Given the daily anatomical position held by most of the athletes who walk through the doors of our facility, we see more excessive internal rotation, stiff tissue, and poorly moving joints than is preferable. This can stop in their tracks athletes who previously may have thought they were ready to start “finding the key to happiness.”
Yes, the kettle bell, when held overhead, inherently encourages improved range of motion and stability at the shoulder. With the elbow locked out, the shape and structure of the kettle bell moves the humerus into a packed position within the glenoid cavity of the shoulder joint.
Think of the muscular system as a patchwork quilt: a series of structures and seams that are interconnected. If you were to pull a thread from a seam at one end of the quilt, then the patches attached farther down the chain would move, too, as would any corresponding sections.
As the anterior tissues of the upper torso are “crushed short” by the arms reaching forward for the computer, the opposite is true of the posterior muscles and fascia that are left “locked long” over the upper back. These two compounding directions of load eventually leave the spine—the thoracic spine, in particular—in rough shape.
When one section of the spine is stiff, the body finds other structures to move in order to make an action happen. The shoulder is a joint with a great capacity for movement but one that is often found stiff because of how long it spends in one position throughout the day.
The tissues that surround the shoulder—such as the pecs, deltoid, and biceps anteriorly and the lats, traps, and rotator cuff posteriorly—are susceptible to the daily stiffening that causes poor joint mechanics. The arm bar encourages the shoulder to move freely without any major force application.
Consequently, the athlete’s ability to control and move the kettle bell steadily to an effective position will be improved. If the bell is big enough, the center of mass may be over the shoulder joint and the arm appear tilted.
Use your lat to pull the shoulder blade down, packing the joint into a stable position while still relaxing your neck and resting your head on your right bicep. The left side of the chest will follow this rhythm also slowly getting closer to the ground with each rep.
Pack the lats down and allow for the scapula to slide over the rib cage smoothly. Return to a supine lying position before haloing the bell safely and repeating on the opposite side.
I would advise females to use 10-12 kg and males to use 16-20 kg to begin with, but choose what you feel is appropriate for your level and needs. As a mobility drill, the unique placement of load, along with the position of the surrounding tissues and joint structures during the exercise, makes the arm bar the ideal preparatory drill for those on a quest for overhead strength and pain-free posture.
These drills tax the facial slings of the body to position themselves adequately for force production, movement capacity, and strength application. Segments of the get-up are found in acts ranging from getting out of bed to striking a tennis ball.
And the windmill teaches us to position our spine safely while performing posterior hip tilt—something we often do incorrectly when bending to pick something from the floor or tie our laces. There are very few people who couldn’t benefit from more thoracic mobility and an improved, efficient posture.
Now, get to work—and watch your shoulder range of motion bloom, your posture open, and your proclivity for pressing heavy things get heavier. While grip on one hand (pun intended) and abs on the other are the easiest ways to build strength—as stated by Pavel him...
Jay is an SFG II, NFL, CSS, Saw Level 1 instructor, and an avid bicycle tourist. He and his team specialize in developing a strong community around training with kettle bells, body weight, and barbells, cultivating happy faces, strong bodies and minds, and long-lasting results through smart and enjoyable training programs.
Learn the Kettle bell Arm Bar for Strength and Stability | Breaking Muscle The shoulder is one of the most mobile, vulnerable joints in the body. It is also involved in much of our lifting and athletic movement, so it is important to cultivate strength and stability there.
Scott Marcella of Della Training demonstrates how to perform the kettlebellarmbar, a drill that strengthens the rotator cuff while also improving thoracic mobility. Start out with a light kettle bell so you can learn the technique and avoid unnecessary risk.
Place your left arm on the ground and extend it above your head with your bicep next to your ear. Push through your foot and rotate your hips to roll carefully onto your left side, while keeping the kettle bell overhead.
Keep your arm as straight as possible to feel the stretch in your chest and thoracic spine. This drill forces your shoulder to stabilize as you work near your end range of motion while supporting a weight.
The kettle bell arm bar is most excellent for developing mobility of the mid back, but let me tell you, the tiny vibrational wiggles and squiggles of muscle that occur while holding this puppy in place, especially in early days, or when going heavier — and then the making of so much progress toward solidity and stillness in various situations — says plenty about strength endurance and new neuromuscular tricks, to boot. You’re building mobility, too: As you embark upon this move, consider that you are trying to rotate from your thoracic spine, that mid back section, where so many of us need more and don’t get it, much.
Keep thinking about spinning from there (rather than your low back, and rather than stretching simply from the shoulder joint). To begin, lie on the floor and roll to one side, spooning a kettle bell like a lover.
Push through your bent-leg heel to rotate through your mid back (rather than your low back), and when your weight shifts onto your hip, slowly bring your bent leg across your body to an extent that is comfortable for you. Keep your shoulder, elbow, and wrist on the weighted side in line with each other and perpendicular to the floor.
Your arm and leg on the downside will make a nearly straight line from hand to toe. Hold your position, continuing to breathe, for approximately 10 to 15 seconds, or whatever feels like plenty to you.
Slowly reverse each step to unwind and return to the starting position, then switch sides. Longtime fitness writer for a number of national magazines, including Men's Health, Women's Health and Experience Life; contributor others, including Shape, Oxygen, Self, and Greatest.
