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When I started training with kettlebells, I was frustrated that I couldn’t get the kettlebell into a racked position without hitting my wrist/forearm over and over again. I was tired of being held back by my inability to rack the kettlebell, so I dedicated my time to finding out what I was doing wrong.
Here’s how to keep the kettlebells from hitting your wrist:
- Have The Right Grip
- Use The Hips To Elevate The Kettlebell
- Keep The Kettlebell Close
- Rotate The Hand In Spiral Motion To Rack
- Receive The Kettlebell In A Stacked Position
- Practice The Negative
- Use A Kettlebell With a Suitable Window Size
It is important to learn how to rack the kettlebell properly without hitting the wrist so that we can avoid injury, and also preserve our energy when we’re doing higher repetitions.
In this article I’ll discuss my top tips to keep the kettlebell from hitting your wrist, and include 4 mistakes to avoid when transitioning to a racked position so that we can get the most out of our kettlebell movements.
While the kettlebell swing technique is important in stopping the weight from hitting your wrist, I often suggest people invest in a pair of wrist guards. Check out my review of the Best Kettlebell Wrist Guards where I tested 4 popular brands.
7 Tips To Keep The Kettlebell From Hitting The Wrist
1. Have The Right Grip
To avoid hitting the wrist in racked movements, we should grip the kettlebell closer to the horn of the kettlebell, and position the handle across the palm at a 45 degree angle – especially in the receiving position for cleans and snatches.
The first step setting ourselves up for success in racked positions is to ensure we are gripping the kettlebell in the right place and in the right way.
This helps us to avoid hitting our wrist/forearm when we transition from a neutral position (the handle is in the palm and the bell is handing below in the air) to a racked position (where the kettlebell handle is across the palm and the bell is supported against the wrist/forearm).
We should ensure our grip is closer to one of the horns of the kettlebell (where the handle bends on either side) when the kettlebell is in the neutral hanging position, and focus on receiving the kettlebell in the racked position with the handle cutting across the palm at a 45 degree angle (along the fat pad of the the thumb).
2. Use The Hips To Elevate The Kettlebell
In order to get the momentum we need for a fast transition from the floor to the racked position, we need to use the power from the hips to elevate the kettlebell rather than lifting with the arms.
Similar to the kettlebell swing, we need to gain momentum by using the strength/power of the hips, as they are much more effective than trying to lift with the arms.
If we’re able to lift with the arms then it could be that the weight is currently too light, but as we progress in weight we will no longer be able to get to a racked position (especially without the weight crashing on us) if we are not getting the power from our lower body.
It is worth practicing the kettlebell swing first, even though the technique for the clean and snatch varies from the swing technique, to learn how to use the lower body to get the kettlebell moving – rather than using the arms.
3. Keep The Kettlebell Close
To avoid hitting the wrist/forearm we want to keep the kettlebell close to maintain control over the kettlebell by reducing the arc of the kettlebell as it travels.
Keeping the kettlebell close to our body is important because the closer the kettlebell is to us, the more control we have over the trajectory of the kettlebell.
If we lose control of the kettlebell and/or it gets too much momentum in the wrong direction then it is more likely to hit us in the wrist/forearm when we receive it.
To learn to keep the kettlebell close, many kettlebell users practice with a towel between the body and the elbow while performing a kettlebell clean. With this drill, the goal is to maintain the towel in its position – if the towel drops then our elbow has gone too far away from the body when transitioning to the racked position.
4. Rotate The Hand In Spiral Motion To Rack
To keep the wrist from getting hit by the kettlebell, we should rotate the hand in a spiral motion to rack the kettlebell once it reaches the point of weightlessness.
We want to rotate the hand to redirect the kettlebell from its trajectory upwards to the racked position – which is accomplished by loosening our grip and inserting our hand through the handle in a spiral motion to rack the kettlebell.
While this may sound confusing, it is easier to implement than we might think once we begin practicing. The goal is to get the kettlebell to go around into the racked position, rather than going up and over – which leads to the wrist/forearm getting hit.
