This video, featured on Eric Crossed’s blog, covers the correct way to hold the kettle bell in the rack position. A lot of times I see people placing strain on the forearm by holding the kettle bell with their wrists cocked back, or with a really tight grip on the handle, which requires an unnecessary expenditure of energy.
I'm a Personal Trainer, e-500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher, and expert group fitness instructor. Many kettle bell exercises will use this holding position either exclusively for exercises including the kettle bell row (as shown above), single arm dead lift variations, single arm swings, high pulls, or as a means to transition the KB front rack hold (shown later).
The single arm holding position places more load on the shoulder as well as creating rotation through the body which ultimately needs to be counteracted by the core muscles. Holding the kettle bell with the single hand will also put a greater strain on the grip and forearms muscles.
So many beginners often struggle with their grip strength when they first start kettle bell training using this holding position. The main disadvantage of the “by the body” holding position is that after several repetitions the kettle bell has a tendency to slide down through the hands making the grip challenging and readjustment necessary.
The goblet holding position does place additional demands on the wrists as the kettle bell has a tendency to flip and flop backwards and forwards. However, the instability produced by this holding position can be counteracted by resting the kettle bell against the chest when fatigue sets in.
During this position the kettle bell is held comfortably against the chest with the arm tucked in, wrist straight, shoulder down and Latissimus Doris muscle engaged. When correctly engaged the KB front rack hold should be sustainable for long periods of time without fatigue.
One common mistake is to wing the elbow out to the side and hold the kettle bell out and close to the shoulder, this position will lead to fatigue very quickly. For example, a badly designed kettle bell can pinch the wrist or feel very uncomfortable against the forearm.
Great alignment throughout the arm and body as well as wrist strength and balance are required to use this holding position. The bottoms up clean is a great place to begin mastering this position.
The instability of this holding position can be a great way to improve shoulder stability and alignment issues that may need addressing. But for some weighted moves, especially ones that require an explosive movement, kettle bells reign supreme.
You can also hold them by the handle or the bell (the round part of the weight), which allows you to get a different range of motion depending on the kettle bell exercise you're doing. Plus, the shape of a kettle bell lets you work your muscles a little differently than a traditional dumbbell, Jessica Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer at the Hitting Room in New York City, tells SELF.
When you take a class with kettle bells, or any other new type of equipment, it's normal to feel a little lost. Oh, and a quick lesson on the lingo: The “ball” refers to the heavy sphere at the bottom, and the handle is the part attached to it.
The handle is also referred to as the “horns,” and can be gripped at the top, on the sides, or near the base where it meets the ball. Adding a kettle bell increases the resistance your body has to work against to stand back up, challenging your muscles even more.
In addition, holding the kettle bell close to your chest helps you nail proper form. “When you pick up heavy grocery bags, you should squat down like this so you don't hurt your back.”
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, gripping the sides of the kettle bell handle with both hands at chest height. They also secretly challenge your core, since you have to keep your abs tight to avoid arching your back.
Sims says to choose a heavier weight with a dead lift—since you're not bending your elbows at all, you're mostly using your glutes, which are likely the strongest muscles in your body. Hinge at your hips and push your butt back as you lower your torso and the weight toward the ground.
“Make sure that you don’t let the kettle bells swing, keep them stable by your side like actual suitcases,” Sims says. Push through your heels, putting most of the weight on the back foot, to return to the starting position.
Adding weight to a sit-up adds an extra challenge for your core, and the press at the top works your shoulders and arms, too. For these sit-ups, Sims says you can either keep your knees bent or put them in butterfly position, depending on what feels comfortable for your hips.
Start in a sit-up position, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Kettle bell swings are great for your butt, legs, and lower back, Sims says.
You can probably go heavy here, but she suggests nailing the technique with a lighter kettle bell before adding too much weight. To perform a swing with proper form, you have to “thrust your hips aggressively to get the kettle bell up, don't use your arms,” Sims explains.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with both hands. Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs.
Stand back up; use the momentum from your hips to swing the weight to chest height. Your form here should be similar to a traditional dead lift, except your legs should be wider than shoulder-width distance and your feet should be turned out a bit.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out. Switching to one-handed swings isolates one side at a time, which makes it harder and helps improve stability.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand. Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand. Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to thread the kettle bell between your legs.
Bring your now-empty hand to meet the weight at the top of the movement (so you don't slam it into your chest). Grasp a kettle bell in each hand, palms facing out, arms bent so the weights are resting at each shoulder.
Bend your knees just a few inches, and as you stand back up, press the weights straight up overhead. To protect your lower back and make sure you're using your triceps, don't arch your back, Sims instructs. The key here is to straighten your arm completely at the top—that'll let you work the triceps through a full range of motion.
Grip the kettle bell by the ball at the base of the handle with both hands and raise it directly overhead. Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettle bell behind your head to neck level.
The trick is to keep your core tight and hold your torso stable as you rotate your arms and the weight. Lift the ball to eye level and slowly circle it around your head to the left.
Hold the kettle bell handle in your right hand with your arm hanging straight at your side. Holding a kettle bell above your head at the top of a crunch challenges your core and lower abs—so does the flutter motion of your legs.
Start with the weight above your shoulders, and to make it more difficult, bring it a little behind your head, Sims says. Make sure to keep your core super tight and lower back flat on the ground.
If your back comes off the ground, or you feel any strain, bring your legs up a couple more inches. Stand in front of a box or step, holding a kettle bell by the handle with both hands at your chest.
Crew Performance Zip-Front Sports Bra (jcrew.com, $45), Cotton On Body Pocket Crop Tight (, $35), and Puma Fierce Evoking Women's Training Shoes (, $120). If you want to develop strength and power without the worry of injury then you need to progress your shoulder exercises correctly.
