Kettlebell Tossing and Catching

Kettlebell Float

Learning to Toss and Catch a KB. Steve Cotter/IKFF

Kettlebells are a fantastic tool for increasing general fitness. However, this great all-purpose tool has some specific features that require precision in order for you to be able to maximize their use and avoid unwanted injuries and unproductive use of your time.

Chief among these specific features is the spacing between the handle and the weight which makes a kettlebell quite different from a dumbbell.

This spacing allows for a complete insertion of your hand into the handle, so that you are able to keep your wrist in a neutral position while doing high-repetition ballistic exercises, thereby increasing the amount of exercise volume that can be accumulated before hand and forearm fatigue sets in. 

To develop a good kettlebell practice and enjoy the benefit of ballistic exercises, it is necessary to learn how to move your hand correctly into the handle, called Insertion. The mastery of the hand insertion is so important that it should be learned and understood well before progressing into more complex ballistic movement such as Clean and Snatch, which require effective hand insertion and will create a lot of unnecessary hand trauma for anyone who does not learn how to insert smoothly. 

To insert the hand into the kettlebell handle, you must be able to transition the hand easily from the hook grip with the fingers into the hand insertion position.

In order to do that, you want to first get comfortable with releasing the handle and then catching it. 

Use this drill to learn how to master Kettlebell Tossing and Catching. 

With a light kettlebell on the floor, stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder distance apart and grip with the hook grip, identical to the grip used for 1 Hand Swing.

One small difference is that you will perform this drill with the handle of the kettlebell facing vertically instead of horizontally. 

With hips loaded, as you pick the kettlebell from the floor, let it swing back between your legs, then forward as in the first part of a 1 Hand Swing. Then, instead of letting it swing forward, as soon as it clears in front of your body, pull the kettlebell directly up vertically, by pulling back slightly with your hip and shoulder on the same side of your body that is holding the kettlebell. 

This quick pull will accelerate the kettlebell upwards. It’s important that the pull directs the kettlebell upwards and not forwards. To be sure, you can stand facing a wall 1.5 feet away, so that the kettlebell moves up parallel to the wall, rather than moving forward to smack into the wall. 

When the kettlebell is at about chest level, release it by opening your hand, then catch it with your fingers/hook grip as it falls. It will swing back behind you at the bottom.

Before you can insert your hand into the moving handle, there is a moment in which the kettlebell is perfectly balanced. The key to finding this balanced sweet spot, is to make sure that as you release the handle, the bottom of the kettlebell does not go higher than the level of the handle. 

Continue with this swing-pull-release-catch-backswing pattern to get a feel of the kettlebell “floating”. Watch the flight of the kettlebell at the release point. If the bottom of the kettlebell goes higher than the handle, you pulled too much. Learn to relase the handle at just the right moment and use only as much effort as is necessary, don’t overdo it. With some practice, you will find that smooth execution, like you are dancing with the kettlebell. 

When you are comfortable and confident with Kettlebell Tossing and Catching, you are ready to learn the Hand Insertion technique

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