I’ve been working a lot recently with individuals on wrist alignment when holding a kettlebell. It doesn’t matter if the bell is in a goblet hold or racked position – if you are not “wrestling” the bell, that bell is more in charge of you than you are of it.
Now what does it mean to “wrestle” the bell? From my understanding, it’s a term tossed around the kettlebell community all thanks to Sylvester Stallone’s arm wrestling technique in the movie “Over the Top.”
A tad over dramatic? 100% – but it gives us old, kettlebell folk a nice pop-culture plug for people to hold on to during workouts. Notice how Stallone works to get on top of his opponent’s hand by reaching around and punching through his knuckles? As soon as his opponent’s wrist starts to bend, the guy is a goner, and Stallone is crowned champion. Overacting aside, the science in the video rings true. How, you ask? Well take a moment and try it for yourself, sans resistance or weight. Simply motion holding a kettlebell and reach those knuckles to the ceiling. Feel your forearm tighten and the rest of your arm engage. Now try to keep that tension in your arm as you flex your wrist back. Mine let’s go almost instantly – how about yours? Now consider for a brief moment that you’re going for a PR press – imagine something really heavy, something you’ve never managed to move before…which structure would you prefer to press from?
I like to cue my people by saying, “punch through the bell.” What I mean by that is get your knuckles through the handle and don’t let the bell drag you back. In doing so, your knuckles should face the ceiling with the bell sitting higher up in your grip. Here are a couple images for reference.
Notice in the image on the right – as my knuckles punch through, the kettlebell handle is nearly horizontal. From this position, I am in charge of the bell. Punching through allows my arm to work as a spear – one strong, solid unit. That bell will go wherever I tell it to. Alternatively, on the left, you see the bell pulling my wrist out of alignment. The weight of the bell is dragging me down, and I’m having to work that much harder through my elbow and shoulder in order to keep the weight up. Regardless of how hard I work, you can see how much lower that bell is dropping when compared to the photo on the right. It is also in the left photo scenario that the ball of the bell is crushing into my forearm. A lot of the time when I meet someone who is new to kettlebells, he or she will complain about how uncomfortable the weight is against the wrist. If this is true for you in your kettlebell practice, try this technique of spearing through and limiting just how much of the weight is allowed to rest on you. I guarantee it will alleviate some, if not most, of your discomfort. For anyone who has used a foam roller for soft tissue work, you can also think of it this way: how do you achieve myofascial release? By flexing and holding tension as you roll, or by relaxing and letting the roller work through the muscle? The latter, right? Well let me state the obvious, holding a kettlebell in a racked position is one of the last instances where you’d want to think about relaxing. Instead, spear through, flex that muscle, and create tension. Conquer your workout and then relax with a foam roller afterwards.
Below is the same position, only viewed from the side. It’s slight, but you can see how on the left, while allowing my wrist to break, the bell is dragging down, causing me to lean back in order to counterbalance the weight. On the right, spearing through that handle, the bottom of the bell is visible, and I’m able to get on top and offer more control.
Now let’s quickly examine the goblet hold – the same principle stands. Punch through that bell and show it who’s boss. I’ve provided another round of photos for demo purposes, but guys…can I just say, please don’t do what is shown in the second photo. It was so uncomfortable for even the brief second it took me to record it. The stretch along my thumb and over my wrist was far from enjoyable, and trust me, that is one of the last spots on your body you want tweaked. Think how often you use your hands, wrists, and thumbs in your day to day life. Getting a pulled ligament or muscle in this area takes a LONG time to heal due to continued use and less circulation to your extremities – so say it with me, “I promise to work with a weight that allows my wrist to be in proper alignment.” There isn’t any sense in jumping up to a heavy kettlebell in order to prove your squat capabilities if directly afterwards you aren’t even able to pick up an 8kg. If a heavier goblet squat is a goal for you, but you’re finding it hard to hold the bell in place – focus instead on building up your volume while using lighter weights. You’ll be operating from a much better base if you let your body build strength while working as a complete unit.
Do you have any further questions on “wrestling” the kettlebell? Reach out via my contact page. Want to work with me one on one to focus on improving your kettlebell skills? Reach out at http://www.trademarkfit.net – I provide both in person and online training options!
Thanks for reading, now go conquer your workout!