How to Improve Your Kettlebell Swing and Snatch with a Kung Fu Drill

August 31, 2005 09:00 AM

So you finally got your client to snap those hips, brace the core, etc. It is all looking beautiful, except for the arm. The lifter just cannot let the tension go and is using his or her muscles to move the weight. You can even see the tension, it is so obvious? So here I am, working with my latest victim who is struggling with his arm movement. I keep repeating:

'Think of the arm as a steel ball at the end of a chain?'

'Think of the arm as a steel ball at the end of a chain?'

Then I notice the eyes are beginning to glaze over? Suddenly I had a thought. For several years I have been trained in an obscure Chinese martial art of 'Spring Power Kung Fu'. I won't go into the details of this style but the concept is free movement where no techniques are taught and the fighter strikes from any angle to anywhere on the opponents body, moving continuously, never stopping until the threat is no more. The style is all about speed, 'spring power' (the body uncoils like a steel spring during a strike), relaxation vs. tension. The core exercise of this style is called the 'through hand', which develops these attributes and, as I discovered, teaches you to 'disengage' your arm and truly use it as a ball at the end of a chain. This is what you do:
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Step forward with your right foot (as if you were about to do a lunge).
  3. Place your left hand on your hip (or behind your back, whichever suits you better).
  4. Now start rotating your right arm in a forward direction, using full range of motion, the palm facing up, keeping the elbow straight ? without forcing it to lock, that would cause muscle tension and you don't want that.
  5. Using your right knee start rocking back and forth (it is the rocking motion of your body that is going to cause your arm to swing).
  6. Look straight ahead, breathe deeply and evenly through the abdomen.
  7. Imagine you are firmly grounded and your arm just kind of hangs there, there is absolutely no muscular tension in your arm, your body is causing it to rotate. The power is being transferred to your arm but the arm is only a conduit. To achieve this you obviously need to rotate at a considerable speed. There should be approximately 90 rotations per minute (imagine if you made a fist and someone stepped in the way of one of the rotations ? ouch, a devastating blow).
  8. The recommended duration is about 1 min per arm. Do this exercise before you start your KB sessions. As you get good at it you may vary the speed by going as fast as you can for several seconds, then slowing down to 90rpm.
  9. Within seconds of starting the rotation you will begin to feel your hand getting warm as it is filling with blood.
The above routine can also be used as a quick post training recovery to get rid of the lactic acid build up. It is also a good warm-up and certainly lubes your shoulders for all those wonderful kettlebell lifts. No harm in throwing a few 30sec rotations in between lifts either.

By the way, for those who practice martial arts, this exercise together with techniques from Pavel's Martial Power course plus a regular diet of kettlebells will give you incredible striking power. Your hands will simply turn into sledgehammers To achieve such levels you would need to perform the 'through hand' exercise each day for approximately 3-5 minutes per arm. Not as easy as it sounds, so build up to it gradually.

George Hynec
MA Training, RKC

Sydney, Australia
E-mail: interval_matraining@hotmail.com