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16 Jan Kettlebell Training And Olympic Weightlifting – An Analysis Of Hip Power

Here’s a training topic that no one else talks about.

In this article, you’ll learn about the single biggest difference between kettlebell training and Olympic weightlifting. While there are many differences between these 2 explosive training methods, there is one thing that makes each of these strength skills so unique.

Make no mistake, these 2 training methods are very different from each other, yet also complementary.

There’s one thing that is central to both and no one seems to talk about this.

When I started to learn the Olympic lifts (the snatch and clean and jerk) – after establishing a strong foundation with hardstyle kettlebell training – I thought that my kettlebell skills would somewhat easily transfer to the barbell.

I thought that lots of technically sound swings, snatches, cleans, and other kettlebell exercises would set a good baseline that would transfer to the Olympic lifting.

I was wrong.

There’s a key difference between kettlebells and Olympic weightlifting that requires new motor learning and skill development to excel in either.

It comes down to hip power.

Yes, there are many technical differences between training with a kettlebell and a barbell, but the biggest difference comes down to one important distinction.

THE HIP HINGE VS THE POWER POSITION

The hip hinge pattern is used with kettlebell training and the power position is used with Olympic weightlifting. I’ll fully explain them here.

I’ve been immersed in Olympic weightlifting for the last few years now and I love the strength skill and sport for many reasons. The truth, however, is that it started out as a disastrous experience for me.

I went to my first workshop as a total ‘newbie’ and my performance was really bad, almost embarrassing. I thought that the solid technique with kettlebells that I had worked so hard for through the years would make the transition easier.

But the transition was very eye-opening, to say the least.

What I learned is that the hip power with each method is so critical to performance.

So, are the hip hinge and power position the same thing?

Let’s take a closer look.

KBHike

THE HIP HINGE

The hip hinge is the essential part of the kettlebell swing and other kettlebell ballistic exercises. It’s the hip hinge that makes kettlebell training effective, safe and explosive.

The hip hinge is what it sounds like – a hinging motion at the hips where the spine is maintained in a neutral position. The hips fold or “hinge.” There is typically a significant amount hip folding (hip flexion) but there is a minimal amount of knee bending (knee flexion). In other words, the knees are relatively straight or slightly bent.

A HIP HINGE = A HINGING MOTION AT THE HIPS WHERE THE SPINE IS MAINTAINED IN A NEUTRAL POSITION.

The hips control the movement as the spine must be maintained in a neutral (safe) position.

The hip hinge typically allows for a great degree of hip flexion.

For example, in a kettlebell swing the typical hip hinge range of motion is approximately 50-70° or so. This significant amount of hip flexion allows for the explosive hip drive to propel the kettlebell forward horizontally as in the hardstyle kettlebell swing. (See the picture above to see the large hip angle or large degree of hip flexion required for the kettlebell swing).

An advantage of using a kettlebell is manipulating the smaller kettlebell between the legs during hip hinge which allows for more range of motion and subsequently more explosive hip drive.

This is in contrast to the barbell where you cannot swing a barbell through your legs to explosively drive the bar vertical – obviously

The bar must remain anteriorly (or in front of) the hips and thighs during a ballistic movement (clean or snatch). We’ll talk about that when we talk about the power position.

The hip hinge is the first critical step in learning how to swing a kettlebell effectively and is the basis for the other explosive movements (kettlebell clean, snatch, and double kettlebell work).

To get 12 of my best kettlebell workouts, grab the FREE Kettlebell Impact Report – you can get it here.

To be successful with kettlebells, you must be able to demonstrate a solid hip hinge.

Please note that the hip hinge is not only useful in kettlebell training. The hip hinge is useful for optimizing human function, athletic performance, and keeping us out of pain.

The hip hinge is useful for optimizing human function, athletic performance, and keeping us out of pain.Click To Tweet

PowerPosition1

THE POWER POSITION

The power position is to Olympic weightlifting what the hip hinge is to kettlebell training.

According to the great weightlifting coach and athlete, Danny Camargo, the power position is arguably the most important aspect of the snatch and clean and jerk.

The power position has been referred to the “scoop” during the snatch or clean and is a critical component to explosively lifting a heavy barbell to the shoulders – or overhead.

What is the power position?

