How To Grip The Kettlebell – Part I - Strong As Hec

How To Grip The Kettlebell – Part I

One of the most common question I get from many of our students and even candidates at kettlebell instructor certifications is, how Should I be gripping the kettlebell?

This is a great question!

Here is my answer...

It depends.

*gasp* (thanks Hector that was the answer I was looking for.)

Calm down, I'll explain 🙂

But before I get into how to grip the kettlebell let me first start with the...

4 particular starting positions to initiate your kettlebell lifts...

Each with their own specific postural response. The following 4 starting positions I learned from my friend and mentor, Geoff Neupert back in 2012 at my level II RKC.

Let's dive in...

Position #1 - The V-Grip

Grip The Kettlebell
Grip The Kettlebell

In the "V-grip" you literally line the bells up to make a "V". This will take your shoulders into internal rotation with your thumbs pointing back between your legs.

This set up will be challenging for an individual with tightness in the thoracic spine (upper back muscles) and can lead to rounding of the upper back.

This can also make it challenging to keep a good connection with the lats.

Position #2 - The Inverted V-Grip

Grip The Kettlebell
Grip The Kettlebell

This grip variation is my personal favorite. 

This will allow plenty of room for the bells to pass through the legs without compromising your upper back position. Even if you have a some limitation in your thoracic spine.

One of the subtle details of this starting position is...

... the reduced amount of rotation the kettlebell has to go through from the floor to the rack position compared to the v-grip mentioned above.

The less moving parts the better.

But one of the most important pieces is...

... a tighter lat connection because you will already be preset in an externally rotated posture which will reflexively engage your lats. 

Position #3 -The Barbell Grip

Grip The Kettlebell
Grip The Kettlebell

The barbell grip is very similar to the v-grip.

All the benefits are the same in regard to the upper back position. There's a little more bell rotation as you receive the bells in the rack compared to the inverted v-grip but...

... there's still less than the v-grip.

The only downfall to the barbell grip is...

The space available for the bells to travel between the legs. The heavier the kettlebells
are--the bigger the diameter of the bells.

Heavier bells with this grip would require a wider stance.

Position #4 -The Pistol Grip

Grip The Kettlebell
Grip The Kettlebell

The pistol grip is a very popular grip in the world of Kettlebell Sport (GS).

The reason GS lifters prefer this grip is there is less rotation of the bell around the wrist as you receive the bells in the rack.

In GS it's all about efficiency and energy conservation. So less rotation is less energy used.

The only downfall to this grip is...

... it can put a lot of stress on the bicep tendon leading to some hyperextension of the elbow. If you don't know what you're doing--I'd avoid this grip.

So which grip is best and how should you be grip the kettlebell? 

As Chief SFG Brett Jones would say, "Show me the client."

At the end of the day...

It truly depends on the student/lifter as to what grip I would have them use. Before prescribing a particular set up, I ask myself these questions:

  • What's their history of exercise?
  • Previous injuries?
  • Daily lifestyle habits? 
  • etc...

I encourage you to give these starting positions some practice and let me know which you prefer and which works best for you by leaving a comment below.

Talk soon.

hec g.

P.S. In part 2 of how to grip a kettlebell. I reveal 3 particular grips to use depending on the kettlebell exercises you're practicing.