Figure 8 to a Hold

by Sean St. Onge

Figure wha?? The Figure 8 to a Hold is one of my favorite drills to add into a client's program. 

What is it? 

It is a combination of a one arm kettlebell swing mixed with the similar finish as a kettlebell clean. It is a drill that can frustrate some lifters due to passing from hand to hand behind your leg, shown below.

Why should you practice this drill? 

  1. For a novice lifter, when taught properly, it can provide confidence and a base for learning a one arm kettlebell swing.
  2. It gives the lifter a "hinge" type motion that exists in bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts.
  3. It works the oblique muscles along with the posterior chain muscles when ascending back from the catch to the hold portion of the drill.
  4. Once you have nailed the catch transfer to a hold at the chest, the drill can be light enough to be used for cardio purposes such as intervals.
  5. In my experience, this drill can be taught to a large demographic of clients and can break down walls of being "scared" of kettlebell training with a decent sized load.

How to practice this drill...

Well, for the short version, try watching this...

and also this...

For those foreign to this drill, one would start with one hand on the horn of the bell and one hand at the ball of the bell. Using your hips, push your rear end to the back of the wall as you simultaneously "throw" the kettlebell back through your legs. You would then transfer from the hand that held the kettlebell by the horn to the now free hand that was once on the ball of the bell to the horn. As you ascend from the hinge like motion and have captured the bell, stand up bracing your glutes and abdomen and "hold" the ball of the bell with your free hand. Be sure when transferring the bell hand to hand behind the legs to use an "open palm" and try NOT to backhand the bell shown here.

Chances are, when practicing this drill you may drop the kettlebell. That is fine. Do your best when transferring the bell through the legs to throw it with a "long arm", so you do not over grip the handle. By "short arm" throwing the bell you can cause your hinge motion to suffer where the lifter would then end up doing a squat-like motion and less looking and feeling like a swinging motion. 

Here is a bad "backhand" transfer vs. a proper "open palm" transfer.



Open palm

Open palm

This drill not only provides a great lesson for how to hinge properly, but provides timing. The transfer to finish allows you to pace yourself from rep to rep as the weight is brought into the "hold."

Here are two videos, the first is proper form, and the second is too loose and poor execution. 

The Figure 8 also challenges multiple muscle groups, the glutes, abdominals, obliques, hamstrings, as well as working your grip strength. 

The Figure 8 can be used as a cardio drill done in intervals giving the most bang for your buck with only needing one tool no matter the load or weight of it.

If you haven't tried this one, give it a go, and if you have, hopefully these tips will help clean you Figure 8 up!

SOAP BOX...out.