Much like his fellow 10th Planet jiu-jitsu black belt Joe Rogan, 145lb EBI champion Denny Prokopos uses a simple but versatile tool – the humble kettlebell – as the basis for his workouts.
A Greek friend turned an 18-year-old Prokopos onto kettlebells, a traditional piece of exercise equipment long favored by old-time wrestlers and strongmen. Prokopos first started training with weights at the age of 15 while wrestling in high school, but only really focussed on kettlebell training around the age of 21.
“I immediately started noticing results,” says Prokopos. “My cardio became amazing and my grip strength got at least three times better. I then just for whatever reason stopped lifting kettlebells. I got invited to ADCC in 2011 and started doing strongman-type lifts but threw out my back and couldn't go.”
Prokopos spent two and a half years doing physical therapy and discovered that he also has four bulging discs in his neck. “Once I got done with the PT I thought I needed something more, and I got into kettlebell training again.”
Prokopos linked up with noted kettlebell trainer Mark Reifkind in April of 2014 and even got certified under him.
“I prefer kettlebells over other lifting because I feel that it's suits my goals best, which is to be the best at 145/155lb,” says Prokopos. “The most important thing with the bell for me is that it keeps me healthy to train. Also lifting makes me very happy since I feel that it's always a great challenge it's never easy.”
The Benefits of Kettlebell Training for Jiu-Jitsu
Prokopos trains with kettlebells three to four times a week, and he says he feels the benefits transfer directly to his performance on the mat – particularly his grip endurance, his rubber guard squeeze and his cardio.
Some exercises – such as the Turkish get-up, help him develop the core strength necessary for escaping bad spots such as side control.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do better,” says Mark Reifkind, Denny’s kettlebell coach. “From the ballistic motion and the speed and power translates directly to what you guys [grapplers] do. Plus, it’s always off-balance. Everything you’re doing with a kettlebell you’re working balance, coordination, core strength goes without saying, but you’re working power and explosion and total body strength. That translation to jiu-jitsu or any grappling sport is fantastic.”
Kettlebell Exercises for Jiu-Jitsu
Prokopos keeps his training simple – swings (both one and two-handed), clean and presses, snatches, Turkish get-ups, and weighted carries. He supplements these with exercises such as front squats and towel pull-ups (great for your grip).
Below are videos of the some of the exercises Prokopos will use in a typical training session.