Functional Training Institute

Kettlebell grips – Tricks for making kettlebell lifting easier

Kettlebell grips – Tricks for making kettlebell lifting easier

by Boris Bojanovic

There are three basic grips or positions in kettlebell training. They are the hook grip, rack position & overhead lockout. It is from these three positions we get the free flowing effect unique to kettlebells because the whole repertoire of kettlebell exercises are performed from these three positions.

Hook grip Rack Lockout


CleanSquat (lunge, etc…)

Press (push press, jerk, etc…)


Turkish Get-up


To be able to smoothly & efficiently flow from exercise to exercise our three positions must be efficient.

Hook grip

The hook grip is the basic position of the bell in the fingers of the hand during swings, cleans & snatches – all of which are ballistic exercises usually done to high reps. A common problem, especially in beginners to kettlebell training is to overgrip the kettlebell handle for fear of dropping the bell. Overgripping in the swing will quickly tire out the forearm muscles before the posterior chain gets the fantastic training effect the swing can give it. In cleans & snatches, overgripping prevents the kettlebell rotating easily into place. This is the cause of most of the sore wrist problems beginners get from the bulb of the bell hitting them on the wrist.


The rack position is a resting position for the girevoy sport long cycle & jerks, therefore it should act as a platform & be relaxed. For a solid but relaxed rack position two things must happen: 1) the arm should rest on the chest & 2) the wrist should be straight. If the arm is sitting out wide from a wayward clean or rushed press the shoulder has to do a lot more work than if the bell is resting on the arm, which is resting on the chest. A bent wrist backwards is usually related to overgripping because they both needlessly fatigue the forearm muscles. In the rack position the kettlebell handle should sit diagonally across the wrist (think of the crease around the meaty part of the thumb) rather than towards the knuckles in the hand.


The overhead lockout position is a tough one for a lot of people. For one, holding a heavy cannonball over your head isn’t the most enticing prospect so people tend to rush it & not think too much about it. Secondly, our computer-based lifestyles lead to postural changes which make it hard for arms to go overhead. A good lockout position is with a straight, vertical arm & the elbow facing forward. The straight & vertical part is pretty self-explanatory, it’s less demanding on the muscles if the bell is stacked on the wrist, which is stacked on the elbow, which is stacked on the shoulder rather than being the leaning tower of Pisa, ready to fall at any moment.

The elbow facing forward part does two things. Firstly, it engages the serratus anterior to hold the shoulder up safely – preventing impingement. However as you face the elbow forward (externally rotating the arm) you run into problems with tight lats & pecs. Stretching the pecs & lats before kettlebell training sessions is a must for most people. Secondly, rotating the elbow forward turns the kettlebell to the outside of the body, which is exactly where it sits in the rack position. This prevents the bell clipping your head as you release a jerk down to rack position. When you’re starting kettlebell lifting & you aren’t used to holding weight overhead you don’t want it to be directly overhead in case it falls.

There you have it, solutions to the common problems with the hook grip, rack & overhead lockout positions. Let us know what your experience is with these tweaks on our facebook page

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