How to Do the Kettlebell Arm Bar

The kettlebell arm bar is a great drill for thoracic mobility, shoulder stability, and motor control development through all different types of movement patterns. In my opinion this is a logical regression to learning the Turkish Get Up (which I will cover in an upcoming blog) and one that an individual must demonstrate full ownership of before trying to roll and stand up!

Start from the Ground Up

In the DVD, Secrets of the ShoulderBrett Jones and Gray Cook discuss four secrets or keys to unlocking shoulder mobility and motor control (1). They are:

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Posture
  • Grip
  • Joint Position (Alignment)

Each of these elements should be present in the Turkish Get Up and the kettlebell arm bar. To own The Turkish Get Up you should begin with the kettlebell arm bar. Spend some quality time on the ground getting comfortable with holding the kettlebell and maintaining alignment in different positions (that’s the posture part!) and make sure your breathing is under control. A change in breathing (faster and shorter breaths) is a sign that the body is craving stability and safety. This will make it much easier to transition to the more complex movements later on. The brain does not learn or retain information in stressful situations. Slow down, learn the movements and nuances and reap the rewards later!

 

The Set-Up

“Your set up is your first repetition.”  from Team Leader Pavel Macek who gave credit to Master SFG Fabio.

I heard this at my SFG Level I certification in August and it is such a pearl of wisdom. Don’t rush the set up. Make it perfect. Take your time because this lays the foundation for the first repetition and the rest of the set. Check out the pictures below for a great visual on the important technical points that I couldn’t stress in the video.

Proper Position for the Kettlebell Arm Bar

Proper set-up position for the Kettlebell Arm Bar

The Roll To Press

The Roll to Press - The first step in the kettlebell arm bar and Turkish Get Up

The Roll to Press – The first step in the kettlebell arm bar and Turkish Get Up

 

“Rolling Over”

Once the kettlebell has been pressed to lockout you are ready to take the next step. Extend your free arm overhead and your opposite leg. Position the foot of the kettlebell side leg at a 45 degree angle and near your glute. You need to find the position that is comfortable for you and allows you to perform the movement proficiently. Proceed with caution if placing the heel very close to the glute – this can cause additional stress on the knee so it’s prudent to leave some space between the heel and glute.

Push through your heel and drive into the floor. You’ll contract the glute , engage the hip and your core. Roll to your side while maintaining alignment and control of the kettlebell.

The first phase of the arm bar. Movement is initiated by pushing through the heel.

The first phase of the arm bar. Movement is initiated by pushing through the heel.

Look at the difference between these two photos. The only change is that the glute is contracted my driving through the heel and that hip is off the ground. This is how we connect the arm/shoulder to our core!

The initial roll of the arm bar.

The initial roll of the arm bar.

 

The Arm Bar

The final position of the arm bar.

The final position of the arm bar.

 

Return to your back by rolling back under control. To increase your control squeeze your glute of your post leg (the leg that’s bent). Pull the weight back down with both hands and roll like a baby to your side in the fetal position – identical to the position in the set-up photo.

Summary

  • Maintain a neutral wrist and packed shoulder throughout the entire arm bar.
  • The movement is initiated by pushing the heel down into the floor.
  • “Energy flows in 2 directions in the arm bar: extending the kettlebell and packing the shoulder. ” (1)  – Brett Jones, Secrets of the Shoulder
  • The drill is not over until the kettlebell is parked safely back on the ground.

There you go! A video and step by step breakdown of the kettlebell arm bar with a lot of the technical nuances in there to help improve the drill. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

References

  1. Cook, Gray. Jones, Brett. Secrets of the Shoulder. Functional Movement Systems. DVD. 2006.
  2. Cheng, Dr. Mark. Cook, Gray. Jones, Brett. Kettlebells from the Ground Up. Functional Movement Systems. Manual and DVD. 2008.
  3. Tsatsouline, Pavel. Simple & Sinister.  StrongFirst, Inc. Print. 2013.