Part of the benefit a lot of people experience with kettle bells is simply because they start training with more whole-body exercises, rather than the isolation exercises commonly done in most commercial gyms. In fact, I've taught people who are beginners with kettle bells the basic juggling moves, and they've been able to get started right away.
But the truth is you can get started with the basic moves right away and by the end of this article you‘ll know how. Now, I will admit that it is more dangerous than the average kettle bell movements or other forms of exercise.
But part of this training is that you build faster reflexes and coordination so you're able to avoid the weight when it does come crashing down. Secondly, by working all the odd angles and awkward movements you're actually injury proofing your body.
By starting with a light weight and building up to more complex moves your body is able to handle forces that might make “normal” people scared. For a long time I was able to make the claim that I never hurt myself kettlebelljuggling.
But then I finally did hurt myself when I tried a very complex trick (picture doing a cartwheel with a kettle bell in hand) with too heavy of a weight. A common idea is that juggling should be done with steel-toed shoes, but I’d rather have my feet be able to move quickly, so I like to be barefoot.
If you do it indoors, then you better have thick rubber mats to protect the floor (and then be careful of the resulting bounce). Now let's talk about some benefits kettlebelljuggling brings you that the normal kettle bell ballistic exercises don't.
The regular kettle bell ballistics are great in building hip extension and the posterior chain. A simple flip of the kettle bell can also be trained to the point of efficiency, but it will always take more effort than the swing itself.
And when you move into some of the more complex stunts, and definitely when using a heavier weight, you'll see just how quickly the endurance is jacked up. By working in all these different angles, including in places many trainers would have you believe you should never go, such as a rounded spine with rotation in it, you're strengthening your weak points.
By building up in this manner over time, which is done by progressing through the kettlebelljuggling skills, all your weak links become much stronger. Sure, if you have a completely uncoordinated person who is just getting started with kettle bells they will build some coordination, but it's only up to a minor level.
With the swing you are absorbing force at the bottom and then redirecting it, reapplying it as you do the next rep. Kettlebelljuggling takes us to a whole other level. There are few other things where you’ll find you want to continue your practice past the point of fatigue or even exhaustion, but it has been known to happen with kettlebelljuggling.
I frequently tell people that if I had to spend 45 minutes on a treadmill, I wouldn't want to exercise either. There's even more benefits than this, but this list gives you a fairly well-rounded picture of what you can gain from doing kettlebelljuggling.
Kettlebelljuggling is extremely hard to teach through the written word. Then you can progress to reverse flips, helicopters, the uppercut drill, and much more.
For those interested, I’ve created a whole progressive path of kettlebelljuggling mastery. Plus everything else that transfers from the exercises (swinging, squatting, moving, throwing, catching).
It’s dangerous if you start juggling straight away and ignore progression. A lot of people think it’s stupid or just to look cool, some are jealous, some don’t understand and therefore put it down.
People that don’t these skills will not develop them and therefore run much more of risk dropping something on their feet, again, this inability transfers to events outside of training. Agility or nimbleness is the ability to change the body’s position efficiently and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance.
The processes that occur during this brief time enable the brain to perceive the surrounding environment, identify an object of interest, decide an action in response to the object, and issue a motor command to execute the movement. Motor coordination is the combination of body movements created with the kinematic (such as spatial direction) and kinetic (force) parameters that result in intended actions.
To take in energy through physical action, i.e. reducing the velocity of the kettle bell with the body. Being able to move weight fast and getting the amount of power required just right.
Saying that juggling is a waste of time or just to look cool is like saying no one needs the skills aforementioned. Taco Fleur Russian Gregory Sport Institute Kettle bell Coach, Caveman training Certified, IFF Certified Kettle bell Teacher, Kettle bell Sport Rank 2, HardstyleFit Kettle bell Level 1 Instructor., CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, CrossFit Judges Certificate, CrossFit Lesson Planning Certificate, Kettle bells Level 2 Trainer, Kettle bell Science and Application, MMA Fitness Level 2, MMA Conditioning Level 1, BJJ Purple Belt and more.
Not only will it work your strength from all angles, but it’ll build huge levels of conditioning depending of course on the weight you use and how long you go. This video will show you a variety of possible moves with different size weights, including some double kettlebelljuggling.
Once you can do it, catching with the same hand or the opposite, all you have to do is put a little force on the handle to do a flip. What I really like about this skillet is it is something you can gain experience in quickly, often being able to do several new moves every single practice session.
What I like about kettlebelljuggling (besides it being fun though that is one of the best aspects) is that it build strength, endurance, hand-eye coordination, explosiveness and shock absorption all across the body. For more information I have an entire site devoted to this, with free videos that will help you get started.
Hard style is a style of kettle bell training that emphases power and tension. The credit for bringing kettle bells to the West is often given to Pavel Tsatsouline, who published an article in 1998 entitled Vodka, Pickle Juice, Kettle bell Lifting, and other Russian Pastimes in MILO, an American strength training magazine.
