This past weekend I had the fun experience of Kettlebell Sport competing at the Mid Michigan Kettlebell Invitational in Livonia, MI. This was only my second official competition with my first being a month prior. I've learned quite a bit of technique in the past couple months of training. You see I've been training with kettlebells for about 3 years now; however moreover in a more fitness style and not sport style training. At the beginning of March, after this year's Arnold Sports Festival where I had a few athletes (my wife one of them), I decided it was time I through myself onto the platform. I've had a lingering lumbar spine disc protrusion for the past 3 years which I've allowed to limit me and I wasn't gonna let that happen any longer. So I jumped into the Girevoy Sport water and decided to swim. It's been a fun past couple months and my technique and strength continue to improve. By exposing myself to these Kettlebell Sport competition experiences I rub shoulders with some of the best lifters the U.S. has to offer. Some of them have been privileged to have training opportunity with top level Russian lifters and coaches. That being said, they have passed some of their invaluable knowledge onto me and exposed both my weaknesses as well as gaps in my technique. By correcting my mistakes, from what I've learned in one weekend experience alone just being around these amazing athletes, it has made me a much better lifter and coach.
In hopes that you too will learn from my own technique mistakes I have included pics of what they look like and what to look/feel for when you are training.
Mistake 1. Use Proper Equipment: Get lifting shoes from the start. Get your own here: Rogue Fitness "Do-Wins"
Mistake 2. Have Proper Body Alignment: Always keep your elbows in front when resting in the rack. Never lean to one side or the other as you see me mistakenly do in the pictures below.
Mistake 3. Proper Lockout: When the bells are locked out overhead count "one one-thousand" before bringing them down. This will ensure a good lockout. My picture directly below is NOT a good lockout and was the last one I performed in my set before setting down my bells. I received a "No Count" for it and rightly so.
Definition of a proper overhead kettlebell lockout: By AKC Coach Mike Stefano The feet are flat on the floor, knees, hips straight and strong. Back is arched, and gaze forward. The lockout arm extends straight up over the head with the bicep near the ear. The elbow is locked and shoulder is seated. The kettlebell hangs off the heal of the hand (hip of the palm) behind the head, wrist is relaxed. Ears, shoulders, hips, and knees line up vertically creating a skeletal stack to accept the majority of the resting load. The palm is angled slightly towards the face, not rotated out where the kettlebell spins out overhead. The kettlebell is completely still or fixated. From the side view the upper arm appears to be perpendicular to the floor as it rises up out of the shoulder joint. The elbow joint is fully extended (not hyperextended) and completely locked. This may result in a gentle backward curve in the arm. Don't confuse this with the elbow being bent. The arm should never be in front of the face from the side view, as this will require much greater muscle contraction to stabilize the shoulder joint. How far back the arm will go depends upon the flexibility of the shoulder joint. Many people have a tight anterior, rounding the shoulders, thus preventing the arm from getting to that parallel-to-ear position while overhead, preventing a stable rest position.
Mistake 4. Fixation: Fixation in a nutshell means being in control of the kettlebell. Fixate the bells overhead prior to lowering them back to the rack in the case of Jerks and Long Cycle or before tossing back into the swing in the case of the Snatch. Fixation means no overhead movement of any kind as well as no unstable footing. To have good fixation both your elbows will be locked, both your knees will be locked, and there will be full bodily control over the bell. You will not have any momentum or movement going anywhere. By ensuring fixation overhead you will have all the stabilizer muscles working and ultimately become stronger. Once you have fixation you are ready to return the bell whence it came whether that was the rack position or to re-snatch it.
These are the things I am working directly on and my encouragement to you is to do the same no matter if you're working with one bell or two in your own training sessions. Even if you have no desire to compete in Kettlebell Sport you are going to benefit from proper overhead lockout, fixation, and focusing on body stability in all of your movements. Valery Fedorenko told me that fixation in the lockout is the key to kettlebell lifting whether for sport or fitness so that your body becomes strong, stable, and ensures chance of injury is greatly diminished. Having fixation means having control over the kettlebells. If you have control then you are able to better focus and succeed in your kettlebell training goals.