The Kettlebell Armbar

I wanted to ask if you could tell me what the arm bar is doing exactly? I understand the theory is that it is training the rotator cuff more like a dynamic stabilizer, which is what its function is. I’ve been using it in a rehab function to stimulate stability, and have got mixed reviews from people……..
……Also I’m wondering if you think it is a good exercise to be using with clients who have a suspected tear or diagnosed partial tear in the cuff? Are there things to be ensuring to do before it?

I'd like to keep an open hand. Other than that, Jason gives you your Armbar.

The armbar is a combination of rotary stability and active hip extension to get the movement going and then is asking for continued rotary stability, t-spine rotation, and a stable shoulder complex.

Check out Marc Bartley demonstrating the Armbar. I’d like to see better off the pivot arm to allow for more rotation.  I look like him when I am doing it with my shoulder mobility limitations.

It’s a very all-in-one move, and is quite underrated in my opinion.
It does require integrity, and I have found it difficult sometimes to teach to folks that are not very athletic. There are other options, but this one should not be discarded if the person can nail it.

As far as a suspected tear, this move should not be used if the shoulder is painful. That is not acceptable unless form is perfect, and you are confident that this is the right fix. I do not use this technique if the shoulder is painful.
I have published non-painful shoulder progressions, and I also believe we talked about it on the StrengthCoachPodcast.
From a rehab standpoint, the right reset is the approach followed up lower trap activation. Once that pain-free environment is stabilized, then I would consider more complex moves, but there are still quite a few regressive options before armbar like Reach-Roll-Lift, Shoulder Packing, Arm Rolling, and some of the RT2-4 positions in DNS.

The armbar looks risky, but I think when executed properly, there is no lumbar rotation.  I always enjoy the kettlebell being the teacher, and it floating over the body is a great cue for a big grip and shoulder irradiation.

This is not the Armbar you're looking for.

  • August 31, 2011

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raymccarthy3rd Reply


For years I had trouble with my own shoulders. After learning this movement from Gray’s Secret series I was soon on my way to much better feeling shoulders. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this great exercise.

Hope all is well,
Ray McCarthy

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