The power position is positioning the bar close to the body (at the hips) to allow you to be in the best possible position to explosively propel the bar vertically (just before the 2nd pull).

The 2nd pull is considered by many to be the most important part of the lift because it requires the most power and explosiveness with the barbell. And, the power position is crucial for this 2nd pull.

As a quick review, the 3 pulls in Olympic weightlifting are:

  • 1st pull – the initiation of the lift from the ground
  • 2nd pull – the bar passes the knees when the torso is vertical (hip and knee flexion)
  • 3rd pull – the final pull under the bar when the athlete quickly assumes the receiving position

Here are the key differences between the power position and the hip hinge:

1) SMALLER HIP ANGLE

The power position has a small hip angle (small degree of hip flexion) as the barbell is brought up from the floor into the power position just before the 2nd pull.

The power position happens in a microsecond, but it’s extremely important for the athlete to demonstrate triple joint extension (hip, knee, and ankle extension) in order to get the bar vertically with the clean or the snatch.

In comparison to the hip hinge, the power position hip angle is significantly smaller (at approximately 10-20° – SEE ABOVE).

2) MUCH FASTER

When the bar is brought up from the floor in the clean (or the snatch) and the bar is brought into the power position (or scoop) – the actual “position of power” occurs very fast. Very fast!

As I just mentioned, it happens in an instant and can be hard hard to spot, especially when performed by an elite athlete.

The hip hinge, on the other hand, is much more deliberant and noticeable as the range of motion is much greater.

3) POWER PROJECTS VERTICALLY

Another major difference between hip hinge and the power position is that the power goes vertical with the power position.

Remember that the idea with Olympic weightlifting is to keep the bar in a vertical bar path as much as possible.

The bar is projected from the floor to either shoulder height or overhead in a quick explosive movement and the bar must maintain in vertical bar path for optimal lift efficiency.

A kettlebell swing projects horizontally.

Even though a kettlebell snatch projects vertically, the kettlebell has the different biomechanical advantage of using the hip hinge (to hike the kettlebell backward between the legs).

Olympic lifting is always about going vertical, while kettlebell training is not. Because of this, the hip power is different.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

What’s the bottom line here?

The simple takeaway is this, the hip hinge is not the name as the power position.

THE HIP HINGE AND POWER POSITION ARE NOT THE SAME.

The kettlebell hip hinge and the power position are 2 distinct movements – in regards to the hip power.

This makes kettlebell training and Olympic weightlifting very different entities. However, they are also complimentary because both require hip explosiveness and power – which is important for the athlete and everyone else.

The truth is that the power position in Olympic lifting is much harder because it’s a smaller and insanely fast movement with the more technically challenging Olympic lifts.

And, an effective hip hinge pattern does not always translate into an effective power position, which may be surprising because of the effectiveness of the hip hinge in producing strong, forceful hip power.

Understanding the differences here will help you to understand the differences between kettlebell training and Olympic weightlifting – for learning, teaching, or developing your skills as an athlete or coach.

Both are incredible methods to develop the important qualities of strength, as well as improve human movement and potential.

But, kettlebell training is not “mini-weightlifting” nor will kettlebells make you an exceptional weightlifter.

Each method is complementary, but they are exclusive and independent.

While these training methods can definitely help each other, these are different skill sets and the hip power difference is one major distinction between kettlebell training and Olympic weightlifting.

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Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.
2 Comments
  • Dan Parrish
    Posted at 19:02h, 21 January Reply

    Hi Scott,

    Excellent article. I always enjoy your perspective on the different training disciplines. Not sure if you have listened to or followed any of the work by Julien Pineau of Strongfit, he would be an excellent guest on your podcast, but he was the first I have heard to talk about rotational torque on these movements. Another difference between the hip hinge and the drive into the power position would be that you would internally rotate your femurs on the hinge to unlock the hips. Because you need to keep the torso vertical on the Olympic lifts, the femurs need to be rotated externally like you would in a squat.

    • Scott
      Posted at 19:33h, 21 January Reply

      Hey Dan,
      Thanks for the suggestion with Julien, I’ll look into.
      And interesting point about the hip IR/ER and potential differences there. If the femurs IR, it seems it would be with the explosive hip drive with the KB swing. Assume that’s what you mean? That definitely “peels back the onion” another layer. We could really go deep here and look at all the joint/muscle differences going on.

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