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Kettlebell Form check swings and bent press

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JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi all,

Have embarked upon Dave Whitley's Bent and Sinister program from his sublime Taming the Bent Press book (thank you Mr. Whitley), and was hoping for a form check on my swings and bent presses. Some background: early 30s, ~150lb, 5ft 10, prior training with barbells (strength level 2xBW deadlift). Started with a 20kg bell.

Bent Press (left and right)
VID_20160911_172229748.mp4

Swings (two-handed, single-handed left, single-handed right)
VID_20160911_172954644.mp4
VID_20160911_173130632.mp4
VID_20160911_173242957.mp4

This is the first time I took videos. For BPs I noticed that I find it hard to complete the drop under the bell without a slight press up with the tricep at the very end. Will work on that. Only recently started to get at all comfortable with one-handed swings. Added some farmers walks here and there, and the increase in grip strength has definitely helped.
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks Steve, great community you have here. I should also mention that I do have plans to have a certified StrongFirst instructor take a look at my form, but with a newborn around that won't happen for a while. In the meantime it would be great to know if I'm developing any glaringly obvious bad habits. Thanks!
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Hi Joe, welcome to the forum and congratulations on the newborn.

I won't try to comment on the bent press as I'm still kinda struggling with that one myself.

On the swings, you're on the right track, but you're not getting an efficient power transfer from your legs/hips to the bell. Focus on getting tighter, both in the hinge position and in the standing plank (top of the swing). Pull the shoulders down, packed, throughout the swing. Feel everything get TIGHT at the top of the swing -- pull up on the kneecaps, tight quads, tight glutes, tight abs... and packed shoulders. I see you find some of that tightness for a microsecond, but you need to hold it longer. Then at the bottom of the swing, feel tight there too, and let the bell pull your arm back as you stretch your chest forward, then at just the right time (a little longer than you are doing now), explode back up for the upswing.

Let us know how it goes! Maybe others will have some more. But I'd focus first on getting tight. Which, by the way, you can practice anytime without the kettlebell. Just move from hinge to plank and back, practicing this tension. It's really important.
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi Joe, welcome to the forum and congratulations on the newborn.

I won't try to comment on the bent press as I'm still kinda struggling with that one myself.

On the swings, you're on the right track, but you're not getting an efficient power transfer from your legs/hips to the bell. Focus on getting tighter, both in the hinge position and in the standing plank (top of the swing). Pull the shoulders down, packed, throughout the swing. Feel everything get TIGHT at the top of the swing -- pull up on the kneecaps, tight quads, tight glutes, tight abs... and packed shoulders. I see you find some of that tightness for a microsecond, but you need to hold it longer. Then at the bottom of the swing, feel tight there too, and let the bell pull your arm back as you stretch your chest forward, then at just the right time (a little longer than you are doing now), explode back up for the upswing.

Let us know how it goes! Maybe others will have some more. But I'd focus first on getting tight. Which, by the way, you can practice anytime without the kettlebell. Just move from hinge to plank and back, practicing this tension. It's really important.

Thanks Anna, your comments are very helpful. Now that you say it, I can see that I'm a bit "wobbly" at the bottom, the tightness is either not held long enough or is inconsistent at the top, and the timing is too early with the hip snap. I've always thought that the bell wasn't responding as much as I thought/hoped it would, even when I thought I was producing a powerful hip snap. Also hadn't thought of practicing the tightness away from the bell. Will definitely start doing this.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 9 Valued Member
My two ȼ:
Your bent press looks like it is progressing. Try to keep the leg under the uphill hip, the original supporting hip, a little straighter initially. That knee should only really bend as you get into the bottom of the lift about the time the elbow locks out. You'll know you're doing it right when you feel like you could indefinitely hold the load at the bottom of the lift. If the smaller muscles of your arms or delts are doing too much work prior to straightening back up, you aren't going over far enough prior to locking out.

For the swings - You look like you're doing them safely, so a big plus. Per Anna C try to pack those shoulders a bit tighter back and packed into the socket. This alone will help you stand taller at the top of the movement, give tighter contact between the upper arms and the rib cage and will promote better energy transfer through the hips. Also looks like you could push your tailbone further back at the bottom of the movement. Evey couple of reps look down at your lower legs at the bottom of your swing - you want them as close to straight vertical as possible. They will lean forward a bit from ankle to knee, but it should be your intention to prevent this as much as possible.

So far so good!

Martin
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
My two ȼ:
Your bent press looks like it is progressing. Try to keep the leg under the uphill hip, the original supporting hip, a little straighter initially. That knee should only really bend as you get into the bottom of the lift about the time the elbow locks out. You'll know you're doing it right when you feel like you could indefinitely hold the load at the bottom of the lift. If the smaller muscles of your arms or delts are doing too much work prior to straightening back up, you aren't going over far enough prior to locking out.

For the swings - You look like you're doing them safely, so a big plus. Per Anna C try to pack those shoulders a bit tighter back and packed into the socket. This alone will help you stand taller at the top of the movement, give tighter contact between the upper arms and the rib cage and will promote better energy transfer through the hips. Also looks like you could push your tailbone further back at the bottom of the movement. Evey couple of reps look down at your lower legs at the bottom of your swing - you want them as close to straight vertical as possible. They will lean forward a bit from ankle to knee, but it should be your intention to prevent this as much as possible.

So far so good!

Martin

I think you're spot on with your assessments. I've definitely been struggling with figuring out the right depth for "going over far enough", as you say. Will work on straightening the supporting hip a bit more and see if I can get the right angle.

