KETTLEBELLS

Shir Konas

Part III: Foundation and Power Exercises
(Written by Shir Konas, demonstration by David Bluman)

In the last two issues, we provided the background, history and preparation to using Kettlebells; This foundation is of utmost importance in my opinion, because KBs are not built like any other free weights and should be approached with due respect in order to minimize the risks of injury.

So, finally, this is what you’ve been waiting for – In this installment I will introduce some of the KB foundation and power exercises.

1. Squat and Deadlift
> For the deadlift, start with you feet under your hip joints, with the toes facing out about 7-10 degrees. This start stance is better suited for Olympic-style lifting
> For the squat, start with your feet spread slightly wider (about shoulder-width), still with the toes turned out about 7-10 degrees. This stance is good for swinging as well, because there is more room to move the KB between the legs
> Maintain a neutral alignment in the back
> The entire foot, and especially your heel, should always stay in full contact with the ground, throughout the exercise
> Hold the KB with both hands, by the handle, and perform your deadlifts or squats with the KB hanging in front of you.

At this point I’d like to introduce to you the “rack” position: Holding the KB by the handle, “cradle” the KB body between your forearm and upper arm; The forearm should be resting on the trunk so that the weight is supported by the entire body, without creating unnecessary torque at the shoulder, elbow or wrist. There should no bend at the wrist, just like it is when executing a punch.

rack

2. Front Squat
> Holding the KB in the rack position, lower and raise your center of gravity (feet are shoulder-width apart)

3. Overhead Squat
> Holding the KB above the head, with the elbow locked and aligned with your ear, lower and raise your COG (feet are shoulder-width apart). Keep eye contact with the bottom of the KB throughout this exercise

4. Double-Arm and Single-Arm Swing
> Start in a lowered squat stance, holding the KB by the handle with both hands
> Bend forward with the KB between the thighs
> Forcefully extend the knees and hips to accelerate the KB up in an explosive manner
> Project the KB up and away from the body while keeping the arms straight – stop at shoulder height
> Absorb the weight as it follows the same route back down to your starting position
(There is a moment of weightlessness at the top of the swinging movement)
> Use the same instructions for the one-arm swings; there should be a slight natural rotation in the trunk to accommodate the imbalance of loading your body asymmetrically. You can use the free hand as a counterbalance throughout the movement. You can also alternate hands in mid-air to further challenge your grip

5. Double- and Single-Arm High Pull
> Start in a lowered squat stance, holding the KB by the handle with both hands
> Forcefully extend the knees and hips to accelerate the KB up
> As the hips extend fully, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears
> Pull the elbows sideways so the KB can be kept close to the body
>As the KB comes downward, extend the arms and absorb the weight softly with a squatting action (again, notice the moment of weightlessness)
> Use the same instructions for the single-arm high pull; there should be a slight natural rotation in the trunk to accommodate the imbalance of loading your body asymmetrically. You can use the free hand as a counterbalance throughout the movement. You can also alternate hands to further challenge your grip

6. Overhead Press and Push Press
> Starting with the KB in the rack position, extend the arm overhead, with the wrist aligned over the shoulder
> For the push press (in which a heavier weight can be used), start in the rack position, and then slightly “dip” and “drive” with the lower body in order to accelerate the KB up; Using the momentum created by the lower body’s thrust, finish by extending the legs and the pressing arm straight
> In both cases, your bodyweight should shift forward in a counterbalancing movement, because the KB’s displaced center of gravity shifts backward in the overhead position
> Return the KB to the rack position, following the same route

Much of the fundamental movement of KB training revolves around the Olympic lifts: The snatch and the clean and jerk. Using these two lifts and their supporting movements can give you all the functional training you need because of these reasons: a) these are ground-based activities. The more force an athlete applies to the ground, the stronger and faster they will be in their sport. b) KB training involves multiple joint actions, which improves overall performance (unlike isolation of single-joint movements, which is unnatural and improves appearance more so than performance) c) These are three-dimensional movements, performed in all spacial planes at once, unlike machines at the gym. This makes the transfer of skills of strength and power easier to merge with sport skills. d) Explosive training allows the recruitment of more fast-twitch fibers, thus improving the athlete’s performance and enabling the generation of more force.

To summarize: remember that sequencing segments of the movement is essential in order to summate all forces for maximal development and applicability of power, balance and stability. With that said, now we can move on to some power exercises (while performing those, your thigh should be above parallel with the ground, as opposed to the squat position in which the thigh is below parallel with the ground):

7. Power Clean
> Begin in the deadlift position, with KB held by the handle in one hand, hanging towards the ground
> Forcefully extend the knees and hips to accelerate the KB up
> As the hips extend fully, shrug your shoulder up toward your ear
> Pull the elbow sideways so the KB can be kept close to the body
> As the KB reaches chest height, tuck the elbow in toward the rack position (the body of the KB will revolve around the handle)
> Catch the KB in the rack position in one motion (be sure to absorb the KB effectively by using the entire body)
> Return the KB downward following the same route, but as it goes down extend the arm and absorb the weight softly with a squatting action; there should be a slight natural rotation in the trunk to accommodate the imbalance of loading your body asymmetrically. You can use the free hand as a counterbalance throughout the movement.

8. Power Clean and Push Press
> Perform a power clean (following the instructions above)
> Stand up straight, and immediately follow with a push press

9. Push/Power Jerk
> Starting with the KB in the rack position, slightly “dip” and “drive” with the lower body in order to accelerate the KB up
> When the KB reaches head height, “double dip” (Only jerks double dip… hence the name of this exercise!) – drop under or press the body under the KB until the arm is fully extended and the KB is overhead
> Your bodyweight should shift forward in a counterbalancing movement, because the KB’s displaced center of gravity shifts backward in the overhead position
> More weight can be used here because of the “double dip”, which decreases the distance that the initial drive needs to cover – this will depend on the individual lifter’s shoulder stability

10. Power Clean and Push Jerk
> Perform a power clean
> Stand up straight and immediately follow with a push jerk

11. Power Snatch (Vertical)
> Begin in the deadlift position, with KB held by the handle in one hand, hanging towards the ground
> Forcefully extend the knees and hips to accelerate the KB up
> As the hips extend fully, shrug your shoulder up toward your ear
> Pull the elbow sideways so the KB can be kept close to the body
> As the KB reaches head height, start extending the arm overhead – this will cause the KB to revolve around the handle
> Straighten the arm completely to catch the KB overhead. At the same time, dip into a half-squat to absorb with the whole body
> Return the KB along the same route, and as it goes down absorb the weight with a squatting action
> There should be a slight natural rotation in the trunk to accommodate the imbalance of loading your body asymmetrically. You can use the free hand as a counterbalance throughout the movement.

References

1. Cronin, Khai, Ganulin (2007), Kettlebells Level 1 Instructor Training Manual
2. To read more about David Bluman, visit www.ri-pt.com/meetthetrainers.htm
3. For more information and workshop schedule, please visit www.kettlebellconcepts.com/

* Images courtesy of Kettlebell Concepts. For more information and workshop schedule, please visit Kettlebell Concepts.

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