One thing I’ve learned about martial arts over the years is that the repetitive act of kicking and punching will make you more supple and better able to handle moving the iron in the weight room. The same is true if we reverse that statement as well. Moving the iron well will also make your kicks and punches much much better along with including power drills into your training.
However, even though this is the case during my career I’ve also observed that many martial arts practictioners and competitive fighters will emphasize the practice of the specific skills of their fighting, but will often times neglect incorporating sound elements of strength and conditioning into their program in order to optimize their fight performance. Today I’m going to offer you 3 strength and speed drills to take your kicks to the next level.
Power Drills To Improve Your Kicks
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.–Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was years ahead of his time and the reason I posted the quote here above is because this quote speaks volumes about focus, persistence, and mastery. This mantra is something that can be applied to anything in life from running a business, to getting a new job, or for just proving something to yourself…like in this case adding speed and power to your kicks!
If you are looking to hone your focus and discipline then you’re already 90% there. Today I want to talk about how we can practice in improving that one “kick,” or a few kicks by elevating your speed and power production with 3 drills I’ll include here that are field tested and have been proven as rock solid with my fighters over my coaching career. If you are also interested how to do the same for your punching power and hand speed I recently covered that topic here.
1. Power Drills: Kettlebell Swings
The kettlebell swing will provide you with several benefits to help you significantly improve your kicking speed and power. First of all, this movement involves an aggressive hip snap and leg drive which targets the posterior chain muscles of your glutes and hamstrings.
The hips, glutes, and hamstrings (posterior muscles) are your powerhouse when it comes to athletic performance and when it comes to throwing devastating kicks you’ve got to be an athlete. The kettlebell swing teaches you how to initiate a repetitive hip snap movement which is vital for also training you to produce rapid force production.
Of course this is an essential trait for being able to perform devastating kicks!
Stand firm with your feet shoulder width apart. Hinge the hips back maintaining a neutral spine. Firmly grip the handle of the kettlebell and hike it between your legs with your wrist firmly placed into the top triangle of your groin.
From here extend the knees and hip to stand tall and firm allowing the bell to swing up to just below chest level. From here Newton’s Law of gravity with what goes up must come down takes effect and the bell will naturally fall, but you will want to assist in the arc of the fall by hiking the kettlebell right back between your legs to load your hips for a subsequent repetition.
Kettlebell swings can be introduced into your programming in a variety of ways. Swings can be done as a secondary lift to your lower body days, OR they can be programmed into a complete training session by themselves. Kettlebell swings can also be done most days because they don’t stress the body the same as other more intense load bearing movements such as you would get from a barbell.
To supplement the kettlebell swing into your training perform 5 to 8 sets of 20 reps with a moderately heavy resistance as your second go to movement during a training session. To learn more about how to fully implement kettlebell swings check out my 90 Day MMA Strength and Conditioning Program.
2. Power Drills: Single Arm Single Leg Deadlift (Toe Touch)
I’m a huge proponent of single limb training and the single arm single leg deadlift never disappoints. You see when you’re looking to perform at your peak it’s vital to be able to perform strength movements with control and stability and single limb training forces us to do just that.
The single arm single leg deadlift involves basically being able to hinge at the hip and flex the knee on one leg. This forces the activation of your stabilizers on your ankles, knees, and hips so that the grounded leg is forced to handle the load of your descent to the ground. By performing this single leg movement we remove the ability of your body to compensate with the other leg resulting in the elimination of any possible imbalances, or asymmetrical development.
If you think about it the necessity of a single limb movement, like the single arm single leg deadlift, is vital because unless you are doing drop kicks on your opponents all the time every single one of your kicks are thrown off of one leg. This movement is going to help you reinforce your hip, knee, and ankle stability in order to make your kicks optimal.
Let’s assume you’re looking at performing this one with your left leg grounded as I demonstrate in the video. Begin with your right knee up and your right hand above your head. Next, bend the knee and hip of the grounded leg to lower yourself towards the ground.
As you descend bird dog point your lifted leg (in this case your right leg) directly behind you tightening your right butt cheek. This may seem counterintuitive in terms of helping you to stabilize in the movement, but you’ll actually find that it will help square your hips and stabilize you in the movement.
Keep your body straightened and streamlined from your shoulders all the way down to your right leg pointing behind you. Keep your head above your hips. Once you have reached depth simply extend the knee and hip to stand tall to complete the repetition.
The single arm single leg deadlift can be performed with just bodyweight. However you can also perform it with a weight in hand. If performing it with a single weight in hand make sure it’s in the hand opposite of the grounded leg. So in the case of this example you would hold the weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) in the right hand.
Perform 3 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions on each leg during your leg days.
3. Power Drills: Knee Tuck Jumps
Knee tuck jumps are great because first and foremost you don’t need any equipment to do them. Additionally knee tuck jumps are a powerful plyometric for developing leg power. Once again the name of the game is force production. Like the kettlebell swings the knee tuck jump provides that trait for you to elevate your kicking for MMA performance.
By integrating these into your training you will hone your ability to pull your knees up as you perform the tuck portion of the jump. This knee lifting produces knee drive. This is because your knee drive is produced from developing both power in your legs and in your core muscles. This is essentially what makes up your command center in terms of enabling you to produce some powerful kicks.
Stand with your feet at shoulder distance apart so that you create a good base of support. Consequently you want to jump off the ground pulling your knees up towards your chest because your thighs should be parallel to the ground.
As you land make sure to do so softly as your joint health is first priority. You can do this by imagining that you’re landing on a glass surface to minimize compressive forces on your joints. After this you want to immediately recoil off the ground to perform a subsequent jump. Use your arms to propel your body with each jump as I demonstrate in the video.
Make sure that you perform the knee tuck jumps on a somewhat pliable surface. Perform 3 sets of 7 to 10 repetitions on your speed and plyometric days. So try to limit these by including them into your training once every three weeks. Only perform these if you are proficient at performing jump rope, sprinting, and box jumps.
The Takeaway From These Power Drills
Incorporate these strength and power drills into your MMA training schedule. I guarantee you’ll notice a significant difference in your kicking speed and power. Cross training strength allows you to fill the gaps in your training.
Do you have strength and power drills of your own to improve your kicks and knee strikes?
If so please post up in the comments here below.
What other kettlebell movements are you using?
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