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Are Kettlebell Swings Bad For You

author
Daniel Brown
• Friday, 06 November, 2020
• 19 min read

It’s an explosive and natural expression of hip extension, a key portion of your vertical leap and your sprinter’s stride, too. You stand grasping a kettle bell with both hands, core tight, toes pointed ever-so-slightly outward, knees slightly bent.

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(Source: www.cavemantraining.com)

Contents

From there, you push your butt back slightly and hinge at the waist, letting momentum take the kettle bell behind your thighs. Momentum carries the kettle bell upwards and in front of you, and your arms drive forward, typically until they’re parallel to the ground, in the process.

In practice, the American swing frequently takes the emphasis off your mammies and glutes, and average gym-goers over-involve muscles that aren't meant for the job, such as the shoulders and lower back. In general, you always want to choose exercises that minimize risk and maximize the benefits that’ll push you to your goals.

You should evaluate all exercises this way (and not be afraid to question your group fitness trainer either -- it’s their job to answer you). American swing fans have two key arguments that fail to account for the way the general population actually moves.

It’s a demonstration of true shoulder flexion at the top of each rep, that your mid- and upper-back muscles will fire. In this way, it’s a total body exercise, and superior and more “complete” than the Russian kettle bell swing.

So that means, by default, they’re destined to perform the American swing incorrectly (and I've seen “fit” folks wreck this move, too). Targeting muscles is important, even if “all-workouts-should-be-total-body” nation doesn't understand that, because it's a key method of correcting weaknesses in both your mechanics and your physique.

kettlebell swing tips suck bad wrong exercise
(Source: markdegrasse.com)

Quick test: Lie with your belly on the ground, arms and legs long in front of you. Driving the shoulders into true overhead position isn’t as natural as you may think.

When forced to hit a true arms-directly-overhead position, many people compensate with movement in other areas, often arching their upper or (worse!) The basic swing lets you move a fairly heavy weight, since it relies on two of your body’s most powerful muscle groups, the legs and glutes, to generate the majority of the force.

If those muscle groups can’t power the bell to the dumb American standard, the shoulders and lower back do the brunt of the extra work -- except they’re not meant to move the same load as the glutes and mammies. So the shoulder muscles and smaller upper-body stabilizers take over that large load.

The American swing crowd might contend that this isn’t all that different from a snatch anyway, hamstrings and glutes firing. Thing is, both the barbell and single-arm snatch versions let you drive weights overhead while rotating and spreading your shoulders more freely to create joint space for your rotator cuff tendons.

That can’t happen when both hands are grasping a kettle bell handle with a close grip. Really think and focus on the American kettle bell swing, be super-controlled and mindful of your whole body, and you have your best shot.

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(Source: fatlossaccelerators.com)

They rely on high rep loads, and, eventually, fatigue piles on. Station-to-station randomness makes things worse: if the American swing’s your first move, your mind and your shoulder blades aren’t fatigued.

You could go “lighter” on the weight with the American swing, both in a class setting and in your own workouts, focusing on form. Except then, your hamstrings and glutes, the targets of the classic swing, simply don’t get to move as much weight.

Unless you compete in CrossFit (where the American swing sometimes shows up in competition), the wildest part about the stupidity of the American kettle bell swing is that there’s a much simpler way to achieve the super-aggressive hip extension and explosive glute contraction that it is supposed to bring. There’s a smarter, less injury-inducing way to push your glutes and hamstrings to “pop” more than they do on your average Russian swing.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.

Many people, mostly Cross fitters, are true fans of the Overhead Kettle bell Swing but I find the risks of this exercise far outweigh the rewards. The shoulder is a very complicated joint needing to be both mobile for movement and stable for support.

(Source: www.youtube.com)

For beginners overhead exercises can cause real problems because basic stabilization strength has not yet been developed. More advanced lifters can also have issues with overhead exercises due to a lack of shoulder mobility leading to compensations further down the kinetic chain.

As a dead lift based exercise that works predominately into the buttocks, hamstrings and core muscles I don’t see the benefit of jeopardizing the shoulders by lifting overhead. Most people nowadays due to more sedentary lifestyles suffer with mobility issues concerning the shoulders or thoracic spine.

