Introduction to Kettlebells, Lesson Two: Clean / Rack

Vanessa in the Rack Position On to Lesson II, the One Arm Clean and Rack. Once you've mastered the fluidity of the swing, along with the correct hand position and grip (45 degree handle, finger lock, see Lesson One), you're ready to take your kettlebell lifting to the next level as you fold your arm into the rack position. It's obvious that learning to perform proficiently with Cleans has much to do with proficiency in the Rack. For that reason we'll examine the Rack first. There are six main points involved executing a functional and restful Rack. Not everyone will be able to achieve the ideal position initially. The resting of the elbow on the hip (point three) is dependent on many factors including over hip and shoulder flexibility, arm length to torso ration, muscle mass, and body fat. Add in an occasional unwillingness to get into the position and you can see the formidable challenge.

The Rack position as defined by the AKC: The rack position is universal for all exercises. It is defined as the position when the arm(s) are bent and the upper part of the arm is making contact with the torso while holding the Kettlebell(s).

The Rack is also where the bell is held, rest is achieved, preparing for a Press, Push Press, Half Snatch or Jerk. A workable Rack is very much effected by the lifters body composition, flexibility and skill. The rack can be broken down to six points.

  1. Bell handle lies diagonally across palm, weight on Hip of Palm
  2. Fingers are tucked behind handle, except index finger
  3. Elbow is on hip ready to "launch" bell
  4. Arm is rotated to create perfect nest for bell
  5. Knees are straight with hips forward
  6. Wrist is not flexed
Once in the rack, the kettlebell lifter should seek to relax the entire body as much as possible. The bell sitting diagonally across the palm is putting all of its pressure on the quarter-sized (on men, nickel-sized on women) spot of the heel of the hand on the pinky side (Hip of the Palm). This spot is capable of withstanding incredible pressure, transmitting its load directly to the bones of the forearm. In turn the forearm rests on the hip, allowing the lower body to assume most of the work.

When working with a single kettlebell, the body doesn't have to be perfectly symmetrical. Although, there is a definite limit to how much twist or lean to one side is acceptable, and not so much that it compromises the legs' ability to dip and launch the bell with full force.

The elbow hip connection should be as tight as possible, but the reality is not everybody can reach the hip with the elbow. If you've got some extra belly fat, have short arms and a long torso, are barrel chested, have tight hips, or overly muscular in the upper body, you may not get there initially.

The one arm rack is more forgiving than working with two arms, as a slight jut of the hip to one side assists in bringing the elbow and hip closer. This is a luxury two arm Jerks does not afford the lifter.

Some fixes for the short rack are simply built into the progression of typical training. In other words, performing timed kettlebell sets on a regular basis will begin to open you up, especially in the hip flexors and shoulders, bringing elbow and hip closer. Some basic yoga hip stretches, such as the Cobra and Bridge also work well.

One of the best ways to improve your rack position is by performing slow assist kettlebell sets (4 or 6 minutes) of Push Press or Jerk, where the bell is held in the rack for a longer period of time than if working at 12 or 14 reps per minute. Sets at 8 or even 6 reps per minute that focus on rest in the rack will accelerate your acclimation here. Enjoy the Video Lesson below. For more information on Kettlebell Coaching, Group Fitness Class, and Workshops: CLICK HERE