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Where Do I Aim My Pass?

The Top of the Triangle

By Chris Hook, SFG-Elite, FMS2, TPI-FP3, KPP 1


There is nothing like receiving a well placed kettlebell pass, at the ideal height with the handle turning over as if it is being placed in your hands creating an effortless flow feeling. You will know when you are getting these passes when you get absorbed in the ease that comes with catching and receiving optimal passes. What started as a hunk of iron being flung at one another, becomes an uncomplicated fluid movement conversation.

How do you get to the point where passes can be effortless and efficient?

Having a foundation in kettlebell basics, especially the swing, is a great starting point for learning to pass bells. However, it is important to realize there are some fundamental differences between the basic Kettlebell swing and a Kettlebell pass. You will still hinge at the bottom. You will still lock out at the top, with varying degrees of intensity based on the weight of the bell you are passing. However, the biggest difference are where your hands finish and where your weight distribution is.

If you finish your pass, on your heels the way you do a traditional hard style swing you will likely loose your balance and fall backwards, you will not be able to wedge yourself between the bell and the ground. You can avoid falling over by distributing 60-70% of your weight towards the forefoot/midfoot and the remainder of your weight on your heels.

Your hands and the bell are not going to finish as high as they would in a traditional hard style swing. Generally the top of a swing finishes with your arms and the bell about chest level parallel to the ground. For Kettlebell Partner Passing (KPP), your arms/hands finish much lower, pointing towards your target and even below it.

Two things usually happen when you finish a pass at the same height that you would finish a hard style swing, none of these things make a flowing effortless passing session come together. The first and most dangerous consequence, of a hard style finish while passing is you send a line drive towards your partners chest or face. This is not an ideal trajectory for obvious reasons. The receiver will be jammed up by the bell and be forced to stop and re-route the bell to get it hiked between their legs or have to get out of the way.

Either option requires a high level of skill and effort, even for someone with experience. Another compensation is to flip the bell with a wrist flick which makes the bell fly short with too much spin. This happens because you have missed the window of upward momentum that helps the bell flip when released in the right moment. There is not enough forward travel of the bell so you have to overemphasize pushing the hands into the handle of the bell to get it to turnover.

How do we fix it? First think of where you want your hands to go when you are catching a bell. The easiest most effortless place for that bell to be for you to hinge to setup your next pass is a line drive, pelvis high kind of height. So if you are finishing a pass chest high, there is no way you will be able to put the bell at your partners ideal receiving height. Unless they are 9’ tall. To achieve this you will want to put your hands somewhere between your knees and right up in your groin/crotch (also known as the top of the triangle). If you draw a line from right knee to left knee to crotch, to right knee; you will have a triangle.

The triangle is the target

The higher you get your hands into the top of the triangle the more leverage and the easier it will be to hit the optimal trajectory for your partner. A great cue for KPP is to think of passing the bell through the top of your partners ‘triangle’. Remember to do this the release/finish of your pass will be much lower than the finish of your normal swing.

Try thinking of one of these thoughts to deliver a better pass:

• Think of passing the bell through the top of your partners triangle

• Point your fingertips at your target as you release the bell, angles down

• The bell is released before your hands go above your waist

• Match the intensity of your lockout for the weight of the bell and the distance it has to travel

When you give your partner a great pass that is aimed at the top of their triangle, it feels smooth on their end and looks smooth to the onlooker. It will look as if your pass helped them hinge more easily. Obviously, you need to have the right amount of spin on the bell too. We will discuss bell presentation or your ability to spin it just right in a future article. I will say that when you experience the right trajectory, with the ideal spin and find your target it becomes much easier to consistently rotate the bell so it becomes more than a pass. It starts to look and feel like you are putting or placing it in each others hands, almost handing off the bell.

These concepts apply to two-hand and single-hand passes between the legs. Passes outside the body are a little different but for the most part these concepts apply.

Now that you have some techniques to work with, how do you know if you are doing a good job? Communication is key to life and your relationships, the same is true here. You have to ask for feedback and for what you need. If a bell is too high let your partner know. If passes keep coming under-rotated, ask for more rotation. Remember to check-in about the passes you are sending as well. Ask your partner if they like what you are giving them. Make that effort to open the conversation. You don’t need constant dialogue just enough to get you both what you need to truly experience the benefits of KPP flow. In time you will be able to observe and read the way your pass affects your partner by how their body respond to your pass. With practice over time you will know how to respond appropriately with a pass that will create a seamless flow. Until then keep communicating and approach every pass as an opportunity to get better.

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