When you swing a kettle bell overhead tight shoulders or a limited upper back will lead to a compensation of movement further down the body. Repeated overhead swings will continually arch and aggravate the lower back as you compensate for the lack of movement in the upper body.

For most of the people I coach I want to get in more reps in less time to promote cardio benefits, so the Overhead Kettle bell Swing is less efficient for this. In order to power the kettle bell overhead you will need to use less weight than the conventional swing to avoid bad technique and compensations in movement.

First beginners need to master the basic hip hinge movement, then how to isometrically hold the back flat during dynamic movement, and finally how to avoid overextension at the lower back all while coordinating timing with the arms and the kettle bell. A lack of power from the hips will also see an excessive lower back extension and many participants will lean backwards just to get the kettle bell into the top position.

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(Source: www.youtube.com)

Repeatedly swinging overhead with the hands together put the shoulders at risk, aggravates the lower back, reduces the amount of work and promotes bad form in beginners. With any kettle bell exercise you need to consider the true benefits of the movement, what are the risks and what are the rewards.

Repeatedly swinging overhead with the hands together puts the shoulders at risk, aggravates the lower back, reduces the amount of work and promotes bad form in beginners. In today’s world we spend the majority of our days doing things in front of us with terrible posture.

This overuse of the muscles on the front side of our bodies is called “anterior dominance” and it is plaguing our society. Anterior dominance results in imbalances in our muscles causing us to move and perform at sub-optimal levels.

It will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you ’ll develop the rear end of an athlete. It will bulletproof your low back by creating an armored brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut.

Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly. Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettle bell through your knees by contracting your lats.

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(Source: www.youtube.com)

When you push your hips back keeping your butt high and your shins vertical, you are hinging. This is good because most people today are hip flexor and quad dominant (your anterior muscles), so learning how to load and use your posterior chain creates a natural balance between front and back that will help in preventing knee and hip issues.

Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot. Getting proper instruction from an expert so that you can MASTER THE KETTLEBELL SWING is the best thing that you can do for your training regardless of your goal.

If you want to build strength, kettlebellswings will forge a grip of steel and will add pounds to your dead lift & squat. If you want to boost your athleticism, kettlebellswings will make you more powerful and add height to your jump and shave seconds off your sprints.

If you want to pack on muscle, swinging a heavy kettle bell will build an intimidating upper back & set of shoulders. And if you want to shed body fat, swings will incinerate blubber like butter melting in an iron pan.

If you do suffer with any of the above conditions then poor technique can seriously aggravate your lower back and so it is not worth the risk for you. If you experience lower back pain while performing the basic hip hinge then you need to either work more on your technique or seek hands-on advice from a professional.

(Source: ultimatesandbagtraining.com)

Controlling your pelvis is very important when performing any type of dead lift movement pattern including the kettle bell swing. Tight quads and weak inactive ab muscles can cause the pelvis to tilt forwards resulting in an arch at the lower back.

An excessive arch in the lower back (Lords) can pinch the nerves in the lumbar spine and disturb the intricacies of the vertebrae. How to fix it: stretch out your quads frequently by lying on your belly and pulling your heel to your buttocks, at the same time pushing your groin into the floor.

Secondly, brace your abs tight to prevent your pelvis from tilting forwards, think about pulling your tall between your legs. A common problem with so many exercises is an excessive backwards lean often resulting from bad proprioception and weakness in the core muscles.

Many people lean backwards during the swing because they lack the explosive strength from the hip drive to raise the kettle bell. Excessive back extension is very common when performing the American kettle bell swing and one reason I do not recommend it.

How to fix it: contract your abs and buttocks tight at the top of the swing and bring your tail between your legs. If you suffer from tight hamstrings then the movement at your pelvis will be restricted resulting with compensations at the lower back.

kettlebell daily swings
(Source: kettlebellalexch.blogspot.com)

The lower back should stay flat by isometrically contracting the muscles to maintain a neutral spine position throughout the swing. You may experience lower and middle back pain after your kettlebellswings if you are making this swing mistake.

