Mistakes in GS snatch. Another Sergey Rudnev's video.

In this video Sergey Rudnev continues teaching the correct technique of GS snatch. This part is about lowering the bell. Again, be lenient, as verbal comment is not as smooth as an article.

0:43. What you see is the People's Republic of China. Several steps from me is the river Amur, and while I am talking about kettlebells I enjoy the view of the border town Heihe.

1:35.  I would like to emphasize that Girevoy Sport is a cyclical sport, and it's main goal is to spend as little energy as possible. So you have to pay a lot of attention to the phases of relaxation. Lowering of the bell during snatch is exactly the part when the bell is in free fall, and so during this phase we should strive to be maximally relaxed.

2:08. Lowering starts immediately after fixation. So we are in fixation phase, the arm is relaxed, the elbow pointed forward. In this position we are trying to maximally relax the deltoids, the triceps and the muscles of the forearm.

2:38. The initiation of fall. First common mistake is that some athletes are trying to "help" the kettlebell to fall. I.e. they are trying to push or tumble the bell. First, this lengthens the trajectory of the bell and therefore loss of energy. Secondly, it leads to wasting energy actually pushing the bell down.

3:00. In order to initiate the descend of the bell with minimal waste of energy it is simply enough to turn the arm forward, the bell will lose balance and will start falling down.

3:10. Next common mistake of both beginners and non-beginner is "dive" forward, or premature flexion of the trunk. What's wrong with it? The fact is that flexion of the trunk involves the muscles of the lower back and posterior thigh. You can even try it yourself: put your hand in the small of your back and feel the relaxed muscles. As you bend forward you will feel how back muscles gradually become harder. So if you use back extensors when the bell is moving down you don't give them a chance to rest and spend excessive energy.

4:00. In order to make the lowering phase successful, as you turn the arm forward you should simultaneously lean the trunk backwards. Next, the arm with the bell is freely falling down while the trunk is deviated backwards. Doing it this way you will give the back extensors and posterior thigh muscles the chance to rest.

4:15. Next, about the position of the arm during the phase of free fall. There are two options, and the proponents of both are to this day arguing as to which is better. First option, and I am the proponent of this one, is when the bell is in free fall you turn the arm elbow down. Second, during the free fall you turn the elbow up. Why am I the proponent of the first option? If the elbow is directed down the plane in which the bell is moving overlaps the direction of the vector of force of gravity. In this case when I have to flex forearm muscles in order to neutralize the movement of the bell at the bottom the effort will be minimal. However, I the elbow is turned up the movement of the bell and the movement of the forearm are in different planes, and so I will have to use more energy when the bell moves to the bottom position.

5:35. Another typical mistake is the "dive" before the arm touches the body. So it's like this: when there is a distance of 15 - 20 centimeters between the elbow and the body left the athlete "dives" forward. If this happens, then at the moment of when the grip switches the athlete is bent forward, and the bell is slowing down by involving the muscles of the back and posterior thigh.

6:20. I want to emphasize that you have to keep the trunk deviated backwards until your arm touches the body. This way the downward movement of the bell will be neutralized mostly by the muscles of the forearm, and only when the bell is about to pass thought the legs the muscles of the back and posterior thigh switch on. So you save a colossal amount of energy.

6:55. Another typical mistake is lowering the bell vertically. If I do that, if the bell falls while the arm is bent - what's wrong with it? At the end of the fall the bell jerks the arm down. First, it can lead to injury, especially with a heavy bell: ligaments of the elbow, for example. Second, this downward jerk overloads the forearm and will affect work capacity of flexors of the fingers. To avoid this I recommend to keep the arm straight. Obviously, it will not be completely straight - it will be a little bent because it's relaxed. Still, you have to lower the bell along the arc, not vertical line. What does it do - it makes the movement smooth. Before you switch the grip you should try to keep the shoulder, forearm, hand and the bell in one line. This line tenses, and the bell swings between the legs. This way the load on the forearm muscles will be minimal.

8:24. I also want to tell you about another element of the technique I use. It's not absolutely necessary, but it helps to make the downswing smoother. It helps e to tense "the line" before the bell starts moving past the legs. It is flexing of the calves and getting onto the tiptoes. So when the bell falls I turn the arm forward, now it begins moving elbow down, the trunk is deviated backwards. As the arm becomes horizontal I begin getting on the tiptoes, so the calf muscles are flexed at their maximum when the elbow touches my abdomen. Then I get back to my heels and swing the bell between the legs.

The rest of the video is the report of Sergey competing in Korea. He was participating in biathlon with 24 kg bells. He says the result was not very impressive: jerk - 131, snatch - 201. But he was happy anyway as he didn't have time to properly prepare for this competition.

I recommend watching the video to the end, as while the judges are preparing the awards Sergey is demonstrating various kettlebell tricks.

