The kettlebell is an amazing piece of equipment. With just a single bell, you can go through literally hundreds of strength training routines without needing a ton of space or equipment.
You do, however, need to know how to do a few things with a kettlebell in order to fully take advantage of its versatility. Many times when people run into issues with a kettlebell it’s because they don’t quite know how to perform certain movements with it. But once you’ve mastered them, they apply to numerous exercises and movements which will set you up for years of long term success.
So without further adieu, here are 3 skills everyone should master if they plan on training with kettlebells.
#1 Racking a kettlebell.
Racking a kettlebell for the very first time is just as awkward as this guy is.
It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even painful.
Yes, initially you will have to get used to the discomfort that properly racking a kettlebell brings about. The weight will dig into your forearm and may even bruise you the first few times. And honestly, the only thing to do is to suck it up buttercup and push through it. But we promise it will feel better after enough practice, and soon enough you won’t even notice 50+ lbs on your forearms.
In the properly racked position, you’ll hit all of the following bullet points…
- Neutral (straight) wrist. Think straight line from knuckles to elbow
- Hand close to sternum (middle of your chest)
- Elbow slightly flared out to the side
- Bell resting on your forearm
It should look like this…
In an improperly racked position, you’ll do one or several of the following bullet points…
- Wrist bent backwards
- Forearm completely vertical or horizontal
- Bell resting on anything other than your forearm
It’ll look like this…
An improperly racked kettlebell can place a ton of unnecessary stress on your wrist, elbow, and shoulder, making any exercises you do that much more difficult.
Take the time and master racking a kettlebell. This will open up so many possibilities to other exercises as well as keep your extremities healthy over the long haul.
#2 Swinging a kettlebell.
The kettlebell swing is probably one of the greatest exercises you can learn to do properly because of its incredibly high return on investment.
Not only does the swing work the entire posterior chain (muscles on the backside of your body), but it can serve as a strength movement, increase power and explosiveness, or even serve as some metabolic conditioning depending on how it’s performed.
But unfortunately the swing gets absolutely BUTCHERED by novices and well-intentioned fitness enthusiasts alike.
To keep things very simple, your swing should look exactly like an RDL (Romanian deadlift).
A swing is NOT a squat. If you have a lot of knee bend during your swing, you. are. doing. it. wrong.
Look at the knee and hip angles on the following video. They do not change as the two movements are damn near identical. This is how a swing should look.
View this post on Instagram
✅ KB SWING TIP ✅ _ Your RDL and swing should look and feel damn near identical. _ MASTER the RDL before attempting a swing. _ Learn how to create and maintain tension in your abs, lats, and grip throughout the RDL as this will be VITAL for you to become a sexy swinger 😉. _ Finish your RDLs and swings with a straight line from heel to head. SQUEEZE your glutes and abs HARD to finish EVERY rep. _ If you arch your back at the top, stop, slow down, and go back to the drawing board . _ The swing is essentially an explosive KB RDL. They should feel the same!! _ Master pre algebra before attempting calculus 🤓 _ #sexyswing #sexyswingers #kettlebellswing #kettlebellswings #workout #fatloss #exercise #fitness #workout #weightlifting #personaltrainer #trainer #strength #strengthtraining #muscle #movement #fit #getfit #fitpro #health #movebetter #thesweatlife
First master the kettlebell RDL. Then perfect your swing.
#3 (Hang) cleaning a kettlebell.
Listen up eager beaver. Don’t even attempt to clean a kettlebell until you have become very proficient in racking it. Attempting to clean a kettlebell without having mastered the racked position it is like attempting to perform surgery without having first completed medical school.
At first you might be thinking, “Why is this necessary to learn? Isn’t this an advanced movement?”
Where this skill really shines is when you have to get two kettlebells in the racked position simultaneously. You can manhandle the first kettlebell into position just fine, but getting the second bell into position can prove to be much more difficult if you simply try to curl it up. When the kettlebell is heavy enough, you just can’t do this. You have to clean it.
For example, the following demo shows me using a 55lb and 80lb kettlebell. I can probably curl a 55 pounder into position… but ain’t no way in hell I’m simply bicep curling 80lbs to the racked position. Cleaning is the only way to get it up.
You can also combine a swing and a clean to get bells into a good racked position. Whatever method you choose, you should hit these criteria for a quality kettlebell clean…
- Keep the kettlebell close to the body on the way up. Think about ‘painting your body’ with the bell
- Make the catch as smooth as possible. Avoid letting the kettlebell crash into your forearm and body. Think about flipping the kettlebell and letting it gently land on your arm. This will take some practice.
- A clean is an explosive and powerful movement. Snap those hips and get that kettlebell to move with some ‘pop’. This is actually a hugely beneficial aspect to performing the clean as dedicated power work is something most people need to do more of.
Obviously this is a skill that requires practice, so don’t be a jackass and use a ridiculously heavy kettlebell on your first attempt. Go light and perfect your technique.
With these 3 skills mastered, a whole slew of exercises are now at your disposal. Front squats, carries, swing variations, lunge variations… you name it.