If you suffer from middle back pain after your kettlebellswings then you may be squatting rather than dead lifting the kettle bell. If you are trying to squat and swing at the same time then you will be overusing your arms and relying on your back muscles to maintain the kettle bell position out in front of you.

When swinging correctly the power comes from the hips driving forwards and backwards and the arms merely control the kettle bell. If you suffer from a weakness in the mid and lower traps then your shoulders may have a tendency to gravitate upwards as opposed to back and down.

How to fix it: master the hip hinge, relax the arms and work on developing the scapula stabilizers with wall slides A warm bath and massage can help stimulate blood flow and improve healing times but ultimately it will be a waiting game.

Wait until you are fully healed before regressing the movement to the single arm dead lift and taking note of the 7 points mentioned above. The kettle bell swing is a highly beneficial exercise but it is very unforgiving and easy to get your technique wrong at first.

(Source: www.pinterest.com)

Kettlebellswings are excellent for strengthening the lower back, but they do need to be performed correctly using a good quality hip hinge movement. Poltroon has a good reputation, but I'm taking this particular view of his with a big fat pinch of salt.

Prof Stuart McGill endorses kettelbell swings as beneficial for spinal health, and the man has a PhD in spinal biomechanics or something similar. Anecdotally, I've been doing swings regularly coming up on 8 years, and I've never had a problem.

It can potentially cause hell a lot of different problems and eventually a death. People can get hurt from any exercise as long as they are doing it wrong, or progressing too fast, or something unexpected happens.

The only exercise I avoid because of injury potential is behind the neck press. Do the kettle bell swing barbell dead lift bend down to tie your shoelace can eventually cause you problems.

Yet he mentions the Only lifts as some exercises that he considers a more efficient way to train your glutes. He says earlier that there has been no new innovation in fitness training methodology since 19whenever, but KB Swings aren't new, the Russians have been doing it for a long time.

kettlebell swing fitness motivation right myths die need way morning swings crossfit quotes swinging
(Source: www.syattfitness.com)

He also mentions have in a saturated fitness industry, people have been known to say things against the grain just to get ahead, presumably he's not innocent of this either. If you're hip hinging correctly and have the isometric strength to keep your spine braced, you should be safe.

The problem is likely that these things aren't trivial with most training populations that have an assortment of previous injuries and far movement patterns. Lennarn wrote: People can get hurt from any exercise as long as they are doing it wrong, or progressing too fast, or something unexpected happens.

The only exercise I avoid because of injury potential is behind the neck press. Do the kettle bell swing barbell dead lift bend down to tie your shoelace can eventually cause you problems.

Yet he mentions the Only lifts as some exercises that he considers a more efficient way to train your glutes. He says earlier that there has been no new innovation in fitness training methodology since 19whenever, but KB Swings aren't new, the Russians have been doing it for a long time.

He also mentions have in a saturated fitness industry, people have been known to say things against the grain just to get ahead, presumably he's not innocent of this either. I happen to think kettlebellswings are among the best exercises you can do for general post chain work and don't understand why they are so bad.

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(Source: www.bccorefitness.com)

Grab a kettle bell in your first week of training and start doing snatches like you ’ve seen other more seasoned kettle bell enthusiasts perform with ease, and you ’re playing with fire, there is no doubt you ’re going to get hurt. The same applies to grabbing a barbell in your first week of training and start snatching it like you ’re in the CrossFit Games, you ’re going to get hurt.

The way a coach progresses you all depends on your learning capabilities and goals, here’s how I normally would progress someone with online coaching from nothing to a professional kettle bell enthusiast, taking into consideration that the student has no issues and is in good physical shape. *I throw the “Assisted single-arm clean” in very early, as I like my students to get familiar with the corkscrew motion, dealing with the proper weight distribution of the kettle bell to avoid pressure on the forearm, which is not dealt with early-on hinders progression at the stage of racking, cleaning and pressing.

Yes if you start doing weird things that you should not be doing or your body is just not ready for, otherwise, no they’re not bad for your shoulders, they’re amazing for shaping your shoulders, creating better range of motion, making them stronger and resilient to injury. The people that ask these questions either have participated in a kettle bell class with a cowboy trainer teaching or heard their friend complain about their back who just started swinging the bell while watching the Julian Michael's version on YouTube.

