Watch highly-skilled kettlebell trainees in action, and you'll see that their movements are powerful, smooth and fluid. When you attempt to train with kettlebells for the first time, though, it's likely you'll finish the session with sore hands and bruised wrists. Poor form is the main cause of this, but you can avoid kettlebell-related pain by learning perfect technique, especially on the moves that are most likely to cause you trouble.
Careful with Cleans
The kettlebell clean is one of the most likely ways you'll bruise your wrists. The clean starts out much like a single-arm swing but ends with the bell in the rack position -- just below shoulder-height, with the bell resting between your biceps and forearm and your elbow tucked into your side. In this position, your forearm should be almost vertical but angled across your chest slightly, notes trainer Andrew Read of Breaking Muscle. Strength and conditioning coach John Gutierrez of Ironwork Fitness recommends practicing the rack position by using two hands to get the bell into place and then removing your non-working hand. Drop the bell back down and then repeat the drill, using both hands to maneuver it into position.
Soreness from Snatches
The snatch starts in a similar way to the single-arm swing and clean, but it ends with the bell held straight up above your head. With the snatch, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using poor technique and letting the bell swing over at the top of the exercise, hitting your forearm and wrist and resulting in bruising. Before trying the full snatch, perfect your high-pull to ensure you have enough hip power to get the bell up, which takes the strain off your grip. Punching through and bringing your forearm to meet the bell rather than letting the bell smash into your arm also helps.
Even with perfect technique, your hands can still get sore from calluses and broken skin. A pumice stone is an essential accessory for any kettlebell enthusiast, according to senior kettlebell instructor David "Iron Tamer" Whitley. Ripped skin and torn calluses can really set your training back, so use the stone, a corn-removing lotion, or an emery board or nail file, advises Whitley.
Wraps, Guards, Gloves and Gadgets
If you are suffering from wrist bruising but want to keep mastering the art of kettlebells, wrist guards can be helpful. You can get guards made from cloth, which may have some benefit, but for proper wrist protection, go for the firmer option made from molded plastic. One item you should avoid if possible is gloves. According to strength coach Sally Moss, gloves can interfere with your grip, making training more difficult than it needs to be.