Kettlebell: What's Wrong With This?

Kettlebell: What’s Wrong With This

I posted the following photo and asked, “What’s wrong with this?” in our 32,000 members big online kettlebell community. I especially did not ask for specifics so people could let their imagination run wild. Just asking a question like this will get people thinking and interacting.

I will list my thoughts after I list some of the responses:

  1. Elbow.
  2. Left elbow.
  3. Cervical spine & position of arms/elbows.
  4. Elbows should be closer to tucked towards the body?
  5. Too much feet turnout?
  6. Shoes should be flat.
  7. Elbows should be touching rib cage so arms are more vertical and if possible he should be barefoot.
  8. Elbows too far from hips.
  9. Correct me if I’m wrong, but possibly the spine is somehow overextended and the elbow is in an outward position thereby making everything unstable which will lead to injury.
  10. Depends. Is he in a rack or in the mid-stage of a strict press?
  11. Looks like his shoulders are rounded forward and leaning heavily backwards on the spine, grip position and wrist look off too.
  12. Grip seems to be off.

And two other longer answers worth listing:

13. The cameraman should be on the side, not in the front for safety purposes. If it is something with the performance of the exercise, we do not know what is actually going on with a simple picture. More info is required.

14. Nothing is necessarily wrong with this image. It depends on what stage he is in for whatever lift he’s doing. For example, if he is completing a double KB clean and jerk, he may have just completed the double clean and is readjusting for the jerk stage (where his feet and head will come to a neutral position, and elbows will come in before the trip extension).


The winning answer in my books was: Elbows are out too far and the hand insertion/grip is not right as a result.

My thoughts on the answers: 1. relevant but vague. 2. relevant but wondering why just one side. 3. when pressing or dropping weight from overhead the head should move back; the second part is relevant. 4. A good description of what is wrong with the rack. 5. I would disagree. 6. Good point but I believe the shoes are zero-drop. 7. Great points and more detailed. 8. Relevant if the subject was aiming for a resting rack or to transfer power. 9. the first part I would disagree with but the second part is relevant. 10. I’ll address this further below. 11. I agree on the grip. 12. Agreed.

Overall, people seemed to agree with the racking being incorrect.

Answers 14 and 15 asked for more information but it’s a lot more fun to analyze, let our imagination run wild, and make assumptions. With a wild imagination the photo could be of:

  • Racked position; or
  • Pressing overhead from the racking position; or
  • Drop from overhead into the racking position; or
  • Re-adjusting for the jerk stage (14)

My thoughts on what is wrong are as follows. Since this is a stock photo, subjects are generally not well versed in the art of kettlebell training and they make the common mistakes that many beginners make. Yes, most stock photos that are on sale are demonstrating incorrect form and technique. Since I make the assumption that the subject is not advanced, I do not believe that he’s re-adjusting for the jerk stage. I believe he is in the rack, my second guess would be in the process of shoulder pressing.

Kettlebell Racking Position

If he is in the rack, then depending on what type of racking position, to transition, to rest, to transfer force, or a Hardstyle racking position for any. Either way, the first thing that would need to be adjusted is the grip, a 45-degree angle would place the kettlebell in a better position to avoid pressure on the forearm and to avoid a broken wrist grip which is where the straight line is broken at the wrist.

If the racking position is to rest, then the most optimal position would be to crunch and pull the elbows down to the hips and place the weight on the legs. If the racking position is to efficiently transfer force from the legs as directly as possible into the forearms and kettlebell(s), then again that same racking position should be achieved.

If the racking position is just to transition into the next exercise, like for example a press or squat, then there is no need to get the elbows as far as possible to the hips or even to crunch. For the transitional racking position, the requirements are a good grip and elbows under the weight to relieve the load from the shoulders. You do that by packing the upper body and pulling the lats down.

Pressing Overhead From The Racking Position

If he is in the middle of pressing overhead from the racking position then the grip is still wrong and the weight should lead with the elbows under the weight. In this case, it would seem that the elbow would be leading and are going out to the side as well. There is such a thing as a side press in which the elbows go out, but again, the weight would need to be above the elbows.

Drop From Overhead Into The Racking Position

If he is dropping the weight from overhead into the racking position then the elbows should lead and be closer to each other.

Incorrect Racking

Incorrect racking can lead to shoulder injuries due to too much and frequent excessive load being put on the shoulders. Incorrect racking can cause power leakage.

Incorrect Grip

An incorrect grip can lead to excessive calluses, ripped hands, wrist problems, forearm bruising, bruised or broken fingers, shoulder and elbow issues plus more. All this usually leads to the subject using gloves, protective sleeves, wrist bands, or other aids to mask the issues as a result of bad technique. The outcome of that is that the subject does not advance with kettlebell training in technique or other goals like strength, cardio, etc. The subject should have the handle placed at a 45-degree angle within the palm, and racking safety grip should be employed with double kettlebells to avoid jamming the fingers between them.

At Cavemantraining we have published for free the most basic things everyone should know how to perform, racking and gripping the kettlebells. You can download the PDFs completely free from our shop. Check out Master Kettlebell Racking and Master Kettlebell Grips. If you want to see what our online kettlebell course quality is like for a low entry fee of $4.95 (while it’s still on sale) then check out the Master Kettlebell Grips online course that comes with the book and videos.

Here is a free video with additional tips for grip during the clean.

Are you injuring yourself or just not sure if you’re doing it correctly? Check out our kettlebell coaching via video with Taco Fleur. Want to take one of the best online kettlebell courses to learn all the basics in one go? Check out our Kettlebell Fundamentals course also available with CEUs.

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