Getting a Grip on Kettlebell Training

The Kettlebell Hook Grip

Finger grip

Sometimes the best way to know how to do something is to first learn what not to do.

When learning the proper way of gripping the kettlebell for exercises such as Swing, Clean, Snatch and others, it helps to take a look at the wrong way to grip it. 

A common error when gripping your kettlebell for most exercises is to use a Crush Grip, in which you squeeze the handle as if you are going to pulverize it into dust.

This kind of powerful crush grip is definitely appropriate for heavy, maximal or near-max loaded-lifts, like the barbell deadlift, or for other more high-tension oriented kettlebell strength exercises like Bottoms Up Pressing. In such exercises heavy weights and low repetitions are performed with maximal tightness throughout the body. A Crush Grip is strong and let’s you lift heavier through a mechanical process called muscular irradiation, in which by squeezing the neighboring muscles as hard as possible, in particular the grip, butt and abdominal muscles, more strength is “recruited” from the entire body and amplifies your ability to create maximal force. 

The thing is, high-tension techniques that support maximal strength development are not the best choices for building endurance and stamina. A unique quality of kettlebell training is the blend of strength, power, endurance and mobility it offers for developing a well-rounded movement system that more closely mimics the demands of daily life.

So we use a grip that allows us to prolong the sustained work periods, and favors endurance over maximum strength. 

Now you know how not to grip the kettlebell. But how do you grip it?

The Kettlebell Hook Grip 

To grip the handle with one hand, insert the hand palm up through the space between the handle and the ball, with fingers together.

Grip the handle with only the fingers and position hand so that middle finger is at the halfway point of the handle. In this way weight distribution of the kettlebell will be evenly spread amongst all the fingers. Secure the kettlebell in your hand by creating a hook grip from hooking your thumb over your index and middle fingers. If your fingers are not long enough to grip this way, place the thumb along the top part of the handle to secure it that way. 

A great way to remember how to perform this Kettlebell hook grip is to imagine that you are holding a tiny bird in the center of your palm. You don’t want to crush it or you will have to say bye-bye birdie. However, you also don’t want your little bird to fly away.

If you are trying to do higher repetitions, squeezing the handle too hard will force the kettlebell to spin in your hand on every rep, building heat and taking little pieces of skin with it, eventually causing skin tears and accelerated grip failure. This early onset of grip failure will have a sort of “reverse irradiation” effect, in which the fatigue in your hands, fingers and forearms quickly translate into whole-body fatigue, forcing you to stop earlier than you would if you adopted the Hook grip.


Master the gentle-but-firm Kettlebell Hook grip, which will allow you to work longer before stopping, building your fitness and keeping your hands in good condition. 

While you swing, clean, or snatch, treat the handle of the kettlebell as if it is that little bird you have sworn to protect. Strong enough to keep it from flying away, but gentle enough so that you don’t hurt it.

Continue Reading