Safe and Effective Kettlebell Training (#1 secret)

I returned home late on Sunday night from my weekend San Jose RKC assistant duties, and I was right back at it Monday morning, teaching a kettlebell boot camp at my Sacramento, CA training studio.

After about 30 hours of learning and teaching kettlebells over the weekend – with some incredibly great and smart folks – I noticed that my boot campers were actually pretty darn dailed in with their swing form. Nice! Good job Forest! 🙂

So, on my drive home from work last night, I started thinking a bit about WHY this is so.  I mean, go into some workout rooms full of people swinging kettlebells, and instead of impressive, things look ugly.  Real ugly.

One reason that our campers look good in the kettlebell form department is simple – we care. We want people to do things RIGHT, and we coach them up until they get it. We don’t tollerate sloppy form.

However, I believe the single most important factor contributing to good kettlebell training form is effective cuing.

This is actually a somewhat complex topic, and can be broken down into all different specific components (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) … but at its core, is all about matching your teaching style to a student’s learning style.  It is part science and part art.

What I wanted to do in today’s post was simply break down a few of my favorite cues I have learned over the years. These will help you immensely if 1) you are a trainer yourself, or 2) you are training on your own and are having a hard time mastering the technique of a specific KB exercise.

I have also tried to include WHERE I got these cues … because I want to give credit where it is due!


5 Cues for Safe and Effective Kettlebell Training


1 – Punch your butt through a piece of glass behind you

This one comes from the book Kettlebells for Dummies by Sarah Lurie.

It’s a great one if you are having a hard time getting down the hip hinging movement that is the foundation of the kettlebell swing.

As you decend into the deadlift, punch your hips back like you are pushing them through a piece of glass behind you.

I go through a little breakdown of this in a recent video – check it out here:

=> HardStyle Kettlebell Swing Progression (part 1)


2 – Don’t be the guy at the beach

Got this one from David Whitley (the Iron Tamer).

This applies when you are doing a Turkish Get Up – to your bottom shoulder.

A lot of folks make the mistake of letting themselves slouch to the ground with their bottom (closest to the ground) shoulder during the movement.  Hence, you look like the “guy at the beach”.  Do NOT do this.

Instead, push yourself away from your shoulder, and create as much space from your shoulder to your ear as you can. This is a good cue to get you to do that.


3 – Just the right amount of power on the clean

This one comes from the Dragon Door forum, I think … honestly can’t remember.  Sorry to whoever I learned it from 🙂

If you are doing a KB clean, and you give it too much hip snap, the kettlebell will fly up and whack you in the wrist.

If you don’t give it enough power, the move essentially turns into a cheat curl.  Not what we are going for either.

Get it just right, and the movement is a thing of beauty.

Check out this video for a more detailed explanation:

=> How to Fix Your Kettlebell Clean


4 – Throw the kettlebell through your stomach

I am not sure where I got this one to be honest … it was from an RKC though, and maybe on a YouTube video somewhere … thanks again 😉 …

Anyway, it is great to get the proper path of the kettlebell going from the top of the snatch, down to the finish.  Just imagine your are throwing the ‘bell back through your stomach, as it comes out of the top locked out position.


5 – Rip the handles of the kettlebell apart – while keeping your arms straight

This is a great one to help you get your shoulders back in the two handed deadlift and swing movement.  Got this one from Pavel at my first RKC.

When you are at the top of a deadlift position, keep your arms straight, and imagine like you are ripping the handles of the kettlebell apart.  This will fire your lats and force your shoulders down.


Okay! There are five of my favorite coaching cues for you. Use these cues to improve your own form and that of those that you coach.  And watch your progress go through the roof!

Thanks for reading, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II


PS – I got a killer new package of kettlebell boot camp workouts I’m putting together for you, and it’ll be available this weekend at a great discount.  Keep an eye on your email inbox for details …

PPS – If you want to learn more coaching cues like these, I recommend you attend an RKC event yourself. There is nothing like it. Click here for a list of all upcoming Dragon Door workshops:

=> Upcoming RKC Events

4 thoughts on “Safe and Effective Kettlebell Training (#1 secret)

  1. Tracy

    Good stuff–I’m in my first cycle of teaching students KB training, and there really is magic to these little “word-pictures”, especially when the light goes on!!

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