The tricky subject of Fixation


Fixation is a thorny subject among kettlebell lifters, as it seems to mean slightly different things to different people. Some instructors I have trained with have set a heavy focus on how straight my arm is. Really, though, that is not the point. My arm is naturally as bent as a banana, but lockout is lockout, regardless.

What I believe DOES matter is whether the arm is in a good position relative to the head and body – such that the arm is neither projected excessively forward or back – and that the arm in fixation is still. Really still. Not wobbling, swaying or twitching. Stationary. If the bell is still but the shoulder is moving, the bell will still drift, and this could be a no-count. Some lifters can get a little hot under the collar at this point, but a freeze is a freeze.

If you’re not sure how much motion there really persists in your fixation, film it. Ideally, use some movement analysis software. Try to analyse from all angles, all three planes of movement. Take the camera right around the lift. But however you choose to review, understand why we seek those few moments of stillness.

1) Neurologically, we work hard when lifting kettlebells. Our central nervous system is put under an avoidable stress to create the lift. Those brief rests in overhead fixation allow the brain to recover slightly from the hard work it is investing in the lift and prepare itself for the next lift. It leaves us able to lift – and with good form – for longer.

2) The stop-start movement allows us to lift safely for longer. We are able to lift, stop, re-focus and lift again. It is less risky than continual lifting without opportunity for adjustments of stance or grip. If our fixation is over-brief, that benefit is lost. Over time, the propensity to stumble, misjudge the lift or fail the lift will only increase where there has been so little respite.

3) Just as when exercising with tabatas, the pauses can actually improve the value of the workout. We can make notable muscle gains with heavy swing sets with regular rest pauses, and it is the same with lifts. A programme based around multiple brief periods of work reduces excess fatigue, and unnecessary stress to the body – that same kind of stress which encourages the body to retain body fat.

4) Fixation is the final deciding factor of Kettlebell Sport reps, at least with WKC,
so we can hardly train to compete and not acknowledge fixation is key.

There are benefits then to stopping and waiting at the top of the movement. And no real benefits to rushing on through. So, let’s get over the hang-ups, quit worrying about how we will knock out the reps in the time, and go with the (truncated) flow.

Lift strong.

m – video analysis of jerk ( courtesy of Valery Fedorenko)


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