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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Developing a strong overhead!

Basically in the sport of Kettlebell lifting, there is only 2 places that you can legally get rest during a set... The first place is the rack position, and second place ( my focus in this blog post) is the overhead position.
Psychologically, it is hard to think about relaxing when you are supporting 2 heavy kettlebells over your cranium, but there are a few compelling reasons to develop this rest spot. I will start with the simplest reason first. If you cannot rest in this position and you are competing against a lifter of the same level as you in every respect except they can rest overhead and you cannot, you will LOSE! By not having 2 places to rest, you have taken away at least 50% of your rest. This is just bad mathematics!
The second reason for developing bulletproof lockouts is so that your reps with count anywhere, in any organization. If you ever compete at an IUKL meet, all the Judges are Russian and speak ZERO english, they do however speak the international language of fixated bells and strong lockouts.

The third reason is joint health, probably should be the top reason actually. But when you hold the weight overhead it forces your alignment to improve and it also increases your static strength which increases your joint health as opposed  to dropping quickly and recklessly, this gets sketchy late in sets of heavy bells... Safer for your joints and body to always stay in control.

Here is my favorite reason for developing the overhead rest position... Breathing!! Without having 2 kettlebells on your chest cavity, you can allow full unobstructed oxygen to flow into your body! As you know, short shallow breaths elevate your heart rate, while deep, rhythmic belly breathing slows  down your heart rate and allows you remain out of the "redzone".

So how do you develop this position? I have seen people do farmers walks with 2 Kettlebell overhead, I have also seen people do handstand pushups, or perhaps extended holds over head.... I suppose these things are useful, but I am a fan of practicing like you play. If you do not need to walk around with kettlebells in competition, why do it in training? I usually prescribe the simplest method, and that is to extend the time your keep the bells overhead! I will slow the rpms down and have the lifter hold the kettlebell in the locked out position for 3 or 4 seconds... I also instruct them to make sure they breathe while doing this... You would be amazed at how many people go into freak out mode with weight overhead! So I encourage them to take at least 2 deep breathes up there... this slowly builds that position as they train... So they do not need to take up other sports to learn hand balancing techniques to improve overhead stability...
I remember hearing a guy say one time," if you want to ride your bike 30 miles an hour, then you have to ride your bike 30 miles and hour" The same type of thinking applies here also!Don't be in hurry to drop the bells.

The final reason for developing this position is, it just makes you look like a classy lifter! Fast drops can make a good rep like a cheap rep!


  1. Truth on all counts!

    There is nothing worse then seeing a rep that would've counted if they had but held it there for second longer.

  2. Good post and GREAT site Chris! It is difficult to find solid GS websites. Good on ya and keep up the solid work!