For the swings, my tailbone probably doesn't go back sufficiently far because I have (and always had) tight hamstrings, even when I was training as a sprinter. Hopefully as my mobility improves (am doing the hamstring stretch from S&S, and need a belt to assist with getting into position), I will get better range at the bottom. Thank you!
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
Update - right after that post I found some time to head out back with the bell to practice your pointers.

1. BP - Keeping the supporting leg initially straighter and descending lower under the bell finally led to a feeling of the "column of support" running from the opposite (to the bell) foot up through the shoulder to the bell. It's a pretty cool feeling. Dave W. talks a lot about this column in his book but this is the first time I ever really felt it.
2. Swings - Focused on really packing the shoulders and this led to a feeling of tightness in the lats throughout the sets (decided to implement this one pointer for now; in sprint training we were always taught to focus on one thing at a time). The power difference is amazing. The momentum of the bell now causes it to rotate upwards in my fingers at the top of the swing.

A long way to go but I'm already delighted I posted to ask for advice!
 

North Coast Miller

Level 9 Valued Member
Update - right after that post I found some time to head out back with the bell to practice your pointers.

1. BP - Keeping the supporting leg initially straighter and descending lower under the bell finally led to a feeling of the "column of support" running from the opposite (to the bell) foot up through the shoulder to the bell. It's a pretty cool feeling. Dave W. talks a lot about this column in his book but this is the first time I ever really felt it.
2. Swings - Focused on really packing the shoulders and this led to a feeling of tightness in the lats throughout the sets (decided to implement this one pointer for now; in sprint training we were always taught to focus on one thing at a time). The power difference is amazing. The momentum of the bell now causes it to rotate upwards in my fingers at the top of the swing.

A long way to go but I'm already delighted I posted to ask for advice!


Good news!
I still (vaguely) remember the first time I did a BP with good form and it locked in almost effortlessly - "Ah hah! So that's how it works!" The breakthrough came when, at the end of a tough workout, I reppd BPs with a 16kg to the point of failure. As my muscles gassed out, I sort of subconsciously adjusted my form to lift as much with my skeleton as possible.

This video helped crack it open for me:

Swings likewise I did them with safe but not really effective form for a few prior to dialing it in (keeping in mind there are several traditions for this movement) and the sensation of the bell launching from a low power base - through my hips instead of my rib-cage - was a great feeling. Just keeping those shoulders packed will do wonders for your form - the sensation of big lat activation is a great sign.

Keep stretching the hamstrings, maybe some glute bridges, concentrate on nailing the downswing mechanics and you'll be there in no time.
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Try imagine getting taller at the lockout for swings focus on making the bell float and being linked rather than bell speed.. Smooth technique and bell speed will follow by default.

Try pressing the bell away earlier and get really tight and lock the elbow before standing up for the bent press..

Keep practicing and we appreciate your desire for feedback
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks Mark, and sorry for the late reply. It's been a hectic week. The swings are still a work in progress (although your comment about making the bell float is helping) but the bent press is coming along. Today is the first day I managed to practice in daylight for a week or so, so got to take some videos.

Finally managing to lock out the arm on BPs :)

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9-ApidgnnosREN3NTUzUTZWS0E
 

North Coast Miller

Level 9 Valued Member
Thanks Mark, and sorry for the late reply. It's been a hectic week. The swings are still a work in progress (although your comment about making the bell float is helping) but the bent press is coming along. Today is the first day I managed to practice in daylight for a week or so, so got to take some videos.

Finally managing to lock out the arm on BPs :)

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9-ApidgnnosREN3NTUzUTZWS0E


That is much better, nothing but to practice and listen to what your skeleton is telling you.

The only suggestion I can muster is to maybe get your elbow a bit further past your centerline at the beginning, so the load drags it more to the downhill slope on the back of your ribcage (if that makes sense...). It makes the load steady itself instead of having to balance it on the crest of the ribcage.

Good Job!
 

JoeB

Level 1 Valued Member
That is much better, nothing but to practice and listen to what your skeleton is telling you.

The only suggestion I can muster is to maybe get your elbow a bit further past your centerline at the beginning, so the load drags it more to the downhill slope on the back of your ribcage (if that makes sense...). It makes the load steady itself instead of having to balance it on the crest of the ribcage.

Good Job!

Thanks again for your stellar advice. Your suggestion does indeed make sense. I tried getting the arm past the centerline by really pulling the lat back. Definitely helps with stability. I just realized I never acknowledged your previous post. It's cool to hear your story about your eureka moment.

One thing that's surprised me about all this is how my bent press is developing (at least in terms of technique) much faster than the swings, given the technicality of the former. Maybe it's just because I find them so enjoyable.

Regarding swings, tonight I realized that I've been over-interpreting advice about keeping the arms super-relaxed. I think I overdo it to the point that there is too much slack, and engaging them a little bit more to guide the bell gives much better control over the movement.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 9 Valued Member
IMHO, the swing is one of those exercises one might never truly "master". There is just so much going on that every time you think you've got it nailed you realize there's another detail revealed by the previous improvement.

It doesn't help that there are a couple of traditions re technique that are safe and effective in different ways, and for me there's a real difference in how it feels going from moderate weight one hand to heavy weight two hand, alternating one hand - all use the same principles and might even look more or less the same - but feel a little different when executed.

I'll second your observation re keeping the arms relaxed. I fire the shoulder muscles and lats to keep them packed good and tight, and keep the muscles of the lower arms fired pretty good as well, as an aid to actively execute the downward portion and prevent yanking on my biceps at the insertion point. Keeping them fired also transfers energy from the hips and ribcage more effectively, becoming critical as the load increases.

The only "relaxation" factor is that I don't use the delts to assist in raising the bell at all, though they might fire a little on the way back down.
 
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