To time the insertion correctly, we want to wait until the kettlebell reaches the point where it is weightless and nearly parallel to the floor – at this point we will open the hand, insert our hand through the kettlebell window to rotate spirally into a racked position.
5. Receive The Kettlebell With A Stacked Position
To help keep the kettlebell from hitting our wrist and forearm, we should focus on receiving the kettlebell with the elbow and wrist in a stacked position to maintain a neutral line.
If the elbow is flared or the wrist is bent back and we do not maintain a neutral line, we are more likely to hit the wrist or forearm with the kettlebell when we receive it in the racked position.
If we’re ending up in this position and we cannot fix it simply be being conscious of the position we’re trying to achieve, it is worth looking at our grip and/or the placement of the kettlebell in the palm of our hand – because mistakes in either or these components could cause us to be receiving the kettlebell with the wrong elbow/hand position.
How to care for your kettlebell and ensure it doesn't get any rust is important. Check out our guide on How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell, which also includes prevention tips.
6. Practice The Negative
To help nail down our technique and avoid hitting our wrist/forearm in the turnover, we should practice the negative (going from racked position to neutral position) to build consistency in the position we are struggling with.
If we’re having trouble putting all the steps together to avoid hitting the wrist/forearm then we should start in the racked position by placing the kettlebell in the position that we want to receive it (with the elbow and wrist stacked, the handle at a 45 degree angle across the palm, gripping the horn).
Once we have the ideal racked position we want to reverse the movement and return to the neutral position, and then to the floor.
In the beginning we should start from the racked position to the floor, and then return to the racked position by resetting the kettlebell back in the position we are looking for.
Once we start to build consistency in the negative, we can start trying to connect the reps by starting from the racked, bringing it down to the floor, and then transitioning from the floor back to the racked position.
7. Use A Kettlebell With A Suitable Window Size
If we’re still having difficulty keeping the kettlebell from hitting the wrist, we should evaluate whether the kettlebell we are using has the right window size to accommodate the movement.
The window size of the kettlebell can affect our ability to rack the kettlebell because if the window size is too large or too small, we may not be able to insert our hand efficiently which impacts the positioning of the handle across the palm, the timing of the insertion, and the placement of the kettlebell in the racked position.
The kettlebells that are built for higher-repetitions of racked movements are competition and fitness kettlebells. They are designed primarily for one-handed movements and therefore have an ideal window size to slide our hand through the window into the racked position.
If we don’t have access to competition kettlebells, then we are likely going to be using an iron kettlebell. With iron kettlebells we need to ensure that we are using the appropriate size to accommodate the racked movements (the size of the window/bell changes depending on the weight and brand that we choose).
Kettlebell Style Resources:
- Cast Iron vs Steel Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Powder Coats vs Competition Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- Plastic vs Iron Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
4 Mistakes To Avoid When Transitioning To A Racked Position
- Gripping Too Tight
- Having Too Much Arc
- Letting The Kettlebell Come Up and Over
- Using A “Barbell Grip”
1. Gripping Too Tight
If we are gripping the kettlebell too tight, we will not be able to open our hand to insert it into the window and transition to the racked position as smoothly.
While it can be tempting to put a death grip on the kettlebell – especailly as it gets heavier – we want to keep a more relaxed grip to ensure a smooth transition of our hand at the right time to prevent the kettlebell from hitting us when we receive it.
Many kettlebell users choose to use a hook grip (gripping our thumb between the handle and our fingers) as the weights get heavier, because our grip can be more relaxed and the kettlebell handle can rest in fingers – while still being secure.
Our grip on the kettlebell should be relaxed but secure to ensure the best results and to avoid hitting our wrist.
2. Having Too Much Arc
If we have too much arc in the kettlebell then the kettlebell is traveling too far away from the body, and we have less control over the trajectory of the bell – which usually results in a forearm smack upon receiving it.
When the kettlebell has a larger arc, it is usually because we are not keeping the kettlebell close to us and we are treating the movement too much like a kettlebell swing where the arms extend away from us. Instead, we want to keep the elbow pinned (or atleast close to) our side during the transition to the racked position.
