Functional Training Institute

What happens when one kettlebell is too heavy?

What happens when one kettlebell is too heavy?

Which is easier: swinging one kettlebell with one hand or with two? Two hands, obviously. So, when our client is too fatigued or just plain not strong enough to perform a single arm swing well we regress them to a two hand swing. Easy.

But what happens when our client doesn’t have the strength to press a kettlebell overhead single handed? Or when they don’t have the coordination to grasp a clean or snatch? Without the ability to do these movements with one hand alone makes it easy to throw the rack & overhead positions, along with the vertical power generation for a clean & snatch in the too hard basket, leaving them for “when the client is strong enough”. But you are throwing away too much potential training if you do.

Sure there are valid options such as using powerbags (one bag/two hands) to teach these positions & movements but if you don’t have access to powerbags you have options. Enter the One Kettlebell/Two Hands spectrum: two hand swing, clean, press, squat & snatch.

Two Hand Clean

The two hand clean comes from the two hand swing. The concept is the same: develop momentum with the hips, keep the arms close to the body to direct the bell upwards (not forwards as in the swing). The difference comes when you catch the kettlebell in the rack position. You need to let go of the handle briefly to catch the bell by the bulb, with your palms on the bulb & thumbs/index fingers around the horns.

Two Hand Rack

The two hand rack position still requires you to keep the arms in contact with the chest & therefore have the weight of the bell resting on your body rather than just in the hands.

Two Hand Squat

The two hand squat, or bulb squat, is a regression to the rack squat because it changes the load back to a symmetrical one yet still teaches the client to stay upright. It does have the added bonus of giving the client a depth cue: if their elbows reach the knees they have gone deep enough (providing they got there with a neutral spine). By keeping both elbows down in the one kettlebell/two hand position it also gives clients an idea if their knees have collapsed in at the bottom of the squat – they need to shove their knees outside of the elbows.

Two Hand Press/Overhead Lockout

The regression potential of the two hand press is obvious – it halves the weight each arm has to handle. The other big advantage is that it’s grooving proper kettlebell pressing mechanics, i.e. pressing through the midline. By having both hands under the same kettlebell which is travelling through the middle of the body it is easier to keep the elbows in front of the body & underneath the kettlebell. This avoids the “bodybuilder”/shoulder impingement style of pressing overhead.

Two Hand Snatch

The two hand snatch is a great way to prevent clients from doing a straight arm swing overhead rather than a snatch – a common mistake which results in sore forearms. This regression prevents the door-knocking aspect by requiring you to catch the bell with the thumbs in the same orientation that it came up in. It also prevents overgripping – another common problem in the snatch which results in sore forearms.

There you have it, regression options for all the major kettlebell exercises for when you come across a client who is just not strong enough for one kettlebell/one hand yet. But feel free to use them when a client has trouble with an aspect of any of those lifts as they are good teaching tools for the skills of the clean, squat, press & snatch.

Try them out yourself & with your clients & let us know how it goes on our facebook page

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