Since I know everyone loves kettle bell stuff, I figured this would be a great time to talk about kettlebellarm bars. They can improve length through the anterior shoulder and even (to a degree) the opposing hip flexors.
For a quick demonstration of the kettlebellarmbar, simply click on the video below. Keep your arm perpendicular to the ground throughout, and use the hips to drive your motion.
The kettlebellarmbar is a great drill for thoracic mobility, shoulder stability, and motor control development through all different types of movement patterns. In my opinion this is a logical regression to learning the Turkish Get Up (which I will cover in an upcoming blog) and one that an individual must demonstrate full ownership of before trying to roll and stand up!
In the DVD, Secrets of the Shoulder, Brett Jones and Gray Cook discuss four secrets or keys to unlocking shoulder mobility and motor control (1). Diaphragmatic Breathing Posture Grip Joint Position (Alignment)
Spend some quality time on the ground getting comfortable holding the kettle bell and maintaining alignment in different positions (that’s the posture part!) The brain does not learn or retain information in stressful situations.
Slow down, learn the movements and nuances and reap the rewards later! “Your set up is your first repetition.” from Team Leader Pavel Mack who gave credit to Master SFG Fabio.
I heard this at my SFG Level I certification in August and it is such a pearl of wisdom. Take your time because this lays the foundation for the first repetition and the rest of the set.
Check out the pictures below for a great visual on the important technical points that I couldn’t stress in the video. Extend your free arm overhead and your opposite leg.
Position the foot of the kettle bell side leg at a 45-degree angle and near your glute. You need to find the position that is comfortable for you and allows you to perform the movement proficiently.
Proceed with caution if placing the heel very close to the glute — this can cause additional stress on the knee so it’s prudent to leave some space between the heel and glute. You’ll contract the glute, engage the hip and your core.
Roll to your side while maintaining alignment and control of the kettle bell. The only change is that the glute is contracted my driving through the heel and that hip is off the ground.
Maintain a neutral wrist and packed shoulder throughout the entire arm bar. “Energy flows in 2 directions in the arm bar : extending the kettle bell and packing the shoulder.
” (1) — Brett Jones, Secrets of the Shoulder The drill is not over until the kettle bell is parked safely back on the ground. 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. Kettle bell training should be focused on movement patterns and not particular muscles.
If you want to just develop or add size to the arms then classic biceps curls or tricep extensions using a dumbbell or barbell would be a better use of your time. Below I’ve listed 14 of my favorite arm exercises along with kettlebellarm workout ideas too.
Whenever you press, extend or straighten the arm you use your tricep muscles. So Push Ups, for example, are a classic exercise for developing the triceps.
If you are not using the Push Up in your training then I highly recommend that you start not only for your triceps but for your chest, abs, glutes, shoulders and back. Kettle bell Overhead Press Exercise classic overhead press can be performed with most pieces of equipment but it feels wonderful with a kettle bell.
The Push Press uses the body to help pop the kettle bell out of the most difficult part of the movement. When the kettle bell is at the bottom your arm is at a mechanical disadvantage so by using the legs slightly you are able to give it a little boost out of this sticking point.
If you want to really focus on the arms and shoulders then the Tall Kneeling Press will take the lower half of the body out of the equation. A great exercise for developing pure pressing strength.
You will need to keep your Glutes squeezed tight to ensure you don’t lose alignment and stress the lower back. Have fun with this exercise by pressing from different sides with different legs forwards.
You will find the natural cross body, right arm and left leg forwards, the easiest variation. Kettle bell regular row superb exercise for working into the back of the body and core muscles as well as conditioning the biceps.
Good form and technique is required to avoid excessive momentum and to ensure that the back is kept safe and flat. A similar exercise to the regular row above except even more emphasis is placed on the arms.
Isometric exercise positions like this one are especially demanding on the full body and require good concentration. If you cannot hold a good front plank for at least 60 seconds then I would focus on that first and practice the other kettle bell exercises for the arms listed above before using this one.
A good set of heavy kettle bell cleans will certainly overload the biceps and improve the look of the arms. In addition to the arm muscle activation the Clean and Press also targets almost every muscle in the body making it an excellent full body conditioning exercise and superb for fat loss.
Kettle bell thruster exerciseSimilar to the Clean and Press, the Squat and Press is a huge full body exercise that targets most muscles of the body. You won’t get as much bicep activation with this exercise as the Clean and Press but you will find it more cardiovascular.
Again very little bicep activation but great for the triceps and the rest of the body, especially the buttocks and legs. Kettle bell Sit and Press Exercise sit and press exercise is a powerful shoulder and tricep exercise that also works into the core muscles.
It is very important when performing this exercise to lower the kettle bell to the start position slowly. The slower the lowering please of the sit and press the more core activation you will receive.
Kettle bell exercises are based on movement patterns and so target the whole body rather than a select few muscles including the triceps and biceps. To develop tone and muscle I’d recommend working on a repetition range of between 8 and 15.
The challenge is to find the correct sized kettle bell for each exercise so that you fatigue during this repetition range. Kettle bells will activate the muscles in your arms but not like bodybuilding type exercises will.
Kettle bell training should be focused on movement patterns and not particular muscles. Even though kettle bell training should be focused on movement patterns and not particular muscles the movements still put a lot of stimuli and stress on the muscle and therefore promote growth.
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