Kettlebell Tip of the Day: The Grip Gripe

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One of the biggest complaints I hear from novice kettlebell lifters is “My hands hurt!”

For those of you that are seasoned Kettlebell Sport lifters, you know that ripping your hands is NOT a good thing. Rather, getting blisters signals a need for technique refinement.

More specifically, if the handle of the kettlebell is pulling on the center of your palm during the clean or snatch drop, you are likely gripping the bell too hard in resting positions and therefore catching the bell incorrectly.

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Proper grip on the kettlebell (“hook grip” or “C-grip”, as seen in picture above) is catching the handle of the bell in your fingers, with a finger lock to secure its position (thumb over forefinger). Most of the weight should be towards the middle and forefinger, close to the thumb.

In order to secure the proper hand position in the backswing of your snatch – the movement where ripping your hand is the biggest concern – it’s necessary to create space for the bell to move prior to the drop.

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By creating space, I mean that you keep your fingers loose in the overhead position (see above picture), so that when you turn the bell, its handle will plop right into your fingers instead of rubbing across your palm on its way  down.

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Proper hand position in the overhead position (on the left) will prevent blisters in the palm of your hand.

A tight grip on the bell in the overhead position (on the right) will result in forearm fatigue, a jerky drop (pardon the pun), and more rips in your hand than is conducive to the regular kettlebell training needed to become proficient in the sport.

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If you need more proof that loose grip at the top of the snatch is crucial to higher numbers, check out this picture of World Record Holder in the 24kg Snatch Ksenia Dedukhina.

Want more Kettlebell Sport tips? Let me know in the comments what you would like to read about.

Related posts:
4 Reasons Why Kettlebell Sport Will Grow in 2015
My Kettlebell Breakthrough: The Magic of Practice
Interview with Ice Chamber kettlebell coach Steven Khuong Part 1
Interview with Ice Chamber kettlebell coach Steven Khuong Part 2

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5 thoughts on “Kettlebell Tip of the Day: The Grip Gripe”

  1. You mentioned that a tight grip at the top may result in forearm fatigue. Are there any other areas during the snatch movement that could also result in forearm fatigue? Perhaps in the backswing or even the initial thrust upward?
    I ask because during long sets, no matter the weight (currently using 8, 12 and 16) my forearms are the absolute first thing to go. Every time. Often resulting in hard tight muscles.
    Thanks. Great article.

    1. Hi Spence,

      Yes there are so many things that can lead to forearm fatigue in snatch! I can’t tell you exactly why your forearms are burning out without seeing you lift.

      Essentially it all boils down to this: if your grip is failing, it’s a symptom of sub-par technique. And trust me, everyone’s grip goes at some point, but the better your technique the longer your grip will last! Timing is crucial in snatch and if timing is off, forearm fatigue will result.

      An additional tips: Make sure you are using the proper breathing pattern with a long exhale in the backswing.

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