Why Does The Kettlebell Rack Position Hurt? (Here’s 5 Reasons Why & Tips)
One of the fundamental movements when handling a kettlebell is to “rack” it onto your forearm, when you are doing certain exercises such as a snatch, press or cleans.
It will come as no surprise that when most people first do this, they will be unpleasantly surprised at just how much a heavy kettlebell can hurt when it flips onto their forearm.
Be warned, it can feel like some kind of torture when it keeps happening over and over if you don’t get the hang of it very quickly.
Theres nothing to suggest this only happens to newbies either, as increasing the weight or changing the kettlebell can bring your technique back to square one.
Why Does The Kettlebell Rack Position Hurt?
When the kettlebell is racked, it can hurt when you haven’t transitioned from the swing correctly and the kettlebell has flipped over at speed. Taking time to practice cushioning the kettlebell and shift its force as you rack it will help reduce the pain of a heavy weight smashing onto your forearm. The kettlebell may be racked smoothly but your grip position on the handle might need slight adjustment to allow the kettlebell to rest comfortably when in position. If you have recently increased the weight of the kettlebell or you are using a different kettlebell that has either longer or shorter “Horns”, which means the kettlebell could be resting on a different part of your forearm. This ties into how your hand/wrist position should be too. Your arm and hand should be straight…meaning it being positioned as if you are going to “throw a punch” when racked, as there should be no bend in the wrist.
Checking through the list below and comparing how your technique is, can accelerate your kettlebell game and help you get over that painful hump.
1. How Are You Racking?
For most people, having the kettlebell in a racked position will naturally hurt to begin with.
Sometimes, with a little practice you may find the correct grip, which means you are able to rack the kettlebell correctly and it doesn’t hurt. Kudos to you.
For some, it takes a bit more tweaking to get it right. So where do we start?
Whenever you are swinging the kettlebell into a racked position, make sure you cushion the kettlebell as it flips over onto your forearm.
As the kettlebell swings through its arc and you are about to rack it, loosen your grip slightly as the bell flips and shift the weight/momentum of the kettlebell from the bell itself into the handle.
This can take practice, to feel when the kettlebell has reached the top point of its swing to then shift its force, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel like a superstar.
Doing this will make the racking softer, smoother and way less painful.
2. Grip Is Key
Gripping the kettlebell too tight can also cause problems when racking, as this may prevent the bell swinging smoothly onto the forearm, where as if you don’t grip the kettlebell enough, it can jerk and yank not only your arm, but back and shoulders too.
Gripping too tight will also fatigue the muscles and ligaments in the forearm over time, which can lead to pain, discomfort and even injury.
It’s not just how tight you grip the kettlebell either, gripping the correct part of the handle is also a key factor when racking too.
Lots of people have pain on their forearms to start, especially when learning cleans and snatches.
Most Kettlebell trainers suggest that the best grip is around the edge of the handle as the flat handle meets the bend.
Doing this will offset the weight of the kettlebell and enable a more comfortable racked position, with the bell resting on the inside “boney” edge of the forearm as opposed to the “meaty/muscular” part of your forearm.
When holding the kettlebell in the centre of the handle, for the majority of people will mean the bell resting on the meaty part of the forearm, which can hurt and bruise.
I hold my kettlebell a little off centre but not to close to the edge where it bends, I find it sits nicely in my palm without the need to grip tightly or hurt my forearm.
You want your hand in the handle so it’s resting at the base of your palm so it’s in-line with your wrist rather than trying to grip it like a dumbbell.
However, try just putting the bell in the most comfortable position on your forearm and then try to move the handle around in your hand.
Try a little ulnar manipulation as it allows the bell to rest in different positions which may hurt less and allow you to find the correct forearm position.
Find the right grip and you’ll reap the rewards.
3. Wrist Flopping?
Make sure you keep a strong wrist and hand position… like a strike with your fist. Don’t over crane the hand, have a straight wrist and a slight pull with the fingers you should take much of the stress off the back of the forearm.
It should never feel like the bell is “resting” on your arm, you should be actively grabbing the bell in the correct position.
4. Equipment Check
With kettlebells popularity growing all the time, manufacturers are selling not just the standard competition or cast iron variety, they are releasing all types of weird and wonderful variations on the traditional style.
That is all well and good, but if you have a kettlebell with any flat edges or the handle is longer or shorter than the standard design, then this may cause problems when racking the kettlebell.
I would highly getting a normal kettlebell that is going to do the job, rather than something that looks cool as a decoration.
One of the kettlebells I have has the weight embossed on the side, which means I have to be conscious of racking it on only side.
If I don’t do this, I will get a wonderful imprint of the weight on my forearm for the rest of the day.
Always make sure you are using a kettlebell that is the correct weight for you and whatever exercises you are doing.
Theres no guarantee a different kettlebell will help, but it might move the contact point to a less sensitive spot where it’s resting on muscle and not bone or tendon/connective tissue.
Having a heavier kettlebell right off the bat as a newbie or increasing the kettlebell weight as a seasoned veteran, can have the same effect.
Although, you may just need time to adapt to the weight, maybe lower the kettlebell weight if you are able to do so and see how that feels.
5. Injury Time
If you have had any previous injuries around the forearm or elbow area, maybe racking the kettlebell has aggravated the problem and you need to rest the area in question?
If you are new to kettlebells, you might have realised that they work muscles you didn’t even know you had, with the ballistic nature of the exercises means you are working a large variety of muscles more than you would with any kind of isolation exercise.
These are pulled over your hands up to your elbows and cover your forearms, which act a padding when the kettlebell racks on your forearm.
These can be purchased easily pretty much anywhere on the internet. If you didn’t want to spend money on arm shields, you could cut the toes out of some thick socks and use those to see how you get on?
Hopefully the five possible reasons above will help you with the pain you are experiencing when the kettlebell is racked?
If you found these tips helpful, please let me know as I would love to hear your thoughts.
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