If the kettlebell has a larger arc then our arm is likely too extended, and we are creating too much momentum in the wrong direction. We want to maintain control over the kettlebell by keeping it close, which allows us to position it exactly where we want to receive it.
3. Letting The Kettlebell Come Up And Over
A common error is to let the kettlebell come up and over, which happens when we fail to insert our hand and rotate the kettlebell off its upward trajectory.
Although we begin elevating the kettlebell along this path, we don’t want it to come up and over the hand when we rack it, as this will lead to the kettlebell smacking the arm. Instead, we want to cut off its upward trajectory once it becomes weightless by inserting our hand in a spiral motion to “sneak in” and scoop the kettlebell into the racked position.
If we’re letting the kettlebell come up and over, we may not have grasped the insertion/spiral motion of the hand. In this situation, I would suggest practicing the negative to learn what the racked position should feel like, and how to reverse the motion to end up in the desired starting position. This will teach us how our hand is supposed to rotate, while avoiding the up-and-over pattern we may have fallen into.
4. Using A “Barbell Grip”
If we’re gripping the kettlebell handle with a barbell grip (straight across the palm in the center of the handle) then we are not going to receive the kettlebell in the right position to avoid hitting the wrist/forearm.
The kettlebell should not be gripped with a standard barbell grip when we are performing cleans, snatches or any kettlebell movements performed in the racked position. Instead, we want to grip the kettlebell near one of the horns and receive it with the handle crossing the palm at a 45 degree angle.
The barbell grip will lead to the wrist being bent back, or with elbow flared in the racked position – both of these breakdowns in technique are going to cause the kettlebell to contact the wrist/forearm.
To avoid this we need to grip the kettlebell correctly off the floor and practice inserting our hand into the 45 degree grip and cushioning the kettlebell in the receiving position.
What Movements Is This Technique Important For?
The snatch is a movement that involves taking to weight from the floor directly to the overhead position. It is a common movement for those who train with kettlebells for general fitness, but especially for those who compete in crossfit or kettlebell sport.
The snatch is a kettlebell movement itself, but it can also be used to get the kettlebell into position for performing overhead squats, windmills, or turkish get-ups.
Clean & Jerk
The clean and jerk is a two-part movement that involves taking the weight from the ground to the overhead position, but involves a stop at the shoulders after the clean before transitioning into the jerk overhead. This movement allows us to put more weight overhead than in the snatch because of the shorter ranges of motion for each component.
The clean & jerk is similar in that it is likely performed by all general fitness users but is a crucial component for those who participate and/or compete in crossfit or kettlebell sport.
Any movements that are performed in the racked position, which is likely any movements that are performed overhead because we are either snatching or cleaning them into position.
- Turkish get-up
- Overhead Press
In these movements that kettlebell is stationary in the racked position, but even though it does not have to move dynamically it will still cause discomfort at the wrist/forearm if it is not in the right position because the weight will be pressing into these areas – which is likely to cause bruising and perhaps pain at the wrist joint (especially if the wrist is bent backwards and not stacked).
To keep the kettlebell from hitting our wrist/forearm we need to master the transition of the kettlebell from the floor to the racked position (at the shoulders and overhead). The racked position is a stepping stone to many kettlebell movements, and we want to be able to perform them comfortably and without bruising our wrist/forearm.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Is Your Kettlebell Too Heavy? (How To Know Using Examples)
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Small Hands
- Best 5 Kettlebells For The Money (That Are Still Well Made)
- How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell? (4 Steps For Restoring)
- 1 Arm vs 2 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?
- E-Coat vs Powder Coat Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Kettlebell Window Size: What Is It? How Big Should It Be?
- Kettle Gryp Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- 7 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternatives (With Pictures)
- Kettlebell Gloves or Chalk: Which Is Better? (Pros & Cons)
- 5 Best Kettlebell Gloves To Protect Your Hands
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings
- 3 Best Rubber-Coated Kettlebells
- 7 Best Kettlebell Apps For Both iOS & Android
- How To Chalk A Kettlebell Properly (4 Steps To Follow)
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.