Leverage is your Frenemy

Changing Leverage to Increase the Challenge

Bottoms Up Clean
Holding Kettlebell in Bottoms Up position. Steve Cotter/IKFF

In kettlebell lifting, leverage is a powerful force for good, or for “evil”. How you use leverage will make almost any exercise either easier or more challenging.

One of the unique qualities of a kettlebell is the design, which has a spacing between the bell and the handle and separates the load such that the majority of the weight sits in the bell with only a small portion of the weight in the handle.

This configuration gives the user many different ways of manipulating the kettlebell. By changing the position that the kettlebell is held during a given exercise, a single kettlebell can be made to feel lighter or heavier to move. 

The most difficult position to perform exercises in is called the Bottoms Up position. Bottoms Up is commonly said as a salutation before downing a drink. Take the glass full of drink and turn it upside down, so that the drink pours out and into your mouth. In kettlebell lifting we use Bottoms Up for a healthier practice- to get stronger and more fit. 

Most commonly the Bottoms Up position is used in the basic exercises of Clean, Press, Push Press, Snatch and Clean and Press, however, a kettlebell or kettlebells can be held in the Bottoms Up position for almost any exercise to make it more difficult and challenging.

Let’s take a look at the Clean and Press and see how changing the Clean and Press to the Bottoms Up Clean and Press makes the exercise more difficult without actually increasing the weight of the kettlebell.

In a standard Clean, you pull the kettlebell to the chest level before releasing your grip and inserting your hand to bring into the Rack Position. From there, you either drop the kettlebell back down to swing back or press, push press or jerk the kettlebell overhead. 

In Bottoms Up Clean, during the pull, instead of releasing your grip and inserting your hand, you allow the bottom (base) of the kettlebell to raise above the handle and then squeeze your grip tightly so that the bottom stays up as it reaches the shoulder level.

With a challenging load, in order to keep the kettlebell balanced in this Bottoms Up position, you have to squeeze not only your grip but also create tension throughout the whole body by squeezing your abdominal core and your glutes (butt). Then to lower the kettlebell down, let it drop forward and down into the backswing, the same way you would drop it in the standard Clean.

From the Bottoms Up Clean position, you can also move directly into the Bottoms Up Press. Maintaining the Bottoms Up Clean with a tight grip, press the kettlebell directly overhead until your arm is fully extended, locked-out. Lower the kettlebell back down to the chest (again the Bottoms Up Clean position). From there you can either continue to perform Bottoms Up Press for the desired repetitions, or you can lower the kettlebell down into a backswing before your next rep of Bottoms Up Clean and Press.

You can try the same Bottoms Up technique with Snatch. Instead of releasing and inserting your hand through the handle, tighten the grip as the kettlebell reaches the top of the movement and hold it in the Bottoms Up position.

Very tough!

By manipulating the leverage, you take an exercise that is manageable and makes it much more challenging, simply by changing the way you hold the kettlebell. 

Here are the main technique points to keep in mind while practicing any of the Bottoms Up kettlebell exercises:

-Grip tightens maximally as the kettlebell reaches the end point

-Kettlebell must remain vertically aligned over your feet

-Abdominal are kept firm for a stable midsection

-Glutes are tight to create stability in the pelvis

-Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times

-While learning the skill, keep your off hand close and ready to block any bad rep that would hit your face

-Never try to save a bad rep. Let it fall to the side and move your legs and knees out of the way

Change the leverage to increase the challenge of your kettlebell lifts. Bottoms Up!

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