The kettlebell is an extremely diverse training tool and unlike the dumbbell can be held in a variety of ways including the kettlebell rack position and kettlebell rack hold.
As the kettlebell weight is offset from the handle how you hold the kettlebell can have a big impact on the type of results you achieve.
I’d like to share with you how to hold a kettlebell along with the 7 different kettlebell holding positions that you can use and the advantages and drawbacks of each.
Here’s a quick introduction into how to hold a kettlebell:
1. Two Handed Kettlebell Holding Position
One of the first kettlebell holding positions you are likely to learn is the two handed holding position.
As shown above the two handed position is most commonly used with the two handed kettlebell swing.
It is important to ensure that you are using the correct type of kettlebell for this exercise.
Some kettlebells, competition kettlebells for example, are designed only for one hand and so using this holding position is very difficult and can feel cramped.
The two handed holding position will be your strongest position and enable you to lift the most amount of weight either using the two handed deadlift off the floor or with the two handed swing.
The only major drawback with this holding position is the amount of exercises that you are able to perform, other than the two handed deadlift and two handed swing your options are limited.
2. Single Handed Kettlebell Hold
The single handed holding position is very popular.
Many kettlebell exercises will use this holding position either exclusively for exercises including the kettlebell row (as shown above), single arm deadlift variations, single arm swings, high pulls, or as a means to transition the kb front rack hold (shown later).
The single arm holding position places more load on the shoulder as well as creating rotation through the body which ultimately needs to be counteracted by the core muscles.
Holding the kettlebell with the single hand will also put a greater strain on the grip and forearms muscles. So many beginners often struggle with their grip strength when they first start kettlebell training using this holding position.
Learn more: 6 kettlebell row variations for a strong back
3. By the Body Kettlebell Hold
There are many two handed kettlebell exercises that involve holding the kettlebell at chest height, the easiest way to hold the kettlebell in this position is “by the body”.
As demonstrated with the Kettlebell Bob & Weave exercise above, the kettlebell is held with the thumbs around the handle and the rest of the hands hold the body of the kettlebell.
Holding the kettlebell in the above way enables a number of exercises in a safe and controlled way including many squat and lunge variations, and two handed overhead presses.
The main disadvantage of the “by the body” holding position is that after several repetitions the kettlebell has a tendency to slide down through the hands making the grip challenging and readjustment necessary.
4. Kettlebell Goblet Hold
A slightly more comfortable way to hold the kettlebell at chest height is in the goblet hold position.
During this holding position the kettlebell is held purely by the horns as is demonstrated by the Kettlebell Goblet Squat shown above.
The goblet holding position does place additional demands on the wrists as the kettlebell has a tendency to flip and flop backwards and forwards.
However, the instability produced by this holding position can be countreracted by resting the kettlebell against the chest when fatigue sets in.
You will see the goblet grip holding position used with the kettlebell halo warm up exercise which is a great way to acclimatise to this type of grip position.
Learn more: Guide to the kettlebell goblet squat
5. Kettlebell Rack Position
The kettlebell rack hold position is very important to master as you progress your kettlebell training.
During this position the kettlebell is held comfortably against the chest with the arm tucked in, wrist straight, shoulder down and Latissimus Dorsi muscle engaged.
When correctly engaged the kb front rack hold should be sustainable for long periods of time without fatigue.
One common mistake is to wing the elbow out to the side and hold the kettlebell out and close to the shoulder, this position will lead to fatigue very quickly.
In the kettlebell front rack carry position many kettlebell exercises are possible including the clean, overhead press, and many squat and lunge variations.
You can also use a front rack double kettlebell hold like this:
6. Overhead Kettlebell Holding Position
As you get more advanced with your kettlebell training you are going to end up holding and pressing the kettlebell overhead.
When the kettlebell goes overhead the body of the kettlebell will rest against the wrist / forearm and the wrist should be locked nice and straight to protect it.
During the overhead holding position the type of kettlebell you are using will come into play.
For example, a badly designed kettlebell can pinch the wrist or feel very uncomfortable against the forearm.
7. Bottoms Up Kettlebell Hold
The most challenging of all the kettlebell holding positions is the bottoms up hold as demonstrated in the image above.
Great alignment throughout the arm and body as well as wrist strength and balance are required to use this holding position.
The bottoms up clean is a great place to begin mastering this position. Once mastered you can progress to the bottoms up press as illustrated above.
Caution must be taken when practicing this holding position as the kettlebell has a tendency to flop over and so you need to be in a position to get out of the way or even drop the kettlebell if necessary.
The instability of this holding position can be a great way to improve shoulder stability and alignment issues that may need addressing.
To see more posts about basic kettlebell training, go here.
What’s your favourite kettlebell holding position? Let me know below…