My interest in kettlebells is quite obvious on this blog. They are such a great training tool. I pump the kettle bell’s tires regularly because I think that they are the perfect representation of what multi-dimensional movement can and should be. Paired with a suspension trainer, you’ve got a complete home gym. That’s cool. Doing more with less. The future of training. Simplicity.
Speaking of simplicity, the kettlebell drill that I describe in this post is about as complicated as my training gets. It doesn’t need to be complicated when you are paying attention to the details, your technique, your movement.
Well, actually there is one movement that might top this for complexity, but it isn’t that crazy. I’ll write about it soon.
Multi-dimensional movement is something that most gym goers have never experienced, which is something that I am working to change… post by post.
The ability to move with stability, mobility and strength in all 3 possible planes of movement (shown above) is important. It keeps our bodies balanced and capable of handling physical stress in many different postures, both statically (not moving) and dynamically (moving).
Part of multi-dimensional movement is not only being able to initiate movement in all 3-planes (create force), but to be able to resist forces acting upon us in all 3-planes. The ability to absorb force without sacrificing posture- vulnerable positions where injury may lurk- is important.
One of the ways to train the body to resist external forces is to mix in a healthy amount to carrying, both dynamic and static. Carrying refers to loading either one side or both sides of the body with a challenging amount of weight, staying rigid with upright posture, and either holding the position without moving or walking for a specified distance. I suppose if you were not moving, you wouldn’t refer to the drill as a “carry”, but more of a “hold”.
There are many different variations of carrying which are phenomenal for building a body that functions as good as it looks, but touching on each will have to wait for another post.
For the purpose of this post, the kettlebell drill that I am learning to love involves a static posture (no movement) and one kettlebell. So as you can see, it’s simple. Simple is good.
The drill is can be referred to as a “Bottom’s Up Waiter Hold” (with kettlebell).
1) Grab a kettlebell of a challenging weight (experiment with what “challenging” is for you)
2) Clean the kettlebell to chest height, or use both hands to position the kettlebell upside down (bottoms up)
3) Hold the kettlebell just lateral to your midline/in front of your working arm’s shoulder, upside down, and balance for a specified amount of time.
4) Grip the bell hard with your hand, pull your elbow in tight to your side, and create total body tension.
5) Brace your core musculature and breathe through pursed lips
Time of hold: 15-45 seconds
Sets per side: 3-4 per arm
Where in the workout?: After the warm up, before the workout, when you are fresh.
Flipping the kettlebell upside down will instantly make everything in your world unstable. Not quite “massively destabilized”, but you’ll quickly feel the need to stay rigid in order to keep the bell balanced. During this time, your entire body is fighting to maintain an upright posture.
The mass of the kettlebell is typically located underneath the handle in most kettlebell exercises, so inverting the bell moves the mass above the handle. It’s the arms equivalent of putting your feet on a balance beam. (I hope this makes some kind of sense, I’m going with it)
As for coaching cues of staying tight and rigid… there is no other way to do this drill successfully. If you’re loose, you fail. You can’t fake it till you make it with this drill, which is why I love what it re-enforces. Tension. Don’t forget to learn how to breathe against that tension that you’ve created. That is important also.
Anytime you load one side of the body and not the other, the core fires in an effort to off-set the loading and protect the spine. It’s a natural reaction that should happen in most healthy functioning people, although our sitting epidemic is really hurting this. Pick up a suitcase, milk jug or anything else that has some decent weight, put your fingers into your stomach on the opposite and tell me what happens. Do you see now? The opposite side should feel noticeably contracted, hard.
One other fantastic benefit of flipping the kettlebell “bottom’s up” is the stability and packing component that the shoulder receives during the hold. Again, gripping the bell tight and packing the shoulder sends signals to the rest of the body, particularly the shoulder which is located in close proximity to the hand grip. The hand grip relays information that “something” is going on and it’s time to go to work.
Lastly, the move is completed in a standing position. What does that remind you of? Real life. I am ALL for re-training people on how to fire their core in sequences (rolling patterns, etc), but life happens on your feet. Training your body in the standing position, with feet firmly dug in, posture tall and rigid, is invaluable to me.
** Train on a surface that allows you to ditch the kettlebell if it falls or slips. I prefer grass or a thick rubber floor. Your nice hardwood or new tile in your home is not the place for this. Be careful in your attempt to catch the bell if it falls at any point. Attempting to save the bell is like catching a 40+ lb basketball with a handle, which can be disastrous.
*** If you use a dumbbell or anything other than a kettlebell for this, you’ll receive SOME benefit, but it will be watered down significantly compared to using a kettlebell. The challenge of balancing the kettlebell in the bottoms up position is what makes this drill effective. It will be hard to re-create that unstable environment with a dumbbell.
Give it a shot. Tell me what you think.
Cheers to going vertical with your core training!