This public quote from the ROC manual (which you have to be certified by them to access 5) illuminates the origins of Hard style kettle bell training: “ROC is a “hard style” of kettle bell training born in the spec ops of the Soviet Union.
Hard style kettle bell training and certain martial arts share the concept of time, 7 “focusing energy”, expressed in the snap of a well executed swing or punch. For ballistic lifts, there is a balance between periods of explosive effort, such as the powerful forward hip hinge that starts the swing, and relaxation, for example the split second as the kettle bell “floats” at the top of the swing.
In the grinds, high tension is employed as a deliberate device to increase strength. 9 Applying this to the military press, you might choose to squeeze your free hand into a fist in order to push through sticking points in the lift.
A Hard style press-up thus becomes a whole-body effort of tension, rather than a movement where muscular force is generated in the chest but leaks out through the core and legs. “And yes, this means you’ll be using more tightness than necessary to actually lift the weight on your early warm-up sets.
The exhalation is done with force and for a short duration, and “should optimally be timed with the moment of the highest demand in power” (Florian Kind 12). A Hard style kettle bell is usually made of cast iron, and has a relatively large, flared handle, which makes the bell suitable for both one and two-handed moves.
Compared to other styles, Gregory Sport emphases endurance, relaxation and smooth technique. Valery Fedorenko introduced Gregory Sport kettle bell lifting to the US in 1999.
Fedorenko arrived in New York with the express desire to introduce kettle bell lifting to the US. He already had decades of elite level kettle bell experience by that point, having become the first World Champion in the 80 kg weight class back in Russia.
Thus, measuring oneself very directly against a standard and against one’s peers can become a powerful motivating factor and source of accomplishment. No-one knows if you’re really using your maximum explosive power, or tensing with full effort, in a particular lift or set except you, even if they were to watch you training.
In Kettle bell Sport training, you count reps and measure time. Without saying one is better than the other, this difference in character might go some way to explaining why people often identify so strongly with one methodology or the other.
As Sergei Runner, CMK, many times champion in Russia and worldwide and trainer of the first category, told us, “In powerlifting, the defining factor is strength; in weightlifting, strength and speed. To enable such endurance, there are no “grinds”, no moves where you aim for total tension.
Because of the necessity for relaxation, the way of breathing in Gregory Sport is used not only to fuel performance with oxygen, but also to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and thereby prevent the pulse from getting too high. Thierry Sanchez explains: Kettle bell Sport requires the ability to breathe smoothly and as relaxed as possible to improve performance.
Supplementary training, therefore, is more likely to be an aerobic exercise such as swimming or running 28 than a powerlifting modality like heavy barbells. The Gregory kettle bell has a specific shape, with handles that go straight down to the bell instead of flaring out.
This consistency means that carefully programmed body mechanics do not have to be re-learned when moving between weights. In addition to the competitive aspect, there are other benefits to kettle bell sport training.
Since the events are comparatively long, this discipline also develops mental toughness: “A ten-minute set of clean & jerks without setting the bells down is something that truly needs to be experienced to be understood.” (Ken Blackburn 33). The CrossFit kettle bell style is a hybrid of hard and soft elements.
Tension : Abs, thighs, and glutes tighten at the top of the swing, as if bracing for a punch. I asked Brett Jones, Strongest Director of Education and Chief SFG, ATC, CSS, FMS, if he could elaborate on the reasons for the difference in breathing patterns in the swing, and he explained that “Strongest or (Hard style) kettle bell training utilizes a biomechanical breathing match where a sharp, diaphragmatic inhale is taken into a braced abdomen at the bottom of the swing in order to optimize intra-abdominal pressure and back stabilization.
And here is a video analysis of the Kettle bell Sport swing, which makes several points of technique clear: Instead of the body staying still and the athlete pulling the kettle bell towards the shoulder with a bent arm, the arms stays mostly straight and the athlete leans backwards as the kettle bell is pulled up, then straightens up underneath it.
Rather than pulling the bell down, the athlete moves out of the way by leaning backward and lets the kettle bell drop. It’s worth noting that although there are general points of form, a good coach will help you find the technique that’s best for your body type, taking into account your goals, physical condition and any injuries.
Steve Cotter, who started out in the ROC with Pavel Tsatsouline before training Gregory Sport with Valery Fedorenko and then founding the International Kettle bell and Fitness Federation (IFF), wrote an interesting critique of Hard style lifting including some criticisms on the basis of how the moves are done, and nicely sums up the difference between hard and soft styles on the level of why they’re done: The rigid style is useful for caloric expenditure, but its mechanics don’t allow for prolonged work periods.
The fluid style adopts the mechanics that allow for greatest sustained output, which is the whole purpose of kettle bell lifting in the context of performance.” 36 CrossFit took to kettle bells early on, enamored of the huge metabolic demands that whole-body moves like the swing make when performed for even a minute or two.