For example, the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder can be considered stabilizers whereas the deltoid are the prime movers. Once you have developed a strong framework with the stabilizers you can then progress on to the dynamic overhead exercises.
As mentioned previously you need to go through a progressive conditioning process that focuses on the shoulder stabilizing muscles. Hold a kettle bell overhead with your wrist straight, elbow locked out, and shoulder back and down in its socket.
The second progression involves taking a walk with the kettle bell held overhead. The same holding technique applies to all overhead exercises, locked out elbow, straight wrist and shoulder down and away from the ears.
Keep your core braced and tight through the complete exercise and prevent your lower back from overarching backwards. Mix up the sequence so you change which legs are used to stand up from the tall kneeling position.
Unlike the two static kettle bell holding exercises listed above the windmill works the shoulders through a rotational movement. The shoulder stabilizers have to work hard as the arm stays vertical and the body is rotated underneath the kettle bell.
Push your hips backwards as you load the hamstrings and reach down following the line of your front leg. The overhead kettle bell squat is a challenging exercise that requires good upper back mobility.
Holding the kettle bell overhead sit back onto your heels as you drop into the squat. Brace your core muscles tightly to prevent an overarching in the lower back.
If you find your body is falling forwards when you don’t have the same issue when performing the goblet squat, then your upper back (thoracic spine) is the reason why. It is important to realize that although the shoulder needs to be mobile you don’t want it to be hyper-mobile to compensate for a tight upper back.
If you can’t perform the overhead squat work on your upper back mobility on a daily basis. The kettle bell overhead lunge will challenge your shoulder stabilizers while at the same time strengthen your legs, core and buttocks.
Holding a kettle bell overhead will shift your center of balance and increase the demand on your core muscles. As with all overhead exercises the arm should remain locked out, the wrist straight and shoulders away from the ears.
Static Hold Workout : master the lunge first and then progress to 12 reps on each side. Practitioners of the Turkish get up will achieve strong shoulder stabilization in all positions as well as a more functional core and improved mobility.
Beginners should start with the half Turkish get up which involves moving from the lying position to sitting with the kettle bell overhead. You can work through several repetitions of the half get up on each side before progressing to the standing part of the exercise.
As with all these overhead exercises a straight wrist, locked out arm and shoulder kept back and down is vital. 10 full repetitions alternating sides each time is the ultimate goal.
The kettle bell straight arm sit is a demanding core exercise that also works the shoulder stabilizers from horizontal to vertical. If you struggle with tight hamstrings then you may find that your knees bend slightly.
You can use the kettle bell to assist in the hardest part of the exercise by angling the arm slightly in front of vertical as you start to sit up. Lower from the top position back to the floor slowly over 3 seconds resisting the pull of gravity.
Static Hold Workout : progress to 10 repetitions on both sides with a 3 second lower for each rep. With that common misconception out of the way, let’s clear up another, because it’s not just the name of this old school-turned-trendy exercise tool that trips people up.
The preeminent kettle bell exercise —the two-handed swing—has been known to leave gym-goers of all ages and ability levels scratching their heads, wondering, “You mean I don’t use my arms to swing this thing?” When performed correctly, kettle bell swings build total-body strength, power, and balance, while improving cardiovascular stamina, all with one piece of equipment.
Kettle bell swing training improves maximal and explosive strength. If that sounds too good to be true, maybe it’s because you’ve never swung a kettle bell with pinpoint precision.
With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn to use your legs (and hips, glutes, and core) to perform the perfect kettle bell swing. As it turns out, dancing the salsa and swinging a kettle bell have a lot in common.
But they do share a coaching cue that makes every movement possible: It’s all in the hips. When it comes to the kettle bell swing, the hip action we’re referring to is a hinging motion.
With loose arms and a light grip, the kettle bell is swung from inside the quads up to the chest, just before eye level—in the Russian version anyway (more on this later). To the untrained eye, the swing appears to be a feat of upper-body strength: Simply squat and then stand up while pulling with the arms.
Performing the perfect kettle bell swing places all the emphasis on the posterior chain—the major muscles on the backside of the body from the heels to the base of the neck, primarily the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. But the good news is its a piece of fitness equipment that actually lives up to the hype.
Consider this: A study seeking to analyze the effectiveness of kettle bell exercise concluded that “kettle bells provide a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time.” The same study went on to say that the benefits of kettle bell training extend beyond strength and stamina by helping people “burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities.”
Keep arms long and loose while squeezing shoulders blades together and engaging your core. Soften knees, shift body weight into heels, and lower butt back and down toward the wall behind you.
Driving through heels, explode through hips to send weight swinging upward from quads. Achieving this finish position requires you to snap your hips through, contracting your core while squeezing glutes.
As the kettle bell begins to descend, let the weight do the work as you ready your body for the next rep. Shift weight back into heels while hinging at the hips and loading both the hamstrings and glutes.
Receive the weight, allowing the kettle bell to ride back between legs. As it makes the transition from backward to forward, drive through the heels and hips to repeat.
There’s nothing like an arms race to create animosity among nations (or in this case, coaches and their respective exercise communities). Instead of stopping at eye level, the American swing finishes with the arms and kettle bell overhead.
Our expert Chris Finn, certified personal trainer at Life Time at Sky and Strongest level-two kettle bell instructor, never recommends the American swing due to the risk of injury to your shoulders. That said, the decision on where to pledge your allegiance should be based on personal ability level and safety.
Paying close attention to a proper swing will ensure a successful—not to mention injury-free—workout. Start and finish the swing by loading, firing, and hinging at the hips.