since 2007, and currently fight in the lightweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I was born and raised in Northern California, residing most of my life in Sacramento. I train as a member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male. Last year I embarked on my first business venture and opened a Fitness Studio in midtown Sacramento where I head our kettlebell program.

I picked up my first kettlebell in 2008. I have spent most of my life as an athlete; I wrestled for over 20 years and I have had more strength coaches than could count. I have always prided myself on training via many different avenues. Even so, my first kettlebell workout was humbling to say the least. It consisted of 100 swings and 100 squats for time.

When I was done, I was dripping with sweat, gasping for air, and my legs were on fire. This feeling was one of the closest simulations to a fight that I had ever felt without strapping on my MMA gloves or grappling with a training partner. In that one workout I learned that with a simple kettlebell I could burn fat, keep my heart rate high, and strength train all at the same time. From that day forward I was in love.

3 Kettlebell Exercises for MMA Hip Power

The first day following the workout I had a surprisingly sore midsection. I later realized the reason I was so sore; because of the handle, the kettlebell is inherently unstable and this instability is key. It forces you to engage your core as soon as you pick it up.

The weight of the kettlebell is offset, unlike your traditional dumbbell where the weight is evenly distributed on both sides. Because the primary weight of the kettlebell extends beyond the hand you are able to perform ballistic movements.

Ballistic movements are excellent training techniques to build power and endurance. They are performed with maximum velocity and acceleration. Strength and conditioning are at the heart of any good MMA camp and this method makes for a great tool. Anyone who has watched a good UFC fight knows that the competitor who doesn’t look gassed in the final round is usually the one with his hand raised in the air at the end.

These ballistic movements are difficult to duplicate using any other pieces of exercise equipment. Barbells are great for heavy lifting but are limited to unilateral work. Dumbbells allow for unilateral work, but only limited ballistic movements. This is when the kettlebell is especially useful.

#1: The Kettlebell Swing for Hip Power

Take the Kettlebell Swing for example. This exercise is at the center of the kettlebell universe. It is great for building lower body strength in the glutes and the posterior chain. It is a very hip oriented move involving the hinge. The hinge is one of the most underutilized movements in most common gyms (you may only see it in a deadlift).

#2: The Double Kettlebell Clean for Hip Power

The Double Kettlebell Clean is a powerful exercise that builds explosive power and strength throughout your entire body. Performing the double clean will help you build a powerful grip. You will also develop a powerful hip snapping motion that will transfer into any sport or physical activity you choose. The Double Kettlebell Clean is a must not only for strength and power, but for the ultimate in conditioning.

3: The Double Kettlebell High Pull for Hip Power

The Double High Pull can be a great alternative to the double kettlebell snatch. This is a great shoulder exercise yet has all the benefits of the swing. This will strengthen your entire backside without a doubt.

Importance of Hip Power in MMA Training

Danny Castillo demonstrating explosive hip power

The hips play a major role in your power in MMA (actually, this is very important for most sports, such as wrestling, football, tennis, golf, and even bowling). In MMA, the hips help you to transfer energy from your lower body to your opponent in the form of a kick, punch, takedown, or hip toss requiring penetration and explosiveness.

With these three moves you are increasing your aerobic capacity and also working your total body. In fact, Kettlebell hinge exercises strengthen everything including your core, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and back.

Just this year I certified as a RKC Instructor. I figured that if I am going to instruct, I am going to be one of the best. My Sacramento studio is called P2O Hot Pilates & Fitness. The word “Pilates” brings us a clientele of 90% women, but when they get into the studio they see that we have three solid programs that make up our foundation: Hot Pilates, Kettlebells, and Battle Rings.

The Importance of Proper Kettlebell Form

The majority of the women in my classes have little to no prior kettlebell training experience. The RKC opened up my eyes to the dangers of poor technique. Kettlebell training can be more difficult in a group setting because you want to pay close attention to each student’s form and alignment to avoid injury. I want my members to leave the gym sore, but sore for the right reasons. I don’t want them sore from poor posture or horrible technique.

I have structured a Fusion class of aerobic, anaerobic, strength, and plyometrics that has found great popularity in Sacramento. For those looking for increased mobility and insane cardio tolerance, this class is perfect. It also makes for a great workout for people at any fitness level.

I promise that the fitness newbie and the professional athlete alike will both get an awesome workouts in the same class. Every exercise has a modification, so if you are unable to complete an exercise, there is a modification that you can complete. On any given night you may see a local UFC fighter training next to your kid’s third grade teacher.

Danny Castillo
Danny “Last Call” Castillo has been a professional fighter since 2007. He currently is a contracted fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “UFC” in the lightweight division and carries a professional record of 15-5. He fights as a member of Urijah Faber’s “Team Alpha Male”. Danny is a Sacramento native, wrestling in high school at Laguna Creek HS, junior college at Sacramento City College and then Menlo College in the Bay Area. At Menlo he was a 2x All American placing 4th and 2nd at the NAIA finals.
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