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Rooting to Increase your Strength, Power, and Balance

June 14, 2006 01:01 PM

Martial artists have long used rooting, establishing a strong connection with the ground, for maximizing the strength and impact of their strikes. This concept may also be used to improve the performance of any kettlebell exercises where your feet are in contact with the ground.

A strong base of support is needed for awesome displays of strength. Rooting will provide the stable ground connection that is needed to swing, squat or press a formidable kettlebell. It will naturally align you into a more powerful stance that will greatly increase and lengthen your ability to produce force. The improved alignment of your body also makes for safer training.

The Point Rooting System

I developed point rooting to teach my clients how to form a more powerful foot to ground connection. The first step is becoming aware of your technique when performing the kettlebell swing and the kettlebell press.

Awareness is essential for learning. First, become aware of how you lift a kettlebell or weight from the floor. To increase your awareness, these exercises will work best if you do them barefoot. Now lift your kettlebell or weight off the floor and do several repetitions.

Take a moment and think about how it felt. Where did you feel the most strain in your body? Did any parts of your feet come off the floor? Being aware of these feelings is important in properly aligning your body when you are picking up a weight.

Point rooting is becoming aware and influencing how your body is aligned through the contact of your feet and the ground. This is done by focusing on three contact points. The first is located on the heels (point one). Next are the points just under the big toes (point two). The last one is under the little toes (point three). To visualize these important points, study the picture below.
Kettlebell Rooting for Strength Balance Power


The following steps will help increase your awareness of the three contact points of rooting:
  1. Shift your weight back on your heels so your toes lift off the ground. Feel for where your heels make contact with the floor (point 1).
  2. Stand up on your toes. Feel for the two contact points on the ball of your foot. These are the inner (2) and outer (3) points of the upper foot.
  3. Gently move your knees together so you feel your weight shift to your inner foot. Feel for the point (2) just below your big toes that are in contact with the floor.
  4. Gently move your knees apart so you feel your weight shift to your outer foot. Feel for the point (3) just below your little toes that are in contact with the floor.
Once you have learned how to feel each contact point, it is time to learn how to root them. Here is how you do it:

In a standing position, gently move one knee in. You should feel point three lose contact. Push back into point three. DO NOT shift your bodyweight to reconnect. By pushing back into point three, you will find that your knee realigns naturally.

You can do this with all the above exercises in the same manner. Closing your eyes will increase your awareness.

Finally, go back to your kettlebell or weight. Establish a strong root and then lift the kettlebell or weight off the ground. Concentrate on keeping constant contact through the three points; think of the roots of the tree. I trust that you felt some big differences from the way that you picked the weight up at the start.

Implementing point rooting in your kettlebell training

Let's look how you can implement this to complement your kettlebell exercises.

The body needs to work as a unit. I am sure that you have heard this term before. If the body is unstable then it has to work on stabilizing itself. The mind tells the body you are falling over and muscles fire up to stop you. Through the awareness of rooting, alignment and stabilization of the body you will have a good foundation for lifting. Instead of muscles being used to balance the body they can now be used for the exercise at hand. Hence, the body working as a unit, means more muscle being recruited for the task at hand.

The first and most obvious exercise would be squatting. A lot of people have trouble with body alignment when squatting. Now you have the ability to fix it. If you feel you are losing connection with any of the points, reconnect and your body will naturally realign. Instead of feeling unbalanced and unstable you will feel a strong base.

One legged deadlift
If you are having trouble with your balance doing this exercise you are not alone. Point rooting will help clean up your balance and alignment quickly. Just be aware when one of the contact points loses contact and push back into that point.

Military Press
When the weight gets heavy, people tend to lean to get the weight up. This is because the root with the ground was lost. If you have established a good root you will have better alignment and use of the muscles for heavy pressing.

An extension of point rooting can be used through the hands. Next time you are pressing a kettlebell instead of just squeezing the handle, focus on squeezing into the sweet spot (the point on your palm where your little finger touches when folded down).

Establishing your root with your swings and you'll be using muscle and getting way more power. Keeping the connection and driving through the feet will have your swings feeling a lot more explosive.

Exploring point rooting

I am only touching what I feel is the tip of the iceberg with point rooting. Here are some of the ways that I have found that have made it even more useful.

When you start to use rooting your awareness will be in the form of feedback. This means that when the body becomes misaligned or off balance, you will have to take steps to correct it. Through practice it will become feed forward and be of even greater benefit to you. Your body will be aligned from the get go instead of adjusting when it needs to.

Feedback in ballistic exercises won't be of much help as the exercise will have failed before you get a chance to adjust. Imagine snatching a heavy kettlebell, there is no time to adjust. By establishing the root and being aware before you lift you'll be snatching safer and stronger.

Rooting doesn't have to be inactive. With practice it can be a live movement. Explosive exercises require part of your feet to lose contact with the ground. Learning to root, release and re-root quickly will be beneficial for these exercises.

Try using Pavel's spiral technique from The Naked Warrior and you will get an even better connection than simply pushing into the ground. On spots two and three (beneath the toes) try screwing them in opposite directions. This will add more torque, tension and get an even better foundation.


We all know of the benefits of weight training. With your mind/body awareness when lifting, your training will be more productive and a lot safer. This will no doubt be a great help to you in attaining your goals. It has been an invaluable training tool for me and I hope that you enjoy the benefits from it in your training also.

Ken Black, RKC is kettlebell instructor and strength coach, based in Sacramento, Ca. For more information on Ken check out his website and his training blog.