How To Juggle Kettlebells – Guest Post By Logan Christopher

by Josh Hanagarne on November 4, 2009

Few things are as fun for me as having my heroes write guest posts for me.  Logan Christopher is a strongman who specializes in something pretty freaking cool: kettlebell juggling.  Not bowling pins, not chainsaws, not kittens…heavy kettlebells.  These videos are a new genre of poetry: Modernist Badassedness.  Enjoy!

By Logan Christopher

Few things can be done with the kettlebell that look as awesome as kettlebell juggling. Pressing, squatting or regular swings, while great exercises, just don’t capture the imagination like tossing around a heavy ball of iron. Check out this video to see just what its like…

And if you want to have true mastery of a kettlebell of a given weight, its not enough to be able to do a hundred snatches. Think that’s hard? Try flipping it over and around your shoulder and other even more advanced kettlebell juggling moves.

Lets compare kettlebell juggling to swings.

Swings travel in one arc over and over again. Kettlebell juggling is fully three-dimensional as the kettlebell goes around you, between the legs, flying over your shoulder. And more advanced work can involve you turning around and moving along with the kettlebell to kick it up another notch.

Because of the motion, the swing is a hip dominant movement. While all kettlebell juggling is built off of the swing, kettlebell juggling works everything from many different angles. It gives you the ability to deliver that strength from virtually any place. Not to mention that specific moves can be used to add additional work to the grip, arms, legs, etc.

Swings are a great tool for conditioning but because it’s the same move over and over its easy to become accustomed and efficient at it. Especially if you train to make the movement maximally efficient like they do in kettlebell sport. With kettlebell juggling the same weight is going to challenge your conditioning even more as each move is more difficult. Many times I’ve ended a free flowing kettlebell juggling set thinking I had it under control, only to be completely gassed right after.

Have you ever done hundreds of swings in a single workout? Can get to be a little tedious can’t it? But many times I’ve forgotten about time as I practiced my kettlebell juggling skills, surprised to find half an hour or more has slipped by. Training can be hard work. But it can also be a ton of fun.

I don’t want to knock the swing as an exercise. Its tried and true and very effective for what it does. Plus all kettlebell juggling has its foundation in the kettlebell swing. Make sure your swing is great before you move on to any juggling. But if you want to add some fun and flair to your training give kettlebell juggling a try.

That all being said let’s get started at the beginning with your first flip. Like anything else you have much more freedom and fun when you get to the higher levels, but you can’t get there without significant time spent on working the basics.

Always, and I do mean always, practice kettlebell juggling in an area where you can drop the bell without damaging anything. Doing this indoors is strictly prohibited, because you WILL drop it.

Assuming you have good form on your kettlebell swing you can get started. Watch the video and follow the steps to attain your first kettlebell flip. Oh yeah, and start out light.  A 16kg kettlebell or lighter.

To recap:

- Release the kettlebell near the top of your swing to discover its natural flight path.

- Do the same except this time bend the elbows so the kettlebell stays in close to you.

- Apply slight downward pressure on the handle to keep the bell from flipping.

- Try doing both the above steps while swinging and switching from one hand to the other.

- Back to two hands, at the top of the swing throw the handle down to start the flip. The bell naturally wants to go this way because of the mass. Let it fall.

- After getting use to the flipping motion, keep your hands close and grab the handle after it makes a single revolution.

- After two hands is easy, trying switching hands, then using a single hand for the release and catch.

That wraps it up. Go out and practice.

Remember the basis of all kettlebell juggling is on the swing. And the basis of all the flips and spins are off of this move. Kettlebell juggling is merely the act of guiding the kettlebell to do what you want it to do. This takes subtle touch to get more difficult flips exactly right. To gain that skill you have to practice. And do lots of it.

Logan Christopher is an RKC instructor and creator of The Definitive Guide to Kettlebell Juggling.

{ 19 comments }

Rob November 4, 2009 at 6:49 am

Great post! Kettlebell juggling is my favourite thing to do with those big hand bells. There’s nothing like getting ‘into the groove’ with juggling. Training time passes so fast with increased grip strength, fitness and co-ordination being a awesome by-product of flipping I would highly recommend having a go to anyone.

All I need now is some advice on how to ‘Juggle kids’ and train more often

Rob

Josh Hanagarne November 4, 2009 at 9:12 am

Rob, juggling kids is easier if they’re wearing belts you can hold onto. I’ve never really tried juggling kettlebells, but I’m getting more intrigued. Did you see the picture of Adam’s toe when he dropped that weight on it while juggling?

Are you going to be at his and Brad’s workshop in February?

Rob November 5, 2009 at 12:16 am

Ha ha, my kids are pretty light at the moment so should have a go before they get too big!! Did see Adam’s foot (ouch!), I’ve close myself on the odd occasion!
As for the workshop, I’m still deciding, I’m going through a pretty big job change (within the same company) in february,so need to think quick and get in on it if I can make my mind up. What will the weather be like in ND in Feb? was thinking of a family holiday!

Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009 at 8:34 am

Rob, know that ND is horrible in Feb. The workshop is going to be at Brad Nelson’s gym in St. Paul. The bad news is, I don’t think the weather is much better there. I’m going to be there. You’ve got to come!

Shane November 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

Great stuff Logan.

I’ve yet to buy a kettlebell. Damn recession.

You must be a grip strength fan, too, right?

Josh Hanagarne November 4, 2009 at 11:29 am

Shane, Logan does some of everything. I know he bends and tears.

Josh Hanagarne November 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

Here’s a link one of my buddies just sent me of some pretty wild juggling. Not sure what weight he’s using:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mNBqQjbDBQ

Logan November 4, 2009 at 11:45 am

Dammit Josh, now I need to buy some swords to add to my routine. :)

I think the weight in that video is 16kg. That’s the standard weight used by men in kettlebell juggling competitions at least to my understanding. some day I’ll be entering one of those…

Josh Hanagarne November 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

Logan, what are the actual criterion for the competitions? Is it entertainment? Are there certain levels of skill that must be demonstrated? Requisite moves?

Tim November 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Josh:

Thank you for sharing this. Cool video and loved the heavy music. Actually I’ve had a bit of a rotator cuff “irritation” for five or six months so, at this moment in time, this looks tough. Is it easy to get injured working out with kettlebells?

Shane November 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I have not tried this Tim, but you might want to look into the rotator:
http://therotater.com/wp/the-rotater/

Josh Hanagarne November 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Tim, it’s easy to get injured if you use them incorrectly. It’s very, very difficult to get hurt if you get some instruction and learn to do things correctly.

Srinivas Rao November 4, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Damn. That’s some crazy shi#$#. Haha. I can’t even juggle apples :)

Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

It gets even crazier once you realize what a 53lb kettlebell feels like in your hand. Logan looks strong, but he is a lot stronger than he looks.

John Logan July 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

http://skinnybulkup.com/kettlebells-are-inferior-to-dumbbells/

I’ve made some references in the comments section under the article on that website link above, regarding Mr Christopher’s training advice.
I have a steel plate and 6 screws in my left forearm now, permanently, after breaking my forearm with a kettlebell last year while snatching. I hope no-one ends up with a steel plate in the skull by being persuaded to take up kettlebell juggling.
Full details of my injury are at the link above, for anyone interested.
John Logan

Josh Hanagarne July 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Sorry about the injury, John.

Logan Christopher July 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

John Logan why have you never contacted me, instead attacking me and my name in various places across the internet?

You are the first and only one I have ever heard of breaking their arm with a kettlebell. That sucks for you. Sure kettlebells can cause injuries. So can weights. So can cars. So can virtually anything misused or just with bad luck. People get hurt all the time doing nothing.

I teach people kettlebell juggling. No shit there’s elements of risk involved. The moves I do are not for beginners. I do not recommend them for beginner’s. The potential for risk is there but I have never, not once, hurt myself in any shape or form kettlebell juggling. Some idiot can try to copy me off of the videos on youtube. He can also try to copy any number of dangerous stunts found online and hurt him or herself.

I’m not forcing anyone to pick up a kettlebell. I do not force anyone to juggle them. Those that want to can use my information to safely and productively get better at it and get the benefits kettlebells and kettlebell juggling provide.

John Logan July 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I’d like to help the “idiot” you refer to, the one who might copy your example of kettlebell juggling. I’d like to stop him getting his skull caved in. There’s no safe way to throw a 32kg kettlebell overhead repeatedly. Sooner or later, someone will end up dead or a vegetable because of that element of risk you acknowledge. Maybe someone with a family etc depending on him or her. Even if you regard such a person as an “idiot”, surely even idiots do not deserve that.
You are promoting the idea of overhead kettlebell juggling with heavy weight. This promotion can be seductive, especially when only a positive spin is put on the activity, it looks like a lot of fun, people can get the impression it is safer than it really is. Liability insurance may, sadly, protect you from any legal consequences when the first student turns up with a fractured skull/brain damage. But that will not mean that the juggling was a good idea, or that you have no true responsibility for any damage done by the idea you promoted.
Tsatsouline should not have endorsed your website.
He is old enough to know better, though this does not seem to aid his judgement.

Logan Christopher July 9, 2010 at 9:11 am

Tell me, did you rail against the show Jackass because people would emulated that and got hurt?

Do you protest outside the circus because someone might emulate their dangerous stunts?

I know a guy the broke his arm riding his bicycle recently. In fact I’ve hurt myself on numerous occasions doing so. Do you get up in arms with the bike manufacturers about their liability in producing ‘dangerous’ equipment.

“You are promoting the idea of overhead kettlebell juggling with heavy weight.” You seem to be stuck on the overhead thing. The fact is few of the moves go overhead, the majority are out front or to the sides. I show progressions where people can work up to the overhead moves, if they choose.

“There’s no safe way to throw a 32kg kettlebell overhead repeatedly.” I’ve done it, so have my students, if they go that heavy, so I obviously there is a safe way.

You hurt yourself with kettlebells (snatching not even juggling) and you feel its your mission to protect everyone from them now?

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