One of the primary lifts in Kettlebell Sport, the power or push jerk, involves a high speed jump and a precise land.
In olympic-style weightlifting, a jump refers to the first dip of hip flexion followed by the powerful extension of the ankles, knees, and hips that fire leg strength upward. The subsequent landing is called the second dip because the knees and hips drop down a second time and remain rigidly flexed and contracted until the load is caught and controlled overhead.
The same principles apply to kettlebell lifting:
The second dip is the phase of the kettlebell jerk in which the hips shoot back under after the jump in order to limit the height of the kettlebells’ trajectory and to recruit maximal leg strength for the receiving position.
In the kettlebell community, the required depth of hip flexion in the second dip of the jerk isn’t standardized until the elite level of ranks (i.e. MSWC and above). These lifters know there is no alternative; perfecting technique on every phase of the jerk, second dip among them, is the only way to increase both load and total volume.
Interestingly, there is no debate within the Olympic-style weightlifting community about the biomechanics of the second dip with a maximal load, “its line of action, due to the force of gravity, is always vertically down. Once a lifter lifts a barbell, the unit, the lifter, and barbell have a common center of gravity (COG) and this has a bearing greatly in preserving balance. The location of the COG of the combined unit will be closer to the heavier object than the lighter one.” -USA Weightlifting Accreditation Manual
Unlike Olympic-style weightlifting however, the kettlebell jerk involves high repetitions of a submaximal load so how is it that the same principles from O-lifting apply here? If the legs are not in the proper position to balance the load over the combined COG from the start, upper body strength will inevitably become the dominate–and quite limited–transfer of force. Not good. On the other hand, when the kettlebell jerk is executed accurately, universal leg recruitment is smoothly sustained over time.
The depth of hip flexion in the second dip is based on three things:
1. Proper balance over the combined COG
2. Accurate alignment of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist upon landing– control of the kettlebells over the midline of the body with shoulders and elbows fully extended and parallel overhead; elbows perpendicular to the ground
3. adaptation and speed of the movement pattern within the central nervous system
These are critical skills that require neuromuscular development, not strength. Once the pattern is embedded into the central nervous system, including the appropriate exhalation relative to the load, we transition to heavier kettlebells.
If we see our teammates slamming the heels of their feet down after the jump with bent elbows overhead, we encourage deeper hip flexion until the kettlebells are caught precisely over the midline with shoulders, elbows, and wrists fully extended.
If we see the heels of the feet landing with the elbows locked but arms angled slightly ahead of the midline of the body, we revert back to a lighter weight or demand a slower pace to give the athlete time to practice accurate alignment.
For the past six years, our club has spent countless hours practicing the mechanics of the second dip. Every lifter in our club has been submerged within the technical world of each phase of the movement since the day they started our program. We are grateful for it! Longevity is sacred in this sport and we are still here to learn and grow. We hope you can also feel our passion to preserve the highest standards of this beloved sport. Spread the GS love for the second dip!