by Phil McDougall
A light-hearted guide covering the most important principles of all kettlebell training.
Thou shalt not try to hammer a bent nail. Rate movement ability above load lifted. Attempting to build strength, power or endurance on a frame that doesn’t move well leads to long-term failure and injury.
Thou shalt not wear a lifting belt, unless you’re a GS athlete performing the jerk or long cycle lifts. Learn to use the lifting belt you were born with. The diaphragm, pelvic floor and transverse abdominus create more tension, intra-abdominal pressure and stability than a belt ever can.
Thou shalt not shrug the shoulders. Power comes from the hips during ballistics and from the lats during grinds. Shoulder shrugging is the international symbol for “I have no idea what I’m doing.” However, good Girevoy Sport snatch and clean technique requires scapula elevation.
Thou shalt explore and own all movement and technique options then intentionally carry out the strongest or the most suitable one. Accidental movement leads to weakness and injury. Dominate the kettlebell. Don’t let the kettlebell control you.
Thou shalt have patience and train for long-term goals. Train to make life better when you are 80. Time is the only non-renewable resource and it’s wasted when hopping from one short-term goal to another or when training for more than one goal at a time.
Thou shalt not extend the wrist(s) unless the intention is weakness. Neutral wrist = more stability = more power. Extended wrist = “I don’t know what I’m doing
Thou shalt not sit on a bench or a chair between sets. Enough time is spent in that posture. Unloaded low-threshold movement between sets facilitates a faster recovery and more tension and power during the next set.
Thou shalt not isolate muscle groups unless using the stabilizers you were born with. Carry out all kettlebell exercises either standing, kneeling, lying or sitting on the floor. Isolating target areas using external apparatus, such as chairs, bars, pads and machines, promotes dysfunctional neurological firing patterns. Train your body to work as a single unit, for real world strength. Train for life!
Thou shalt pick up and park the kettlebell with as much intention and focus as you use during the reps. Sloppy pickups and put downs lead to bad real-life habits, broken toes and injured backs.
Thou shalt be considerate and respectful towards others. Re-rack your kettlebell(s) after use and clean if necessary. If others wish to carry out techniques or lifts that you don’t approve of, be ready to offer advice—if requested. Otherwise, don’t worry. Be happy.
These golden rules apply to all forms of kettlebell training (and most other modalities). I’d also suggest going barefoot whenever possible to improve your movement maps, foot strength and connection with the ground, required for stronger lifts.
Strength and honor!