How To Teach The Kettlebell Deadlift
The centre of Hardstyle Kettlebell training is the Swing. The Swing is a dynamic hinge pattern but before we start with this basic lift, we must learn and then load the Deadlift.
The Deadlift is a static hinge pattern, and we teach it before everything else. It correlates to basic human movement (squat, lunge, push, pull, etc.,) and is, therefore, the expression of full body strength.
With the Kettlebell Deadlift, we learn how to hinge the hips and keep the spine strong during loading. It’s important too that you keep in mind that you’re teaching your client to have better movement quality and efficiency – You’re not teaching him or her to break a personal best (though becoming proficient at the Deadlift will come in handy for smashing PRs later).
For the moment, the emphasis is on getting this vital hinge pattern down pat so that they can proceed onto the main Kettlebell lifts safely.
Our modern society doesn’t help men and women in carrying out functional movements correctly. Yes, we way stretch, bend and pick up things, but we’re probably doing so with bad form! So you’ll find that many of your clients may need more mobility and body awareness than anything else.
Therefore, before you do start, you will have to test your client for simple moves such as toe touches and active straight leg raises. This will enable you to see what mobility issues may have to be cleared during the hinge movement too. For example, stiff, rigid hips will result in strained movement in the lumbar spine, which is not good and a dangerous way to proceed. However, people will often rather break their back than use their hips.
Ask your client to be barefoot too. Or if they feel uncomfortable let them use the socks. They can also use gymnastics slippers or barefoot shoes like (Vibram 5 fingers, Merrel, Inov8), but nothing can beat the real human foot. It the best solution.
You’ll notice that many clients will mix the Deadlift pattern with the Squat pattern, but these two are very different.
Hip Hinge = maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend.
Squat = maximal hip bend, maximal knee bend.
Also, ask your client to touch the handle of the Kettlebell several times. This will give you a better picture of the movement quality and also a strategy to teach and correct the pattern. We can call this the bodyweight hinge.
Teach them how to hinge from the hips. They need to reinforce the unloaded pattern before they try to do with Kettlebell, so let them try with a stick or with a stationary object like a wall. Using a stick, held behind them (see image), will teach them to lengthen their spine. Ensure that they retain three points on the stick – head, thoracic and lumbar spine – during the hinge.
With wall hinges, they just have to touch the wall and not actually lean on it. They will need to practice some movement endurance (e.g. three sets of 30) before the load.
The beauty of Deadlift is that you have options for people who can’t hinge deep. If they have difficulty, you can just lift the Kettlebell up onto an elevated platform (i.e. bumpers) or elevate the front of their foot to enable better movement in the hips.
It is the same thing with the Squat. We can always elevate the heels for greater depth. It is a great option for older people in particular.
Once in the standing position don’t let them be soft. Use these position to reinforce an upright ‘Plank’. In all grinding lifts, we need to have a safe and straight spine. The muscles will protect the spine if they are taught how. Also, your client’s scapula will be grateful if the weight is held in front of the body.
So these are just some tips that could be used when teaching the Deadlift. Use them or find your personal favourites. Whatever works is OK. The important thing is not to be afraid of teaching the Deadlift; be afraid of teaching the Deadlift incorrectly.