Essential Details for Proper Swing Grip and the Kettlebell Halo

“I learned no detail was too small. It was all about the details.”—Brad Gray

As an Instructor, I walk the line between seeing all the details and knowing which details to draw attention to for my student. If we draw attention to every detail, then we can overwhelm the student and create “paralysis by analysis.” If details are ignored, then the student may not get the full benefit from the drill. So, we walk the line to provide just the right amount of information.

In this article, I will provide some details on how to grip the kettlebell for swings and how to execute the kettlebell halo that can make a difference in your results.

Details on Gripping the Kettlebell for Swings

Essential Details for Proper Swing Grip and the Kettlebell Halo

“Grip it and rip it” might be a common saying for golf, deadlifts, and other activities, but in the kettlebell swing it can set you up for issues with calluses and blisters. With its thick handle and offset center of gravity, the kettlebell provides grip benefits not found in more traditional implements. This also means a bit of attention to detail is needed.

As you can see in the video, the proper grip for the kettlebell swing is not a full grip where the handle is in the palm of the hand. This may feel like a solid grip, but this placement will pinch the palm at the base of the fingers and result in calluses and blisters.

Essential Details for Proper Swing Grip and the Kettlebell HaloInstead, the front “face” of the handle (the part of the handle facing away from you) should be in the proximal phalanges of the fingers with the calluses not pinched by the handle. In doing so, your fingers will be able to wrap around the handle and a solid grip is achieved. Tilting the kettlebell toward you also makes this grip detail easier to implement. This small adjustment allows for a strong grip without the friction and rubbing of the full palm grip.

Also, keep in mind that a strong grip is not necessarily a “death grip.” Over-gripping the handle can be the cause of many issues especially when you progress to snatches, where the kettlebell has to be able to move in the hand.

Oh, and one more thing (I’m pretty sure that will be my epitaph):

You must stay in sync with the kettlebell. Remember you are swinging the kettlebell, not the other way around.

Guiding the arm back to the ribs with the lat(s) and hinging once you are reconnected will keep you in sync during the eccentric portion of the swing. Combine this with not cutting your backswing short and the force production out of the backswing will also stay in sync. Have the patience to stay in sync with the rhythmically repetitive nature of the swing.

Details for Executing the Kettlebell Halo

The kettlebell halo is used as part of the Simple & Sinister warm-up and is recommended as a shoulder opener, but there are some additional details that will help you in correctly applying this movement.

A deceptively simple drill of moving the kettlebell around the head, the halo has some key points to be aware of:

  1. Don’t do it if it causes any pain or discomfort. Adjust the range and height of the kettlebell to stay within your movement ability.
  2. Keep a neutral wrist (see video).
  3. Move the kettlebell around your head, do not move the head to avoid the kettlebell.
  4. The range of the halo can extend so the kettlebell drops behind the head and down the back to open the shoulders. But, again, do not go beyond your movement ability.
  5. Tilt the kettlebell. Beginning from the bottom-up position at the start, the kettlebell will tilt and the bottom of the it should point where you are moving it (see video).
  6. Go slowly.
  7. Choose the right weight. This is a drill for a lighter load.
  8. Perform 3-5 halos in each direction.

Remember the kettlebell halo is a drill not a skill. It is a good way to warm up or increase shoulder motion, but should not be performed for high reps or as a “main dish.”

Where Benefits Are Found

As with most of my articles, these details and tips resulted from working with my own students and from my own teaching at events.

Establishing the proper grip for swings can help prevent tears and developing callouses that are too thick—and this means more swings. Better swings can lead to more effective learning of the kettlebell snatch and so on. A well performed kettlebell halo can be great for the shoulders and getting ready for a practice session, but missing details like the neutral wrist and the “pointing” of the kettlebell in the direction can make the halo feel “off.”

The devil may be in the details, but the benefits are usually found there, as well. Enjoy the details and keep us posted on your progress on the forum.

Brett Jones
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching—e-mail him for more info.

Brett is the author of Iron Cardio.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
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