How to increase your kicking power by 200% with the kettlebell armbar

Taking a whack at Geoff

Taking a whack at Geoff (Photo by Brian Kotoka)

The picture up-top is me taking a whack at Mr. Girvitz before getting armbar-ed – that is, kettlebell armbar-ed.

A few weeks ago, I finally attended the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (Toronto, Dec. 2). The instruction provided by Jon Engum, Master RKC, was irreplaceable. He took an already established KB foundation and squeezed the dysfunction right out of my Turkish get-up, swing and goblet squat. You’ve never been to a workshop, unless it’s a workshop run by one of Pavel’s boys.


At one point, Jon mentioned that the KB armbar had a strange correlation with kicking power. Pretty interesting to me, so I volunteered (no one else did) to be a guinea pig.

Pre-test (picture above): 3 max power kicks  (Geoff took it, but didn’t budge)

Intervention: Kettlebell Armbar

Post: Just one kick was needed. Significant power difference. I actually managed to budge Geoff this time.

WTF is going on?


Dr. Charlie Weingroff describes the armbar as:

“a combination of rotary stability and active hip extension to get the movement going and then is asking for continued rotary stability, t-spine rotation, and a stable shoulder complex.” (1)

Essentially what you need with a kick.

That KB weight forces stabilization in the arm/shoulder which may not have been there before. Once that’s in place, the stuff that’s supposed to move, ie. T-spine etc., now has an anchor point as the hip pumping/humping toward the ground drives that mobility.

There’s many ways the body can achieve rotation, and sometimes it hurts us (and our kicking power) when the wrong parts move. Shoulder blades and low back might start turning instead. It’s sorta like bad deadlifting/hip hinging in the transverse plane.

We all know about that “chop” with the top hand as a counter balance for the kicking leg. Heck, it probably limits your kicking power too (check out the blurriness of the chop arm in the top pic). One of the cues to faster sprinting is simply to pump your arms faster.

If segmental rolling builds golf swing, then I’d say the KB armbar is pretty cool for the kicking, fighting athlete.

Here’s some overlooked points for a super KB armbar:

-Rest and relax your head on your down arm

-Make sure to focus on maintaining the vertical position of the top arm and focus on achieving full hip extension (try to touch hip bone to the ground)

– Slowly bring your down arm back to get a deeper stretch into shoulder flexion

Thoughts on the Armbar for Martial Artists? What other drills do you use?

References and Resources:

1. The kettlebell armbar – Charlie Weingroff

– For a more in-depth look into the armbar, check out Secrets of the Shoulder by Gray Cook and Brett Jones. No other youtube clip comes close to explanation and execution in this video



Filed under Movement

4 responses to “How to increase your kicking power by 200% with the kettlebell armbar

  1. bilal h

    great post… good stuff brother

  2. Pingback: 42 Pavel Tsatouline facts you didn’t know (Not SRS) | Student of Movement | By David Wu

  3. Pingback: Wtf is a Kettlebell?! | WARRIORS Strength & Conditioning Club

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