The Kettlebell Beats Me Up

by Kerry Taylor

The kettlebell is an amazing tool that can do a lot for you on your fitness and health journey. Over my years of coaching people how to properly use a kettlebell, I have found that some people shy away from the kettlebell because it beats them up. I get it. You don't want bruises on your arm like you received two for flinching or a chunk of steel to bang your body. In all honesty, it's not the kettlebell most of the time, it's you, yes, you. Here are four things you might be doing with a kettlebell that makes it beat you up.

1. Holding on for dear life

Ease up on your grip a little bit. Most of the time the bell bangs you because you have a death grip on the handle. Because of the odd shape and nature of the tool, there are times where you don't want to have a loose grip and there are times where it's okay to have a firmer grip on the bell. When doing movements like the snatch and the clean, you want to have a loose grip so the bell can naturally move around in your hand. You can grip the bell tighter when doing something like the goblet squat or an overhead press. 

2. Taking a misguided path

The path of the bell is off and not quite right. A lot of things can be fixed when you adjust the path of your elbow and thumb. In the clean, the bell should stay close to your body/hip and the knuckle of your thumb should travel to your sternum, having your fist under your chin. For some, this may be a subtle adjustment, but for others, this will be a huge change you need to practice and work on. It's very important.

When it comes to the snatch, you may not be bending at the elbow at all so there can be no punch through at the top of the movement which, in turn, will force the bell to fly over the top and bang you on your wrist. When the proper bend is made, there can be a punch through and the bell will naturally move around your hand and rest softly on your wrist. 

3. Selling yourself short

You're not using what your momma gave ya- your engine, or what is also known as your hips and butt. You're just using your brute strength to get the bell to do what you want it to do, thus stiffening your body and not creating enough power to propel the weight and allowing the elbow, wrist, and thumb to do what they need to do. When the hips and butt are used, the bell can have its movement be more fluid which will translate into a more relaxed tension and control through your body.

4. Using the wrong weight

The bell simply may not be heavy enough. Unless you're a skilled lifter, you may not yet understand how much energy you need to give to move the different size weights. One way to create better technique and get the bell to do what you want it to is to use a heavier bell. The heavier weight will force you to do the technique properly to be successful.

If you find the bell beats you up, run through this quick checklist of adjustments and you will find that you can control the bell better. Until next time, continue to live a life 1 degree above the rest.