Master Basic Kettlebell Olympic Lifting Technique

July 4, 2012

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Olympic lifts are among the best exercises to make you a better athlete. However, they are complicated, and they require a great deal of practice to master. Explosively moving a heavy bar can be dangerous if your technique is not perfect.

Kettlebells are a great substitute for a barbell in Olympic lifts. They force the body to adapt in ways similar to the barbell versions, but they are easier to learn and place less stress on the wrists. Also, as with barbells and dumbbells, you can gradually increase the kettlebell weight to get more powerful.

Below we focus on three basic Olympic lifts you can perform with kettlebells. Incorporate them in your strength training workouts on power days. They can be done for three to five sets with up to six repetitions per set. Check out our entire kettlebell exercise library.

Focus on being explosive during each rep. Also, follow these technique tips when picking up the kettlebell from the ground.

  • Assume athletic stance with kettlebell between legs
  • Squat down and grasp kettlebell with hand towards left side of kettlebell
  • Stand up with shoulders back, chest out and kettlebell between legs with arm extended

Single-Arm Kettlebell Snatch

  • Assume athletic stance
  • Push hips back, bend knees and lower into quarter squat with kettlebell between knees; keep weight on heels
  • Simultaneously extend hips, knees and ankles to explode up while shrugging shoulders
  • Relax arm and keep kettlebell close to body; allow momentum to carry kettlebell up and over shoulder
  • Drop under kettlebell in a quarter-squat position and catch kettlebell overhead with arm locked out
  • Stand up and slowly lower kettlebell to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite arm

Single-Arm Kettlebell Cleans

  • Assume athletic stance
  • Push hips back, bend knees and lower into quarter squat with kettlebell between knees; keep weight on heels
  • Simultaneously extend hips, knees and ankles to explode up while shrugging shoulders
  • Relax arm and keep kettlebell close to body; allow momentum to carry kettlebell upward to shoulder
  • Drop under kettlebell in quarter-squat position, catching kettlebell at shoulder
  • Stand up and slowly lower kettlebell to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite arm

Single-Arm Kettlebell Jerk

  • Assume athletic stance holding kettlebell at shoulder level in clean position
  • Push hips back, bend knees and lower into quarter squat; keep weight on heels
  • Immediately extend hips, knees and ankles to explode up; allow momentum to propel kettlebell overhead
  • Extend arm to finish pressing kettlebell overhead if necessary
  • Slowly lower kettlebell to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite arm

John Cissik
- John M. Cissik is the president of Human Performance Services, LLC, which helps athletes solve their strength and conditioning problems. He has worked with athletes...
John Cissik
- John M. Cissik is the president of Human Performance Services, LLC, which helps athletes solve their strength and conditioning problems. He has worked with athletes...
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