Including kettle bell exercises in a Won naturally helps to fulfil the main CrossFit goal, which is “maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time”. 38, which shows a clear affinity to Hard style: it states that their inspiration came from Pavel Tsatsouline.
Two years later, CrossFit asked Jeff Mar tone to be their Subject-Matter Expert for kettle bells 39 (Jeff gave me a lot of information about the CrossFit style of kettle bell lifting, and any quotes in this section are his unless otherwise noted). Jeff had worked with Pavel Tsatsouline for four years, until 2005, becoming a senior ROC instructor, and was always looking for ways to increase performance in his trainees.
On being asked to develop the CrossFit kettle bell curriculum, Mar tone immediately told Glassman that he would make the CrossFit kettle bell movements more efficient, meaning, more like Gregory Sport. These makes sense when you consider that, unlike in a Hard style set where the only thing you’re likely to include besides lifting kettle bells is strategic rest, in CrossFit a session of kettle bell movements is embedded in a larger workout that might also include gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, or calisthenics.
While you still work (very) hard, it makes no sense to, for example, totally fry your grip on the kettle bells and leave nothing for your pull-ups. CrossFit is so big, though, that when coaches go to learn kettle bells they might end up going to a Hard style instructor instead of to one of Mar tone’s courses, resulting in some variability in style depending on what box you attend.
This “competition swing” is faster, and allows the competitor to accumulate more reps, but at the expense of exhausting the grip. 42 Another is that kettle bells have been swung to shoulder height for a very long time in Russia, and it’s a little presumptuous to think that it just never occurred to anyone to keep going and “complete” the movement.
The other reason given is that the American swing is harder – that you do more work, or exercise more intensively, in a given time period. An ROC practitioner might well say “If power production is the goal then the above head swing doesn’t add any benefit.” 43 And a CrossFit practitioner could just reply “Increasing power production isn’t my primary goal; maximum total effort is.” Here, why is different, so agreement on how is impossible.
Valery Fedorenko expressed the puzzlement of a traditional Gregory Sport athlete at the movement like this: “Once the kettle bell has reached my chest, it is floating, why do I need to make it go any higher? I have already engaged my legs, my back, and my shoulders, why do I need to spend more time making it do something that will not give me much in return?” 44 But again this isn’t a convincing argument for a CrossFit athlete.
The overhead swing has also been criticized for being more of a shock to the back, 45 using a more compromising position for the acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joints, 46 liable to cause over-extension of the lumbar spine, 47 and “a recipe for disaster and injury” when done without thorough instruction. And many CrossFit coaches say explicitly in response that this is indeed a potential problem that can be avoided by making sure that the athlete has mastered the required movement patterns (especially a good hip hinge learned via the Russian swing) and has acquired good thoracic mobility 49 before attempting the American swing.
51 Notably, as the bell comes out of the overhead position, the lifter leans back slightly. Known as counterbalance, or deflection, this relaxes the lower back and helps keep the kettle bell closer to the body.
The demonstration video below also shows the sports-style double knee bend; the commentary includes the exhortation “not to use strength in pulling the kettle bell down”. Compared to the CrossFit swing, there is almost no contention surrounding the snatch form.
Kettlebelljuggling is a challenging training variation, where the athlete performs a traditional move like a swing or snatch, or a non-traditional movement like swinging the kettle bell behind the body, lets go of the bell, with or without a spin or flip, and catches it again. More common, though, and certainly better to start off with, is a single bell, flipped in a variety of different ways.
Juggling even relatively light kettle bells in this way requires more grip strength, concentration, timing, and athleticism, and can be a very good workout with unexpected benefits. As kettle bell trainer Logan Christopher put it to me, “Too many exercises are done working in just one or two dimensions.
If you want fitness and are fine with focussing on just a few moves, or if you want to compete, Gregory Sport style might be for you. Sergei Runner, by email, courtesy of Mikhail Marshal, translated by the author.
Jeff is a well respected guy in the fitness community and both Pavel and Brett Jones endorse his work so that should tell you something. Also go to YouTube and do search for a video titled KettlebellJuggling, Jeff Mar tone”.
He puts on a great demonstration of the kind of juggling you can expect to learn. Gus was an instructor at my ROC cert and was doing all kinds of crazy KB juggling.
You simply can't juggle for long without a crisp, well-timed hip snap. There are a couple of videos on YouTube featuring Chinese, Russian or German senior Greeks juggling KB's.
I wonder whether KB juggling somehow keeps the CNS and body fresh in a way that grinds are not capable of. It is probably pretty self-limiting and flow-state promoting. Teaches rhythm, reflexive strength/stability and the art of alternating between tension and relaxation, which is critical for many sports.
Juggling is so much fun, but you will drop the bell if you do it long enough (so quick feet and a floor you don't care about are essential). I highly recommend Logan Christopher's KettlebellJuggling. Quality tutorials starting with the basics and going onto advanced moves like double KB's and partner work.