All for now.

Kettlebell Snatch. Beginners' mistakes.

I decided to publish the video of the same title made by Sergey Rudnev with the translation of its key parts. As is often the case with good instruction, even though the video is in Russian  many technical aspects are pretty clear. Please be lenient with my translation; video narrative is not as smooth as the written text. 

0:50. I will start with the initiation phase. Most common mistake is to initiate the snatch when the bell is in the bottom position. It is a gross mistake, because at the bottom of the bell's trajectory the centrifugal force is at its maximum, and as the result the load on the palm flexors is maximal as well. Therefore, to initiate the movement at the bottom is silly. That's why I advise to choose another starting point, somewhere here (showing with the empty arm - Smet), about 50 - 60 centimetres from the bottom point. At the end of the swing. To help you find the optimal point I advise snatching with extra swing, which emphasises the two phases. The swing will help you find the point from which to initiate the snatch. Alternatively you can use a mark. For example, I put another kettlebell at a distance, so that when I point my arm at it it is in the optimal position from which I  initiate the snatch. 

3:05. Next point I want to emphasise is the position of the arm in overhead position. The goal is to be able to statically hold the bell. For example, if you snatch a heavy kettlebell the tempo should be slower, and not everybody manages to relax during the fixation phase. In order to find the most optimal position I recommend performing lunges with the bell overhead. You can also alternate snatches and lunges. This way I learn to relax the arm overhead. I concentrate on the lunges, but at the same time get used to relax the arm overhead. Another exercise I can recommend is overhead squat. Like this: snatch, squat, etc. Or a windmill: snatch, windmill. Or you can combine all four exercises: snatch-lounge, snatch-squat, snatch-windmill, say five minutes with the light kettlebell. The fantasy here is limitless. For instance I just thought of this: a walk with the bell. Snatch the bell, then do walking lunges, snatch the bell with the other arm and repeat the same way. 

6:40. The end of the instruction. 

There is another snatch technique video by Rudnev. I will translate it next time. 

In the meantime - you will do Sergey great service if you hit the subscribe button on his Youtube channel. I really believe he is the best Girevoy Sport coach you can find. 

Hardstyle versus Girevoy Sport. Again!

Recently I witnessed another mini-debate on Hardstyle versus GS reminiscent of the old heated DragonDoor discussions. A poster on StrongFirst forum asked about his C&J technique, and a certain comment ignited defensive responses from Steve Freides and Bret Jones, stating that HS and GS have different goals etc., etc. For me this doesn't make sense for several reasons.

First, lifting technique shouldn't depend on the number of reps. Do you deadlift sloppy if you bash out ten reps compared to one max effort? The idea behind GS is undoubtedly to achieve the highest number of reps in ten minutes - actually, for the pride, to be able to last ten minutes in the first place. That's why if you train for GS you should do ten minute sets with lighter kettlebells every session, just to be used to lifting for this period of time. 

Second, there is the issue of safety. Hardstylers generally don't lift for more than ten reps, thought there is this Secret Service Snatch Test that calls for two hundred reps in five minutes. (I keep wondering where the name comes from, probably from the same place "tactical" crept into every athletic household, but I digress). Even if you take breaks between sets and the volume of lifting during one session is not overly high you still get the issue of repetition. You keep jerking up your shoulders and lower back, and sooner or later something will give up. 

Someone drew the analogy between Hardstyle being the sprint and GS a marathon. Do you sprint with shitty technique? Bobbing head, stomping the feet, arms swinging chaotically? Running technique for short and long distance is different, but not that different. 

Third, efficiency. It has been said a few times that in Hardstyle you are not suppose to chase efficiency and even to the contrary, you make lifting less efficient so that you use strength and get stronger. Maybe, but efficient technique allows you to lift heavier weights, which by definition makes you stronger. Look at this video that compares Clean and Jerk of Rudnev and Merlin, both high level GS champions. 

Every phase is flawless:

  • Jerk involves a lot of muscle and resembles a jump
  • Rack is effortless due to the flexibility and mobility of the hip flexors
  • The jerk is initiated from the hips, which helps driving large load, in both cases close to the lifters' body weight
  • Both athletes emphasise the second dip, which makes sure that the second part of the lift is Jerk and not a Push Press
  • Overhead fixation is solid due to shoulder mobility
  • The bells land on the chest softly - because of the simultaneous flexion of the cal muscles
  • There is no "dive" during the descend of the bells to hang: the athletes lean backwards, the "arc is tamed" - HS term, by the way - and there is no sudden jerking of the lower back at the end of this stage
Is any of the above detrimental to the Hardstyle goals - which I believe is strength, tension and - the theme repeated more than once in Pavel's writings - tension in the right time? Feel free to chime in.