Bent elbow when doing heavy swings

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by Robert Noftz, Aug 12, 2017.

  1. Robert Noftz

    Robert Noftz Valued Participant

    I have heard that when doing deadlifts and person should keep their elbow straight so that they don't tear their bicep muscle. What about when doing heavy swings?
    In some of the directions for swings I have read it is stated that a slight elbow bend is allowable. I usually keep mine straight. One time when I was practicing I was attempting to delay my hinge until my arms were closer to my body. I think in the effort to do this I started bending my elbow and pulling the kettlebell into my body to some degree. I felt a pulling or strain in one of my arm muscles. I think it was the forearm muscle next to the bicep muscle. When I straightened my elbow it went away but I noticed a mild discomfort in the area. I guess it could have been the bicep muscles but I think it was the brachialis. I am not an expert in anatomy so I can't be sure. After it happened I wondered if I might have been close to a serious injury.
    Also, I did start adding snatches to my routine lately and it seems like there was some extra stress on my arm muscles. This was the first time I ever felt anything like that. I am very cautious about avoiding injuries.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  2. Harald Motz

    Harald Motz More than 1,000 posts Certified Instructor

    Page 36 of S&S on swing standards:
    8. The kettlebell forms an extension of the forearm at the top of the swing; the arm is almost straight.

    When doing snatches, the arc has to be tamed, the elbow shows flexion then. Especially the catch on the downswing puts stress on the crooks of the elbows eccentrically. When I started heavier snatches last year, I remember some soreness in this region at the beginning, which vanished over some time completely.

    Easing into snatches, building up slowly to adapt on it is just common sense.
  3. Pavel Macek

    Pavel Macek More than 1,000 posts Senior Instructor

    Generally, aim for straight arms, but:

    - in two-hand swings, the arms might be slightly bent, especially if you have wider shoulders. I do not have wide shoulders, but my arms are slightly bent in 2-hand swings
    - for medical reasons, your elbow might not be completely straight.

    SFG standard (quote from the manual):

    5. The arm is straight in the bottom position.
    8. The kettlebell forms an extension of the straight arm at the top of the swing. A slight elbow bend is acceptable.

    Notice "slight". No T-rex swings.

    - snatch - see what @Harald Motz wrote above
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  4. Steve W.

    Steve W. More than 1,000 posts

    @Robert Noftz
    The big danger is when your arm is slightly bent and gets pulled straight by the force of the bell under partial tension. This is a recipe for elbow tendinitis.

    For swings the ways to avoid this are:
    --Keep the arm straight througout. Avoid bending your arms in the first place.
    --Make sure you stay relaxed any time your bent arm is pulled straight.
    --Antipate the force of the bell and deliberately straighten and lock your arm before the force of the bell pulls on it.

    Option 1 is the one I recommend since there is less opportunity to get it wrong.

    For snatches (and cleans), you obviously have to bend and straighten the elbow, so option 1 no longer applies. It definitely takes some practice and experimentation to find the right rhythm of tension and relaxation to avoid unnecessary stress on the elbow, plus a period of adaptation.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
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  5. Rif

    Rif Helping Make Others Stronger

    There is also the issue of the 'carry angle' . when you put your arms by your sides, palms forward, how far your hands are away from the legs is the 'carry angle'. I have elbows that hyperextend and a big carry angle.What this means is that when I cross midline for one arm or two hand swings. my elbow wants to bend a bit in the back swing.

    I work hard not to let this happen. You do not want to have bent elbows in the bottom of a very heavy one arm swing.
    Bicep tears are not fun, I have had two partials so I can tell you from experience
    and of course, do not 'pull'on the bell out of the back swing with the arms, that for sure is setting your biceps up for problems.
    the elbow bending a bit during the float is one thing. A T-Rex swing where the upper arm never leaves the rib cage is not.

    Two kettlebell swings completely solves this problem for me as I can keep the elbows completely straight on the back swing as they don't cross mid line. Of course there is the problem of really short legs :)

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