The lowly kettle bell. Easily one of the more incorrectly used tools at the gym and one with the most potential to develop explosive power in the Oly lifts and a great/safe conditioning tool.
I’ve been guilty of this… a new person comes to the gym. Me “You ever swing a kettle bell before?” Them “Yeah all the time at the wellness center.”… and then I look up during the WOD and whatever movement they are doing, it AIN’T no KBS. The KBS per se is NOT a lift… it’s a violent SWING initiated by explosive hip extension. All too many times I see one of two common KBS faults watching beginners, and experienced CFers alike who refuse to correct their movement.
1) Their KBS resembles a half range of motion sumo deadlift high-pull (SDHP). The athlete literally attempts to “lift” the KB using their arms and shoulders. Their elbows are bent and above the KB… and the KB is upright. It’s not that this is a bad movement, it’s just not a KBS… it’s a SDHP.
2) The athlete excessively bends their knees into a half squat with their chest upright, then basically jumps to get the bell moving. Again, this is not a bad movement, but it’s not a KBS.
While the traditional (Russian) swing is only brought to eye-level, CrossFit established ROM standards that could be more easily judged and required a greater ROM of the shoulders… hence the OH (American) swing was born. From a conjugate method standpoint, the KBS is invaluable to any olympic lifter… IF done properly. Both the Snatch and the C&J have violent hip extension as the core of the lift… if you can’t fully open your hips, you’ll never be a good lifter.
Done properly the bottom of the swing looks like the bottom a perfect “good morning” with the bell sitting behind and under the athlete. Their spine is hard, lumbar curved, and close to parallel with the floor. Their head is upright, knees back, and hamstrings tight. This is essentially the position we want to be in at the top of the first pull of our snatch/c&j. I’ve had people argue with me that “you’re lifting it with you back!”… yes, but the back is it a strong static position… it’s dorsiflexed and not moving… your glutes and hamstrings are doing the actual dynamic motion. Also, in this position, because of the KB’s motion backwards, there is no shearing forces placed on the vertebrae… all the force is generated inline with the spine. i.e.. compression.
From this position the athlete merely explosively opens their hips. It’s not a squat. This explosive extension forces the bell into an arc with significant velocity. From here it is a finesse movement… controlling the bell’s momentum to bring it into a locked out OH position with the bottom of the bell facing the ceiling. Only then are the knees locked out.
Notice Martin’s posture above. His back is bent over but his lumbar curve is intact. His spine is in as strong of an anatomical position relative to the bell as possible. The bell is behind him. Knees back, hamstrings tight, and the look on his face tells you he’s about to drive this freakin’ bell to the ceiling using a violent hip thrust.
Shayna showing a solid finish position. Knees, hips, and elbows locked out… ears in front of her arms with the bell upside down.
If you’re one of these people who “lift” the KB with your arms… or try to keep your chest up and “squat” the bell up, please stop immediately. If you don’t know if you are, ask a coach. Save those movements for SDHP and squat-day. Learn to use your posterior chain… i.e. your hamstrings and glutes, the biggest and strongest muscles in your body. Don’t be scared to bend over with a weight in your hands, but learn what a hard/proud spine feels like. Be safe. Be efficient. Embrace the lowly KB.
“Improve your quality of life. Frequently get seriously out of breath.”
1) 5x 2 Snatch from blocks (just above knee). Work up to a max double for the day. Rest as needed.
2) 5x 2 Clean from blocks (just above knee) + 1x Split jerk. Work up to a max double for the day. Rest as needed.
Strength – E2MOM alt
1a) Front squat 3×3 @ 1RM C&J
1b) BNCGPP (Behind the neck Clean-grip push press) 3×3 AHAP
30x C&J @135/95#