6 Kettlebell Cues I Use (that Pavel would Probably hate)

The kettlebell community can be a seriously rugged, badass group of folks. As a theater geek who used marching band to get out of PE, words like “hardstyle” and “tactical” seemed pretty foreign to me at first. Through my years of coaching, I’ve picked up a few cues I really love...that are maybe less hardcore than some you regularly hear.

I can’t recall where I’ve picked these up or if they originated in my brain, so if you know a coach who created or uses them, I’d love to give them credit! And Pavel, if you read this, I’m so sorry.


1. There is no “Heyyyy, Girl” in kettlebell training

The racked position is foundational to kettlebell work. We visit this shape while pressing, cleaning, squatting, carrying and a host of other movements. It’s easy to fall into bad habits when we’re tired or when our wrist is feeling the pressure of holding a bell for the first (or hundredth) time. 

Resting the elbow on the stomach or hip and/or letting the wrist extend creates what I call the classic “hey girl” shape. It’s arguably a great way to hold a handbag, fancy cocktail or sequined bolero jacket, but NOT a great way to hold a bell. 

 “heyyyy girl!” – NOT safe

“heyyyy girl!” – NOT safe

 For more efficiency and a much higher level of safety, rack your bell with a straight wrist and vertical forearm. 

For more efficiency and a much higher level of safety, rack your bell with a straight wrist and vertical forearm. 


2. Channel your inner Nicki Minaj

Around the time that this video came out, I started tossing around the idea that some of us should absolutely channel our inner Nicki. It can be difficult to know if you’re spine is neutral when hinging or squatting, but if you tend to be in flexion (or if you’re coaching and notice a bit too much flexion in one of your students), just think booty out, chest out and lift away. Really, all you have to do is mention her and most folks instantly pop into a safe, neutral-spine lifting position.  

 Spine flexed — NOT safe for lifting

Spine flexed — NOT safe for lifting

 Spine neutral — may feel like you’re getting ready for your bum’s next glamour shot

Spine neutral — may feel like you’re getting ready for your bum’s next glamour shot

 Spine flexed — NOT safe for lifting

Spine flexed — NOT safe for lifting

 Spine neutral — Nicki successfully channeled  

Spine neutral — Nicki successfully channeled  


3. Honey bucket

Until I moved to Seattle, I had no idea what a honey bucket was. In the Midwest we just called them porta potties. Regardless of what you call them, the movement is the same. It’s this awkward position where you get your butt behind you as far as possible, simultaneously keeping it high above the seat. It also happens to be a textbook perfect hinge. 

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4. Eat a sandwich

Take a break from reading and do this with me. Bring your hands up like you’re eating a sandwich. Now put them down. Bring them up again. Put them down. Repeat. 

If I were a betting person, I bet your elbows stayed pretty close to your ribcage. Yes? Cool. This is more or less the path of your single kettlebell clean.  

Sometimes I’ll see a version of the clean where folks lift their elbows up and out. If this is happening, chances are you’re using way too much of your upper body and missing the power generated by you feet, legs, hips and core. In a proper clean, your bell floats in front of the chest and lands in sandwich-eating position. 

 This is not proper sandwich-eating nor kettlebell-cleaning technique. it also sets you up for shoulder injury over time. 

This is not proper sandwich-eating nor kettlebell-cleaning technique. it also sets you up for shoulder injury over time. 

 Step 1: hinge well 

Step 1: hinge well 

 Step 2: levitating sandwich

Step 2: levitating sandwich

 Step 3: nom

Step 3: nom

For added fun & excellent cleans, you can pair this cue with the honey bucket cue mentioned above. I must admit, though, that telling a class to get in a honey bucket and eat a sandwich has only went over well about 50% of the time.


5. The recent manicure trick

I looooove a good crush lift. It’s one of my favorite ways to make a tiny bell feel enormously heavy. The trick is to use just the palms...no fingers. It's just like trying to do, well, anything after a fresh manicure. No smudges!

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6. Check out your manicure

Ok. So if you've managed to save your fresh manicure in the crush lift, you should be able to admire it when overhead pressing. If the wrist is straight, you'll have a clear line of sight on your fingernails. If it's bent, forget about it.

Secondly, it can be really helpful to look at the path your bell is traveling as you press...especially on difficult training days or just after a bell upgrade.

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I'm sure I'm not the only one to use a few flowery cues...If you know of other ridiculous movement descriptions, I'd love to hear them!