Maybe you have seen them at your local gym or in a group exercise video, kettlebells have become one of the trendiest pieces of exercise equipment in fitness and wellness communities to date. The kettlebell is a versatile portal piece of exercise equipment that can challenge ones strength, endurance and balance all in a short amount of time. Although they may seem like the newest exercise fad, kettlebells have been around for centuries originating in Russia. For those not accustom, a Kettlebell is a type of free weight resembling a cannonball with a U-shaped handle. Kettlebells are unique from a dumbbell in their functionality due to the center of the mass extends beyond the hand. Kettlebells can be swung, snatched, cleaned, pressed, lifted and even juggled. With new types of exercise comes new risk of injury, so here are some tips to take into consideration to avoid injury with kettlebells:
1. Maintain a neutral lumbar spine to protect the low back – the low back naturally has a small gradual arch called lordosis, this arch should be maintained throughout all exercises no matter if you are lifting, swinging, squatting, pressing or carrying a kettlebell.
2. Begin with slow movements before attempting any fast or ballistic ones – Kettlebell squats and deadlifts are instrumental to performing the kettlebell swing and a great starting point for beginners.
3. Start off with lightweights before attempting heavier ones. Starting with body weight and incrementally increasing loads by 5lbs is the most appropriate. Do not buy in to kettlebell guidelines that state the average healthy male should start with a 16kg (35lbs) and female 8kg (18lbs).
4. Improve hamstring, glute and calf muscle flexibility. Flexibility of these muscles is needed for proper kettlebell lifting mechanics.
5. Work on core strength and endurance – The abdominals must be engaged throughout your kettlebell exercise routine while maintaining neutral lumbar spine (Tip # 1!) A combination of core muscles is needed to maintain a neutral lumbar spine during functional movements especially with kettlebell exercises. Exercises like planks or dead bugs that work on holding the spine in a sustained position for increments of time are a good foundation for core strength and endurance.
6. Seek out a professional before beginning a kettlebell exercise program. A certified kettlebell trainer, Gym specializing in kettlebells or your physical therapist would be the best individuals to introduce you to the mechanics of lifting or swinging bells.
DISCLAIMER – Kettlebells are not for everyone and it is highly recommended that even healthy individuals first participate in regular strength and conditioning before attempting to use these weights. Kettlebells are not for everyone especially individuals with current low back or neck pain, numbness or tingling down arms or legs, any acute injury or swelling, rheumatoid arthritis, shoulder or other joint impingements and severe osteoporosis.