Kettlebell Training – Neutral Wrist
The StrongFirst SFG1 Standard for the Turkish Get Up (2018 Edition) states that “the wrist on the kettlebell side is neutral.” The Standard for the Military Press states “the wrist my not hyperextend. A neutral wrist is maintained.”
I find it funny what a year will teach you. I took a break from kettlebell training while securing and building my personal training studio but am starting to get back into the groove of things following (modified) routines I’m seeing on Jeff Sokol’s Instagram SokolStrong. If Jeff suggests increasing the weight between sets I adjust accordingly to what I’m currently comfortable doing. And most of his routines suggest Get Ups and Presses.
Tuesday morning I was working the Get Up on my left side when I noticed my left wrist wasn’t neutral. In my Kettlebell prime that probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal (well it was a big deal, just one I didn’t notice at the time) but now that my body isn’t used to the routine, it is a big deal.
If your wrist isn’t neutral …
you’re putting unnecessary pressure on something that doesn’t have a lot of room for error. Think about typing on a computer while sitting at a desk. Your wrists are in funny positions and start to hurt right? Same thing happens when your wrist leans one way or another with a heavy weight in it. Unnecessary stress and pull on things that shouldn’t get pulled.
If you continuously train without noticing the wrist guess what happens? Your body strengthens itself and adapts. So it doesn’t hurt. Is that a good thing? No. Your body strengthens the “wrong” muscles, so it feels like you’re doing the “right” thing, when in actuality you’re just compounding a problem.
It’s easier to learn to correct a problem before it becomes a habit. If you’re starting off correctly and light those little pain receptors in your body will tell you when something isn’t quite right. Listen to them. Make the corrections early. Strengthen those body parts you’re supposed to strengthen.
At the same time try varying up your routine. I did Get Ups so often for so long I didn’t even notice the wrist. I had gotten used to it on my left side and was completely confused when I was told my wrist wasn’t neutral. I took a break, did one Get Up without a completely neutral wrist and immediately felt the affect. I saw it visually, and felt it physically. Keep an eye on your movements (without throwing off your form.) If there isn’t a mirror in front of you don’t tilt your head funny to find one. That’s bad too.
Alternative movements to teach the neutral wrist
Yes, you can learn to maintain a neutral wrist by continuing to do Get Ups and Presses. Doing the skill over and over will make your more efficient at it. But if you need to switch it up, or just want some variety thrown into life you can always try –
The Kettlebell Bottoms Up Hold
These will be done with a lighter weight than your usual Presses and Get Ups. The Bottoms Up Hold is pretty much just like it sounds, hold the kettlebell by the handle, with the bottom of the bell facing the ceiling. Your free arm guards your face like a boxer to prevent that bell from knocking out your teeth. A neutral forearm and wrist are required to prevent the bell from tipping over in any given direction.
This movement doubles at improving your grip strength and serves as an additional builder for your side abs as you try to prevent yourself from leaning to compensate for the weight.
TRX Push Ups
I like the TRX as an additional tool to help teach Kettlebell skills. What happens if you don’t have a neutral wrist while doing push ups on a TRX? The straps will most likely saw back and forth, forcing you to stabilize. One of the rules of TRX (the first rule?) is no sawing. Give it a try and see if it helps you think more about your wrist position.