I would lie if I said I never seen anyone get injured during kettle bell training, I’ve never seen serious injury from a kettle bell, I have seen people out for a week because they did not listen to the weight suggested to them, they did not listen when the coach said, take a step back, regress and learn the hip hinge first. What I want to point out in this blog is why I’ve also found it has helped so many of my clients who once suffered with lower back pain.

Czech Republic’s Dr Vladimir Wanda is renowned for drawing our attention to the rise in “gluteal amnesia”. This common problem is a typical side effect of too much sitting and basically means that the backside muscles have got so used to not working that they have permanently fallen asleep.

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However, leading sports therapist to the Navy SEALs and NFL teams, Gray Cook comments: “ You can go to parallel in the squat without fully activating the glutes, however a Kettle bell Swing done with correct form will quickly light them up”.

Exercise physiologist Bret Contreras’ has also found that the Kettle bell Swing far exceeds the glute activation of a squat. This is perfect to open the muscles at the front of the hips, helping posture and taking the strain off the lower back.

Prof. Stuart McGill has found that learning to brace the core is more effective for spinal health and longevity than the classic “hollowing” or pulling navel to spine. I've listened to many of your interviews and incorporated much of what you and Tim have recommended into my weekly workouts, specifically the kettle bell swing.

But just recently, Tim interviewed Charles Poliquin, and he highly recommended NOT doing kettlebellswings saying it was bad for the back. The most striking flaws coming to my mind is not to brace on the top (hyper extension), not to pull the shoulder blades back, not letting the bell coming back to your braced body (hinging far to early), to let the body twist in one hand swings, too much squatting.

Studies need to be looked at individually as most would have to be conducted on inexperienced practitioners to get a decent sample size, plus the time frame parameters of an average study would also most likely not allow for one to meet an SF swing standard if not already familiar with it, again the study would need to be presented to be discussed rather than just referenced. As for the argument that “weightlifting must go vertical against gravity” (paraphrasing his original statement) the force plate studies conducted on KB ballistics show a very high output of force in this plane, after all the subjects were standing on a force plate. Just because the bell is moving more away from the center of mass does not change the force vector, it remains vertical.

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(Source: blog.thegymlifestyle.com)

Over 14 years of my kettle bell certifications we have received countless reports of improved back health and performance. “ Kettle bell Simple & Sinister” has been endorsed by #1 spine biomechanic in the world Prof. Stuart McGill and leading PT expert Gray Cook.

The kettle bell swing is a powerhouse when it relates to burning fat, building muscles, and improving your cardiovascular system. Burn a bunch of calories Studies#1 The American Council on Exercise (ACE), researchers found that a kettle bell workout can burn up to 20 calories a minute (1).

This means that a 20-minute kettle bell workout could burn up to 400 calories. The participants would use a 16 kg (35lbs) kettle bell to complete the workout.

They were told to go at their own pace and take as much rest as they needed. The subjects completed an average of 265 swings in the 12-minute workout.

Using a metabolic cart, researchers found that the participants burned an average of 160 calories in the 12 minutes, an average of 22 swings per minute (2). The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn (assuming all other variables are equal).

(Source: lifterlaura.wordpress.com)

Obviously, the heavier the kettle bell, the more calories you will burn (assuming all other variables are equal). The subjects completed an average of 22 swings per minute.

It is fair to say that not everyone will burn an average of 20 calories per minute, like in the Ace study. But that doesn’t mean everyone will only burn 160 calories in 12-minutes, like in this study.

Full body workout The Kettle bell swing works your core, back, shoulders, hamstring, quads, glutes, forearms, and chest. Move that shit as fast as you can (while keeping control) for 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 5 reps.

The Kettle bell swing used in high-intensity workouts such as HIIT AND Tabatha will increase your anaerobic (without oxygen) capacity. Aerobic capacity is the ability of your body to transport and use the oxygen you breathe.

If you ever have felt out of breath after just 3 or 4 minutes of jogging, then you need to increase your aerobic capacity. Your heart and lungs will curse the day you were born, but you ’ll improve your aerobic capacity.

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(Source: www.cavemantraining.com)

The last time I completed this challenge, I lost 8 pounds in the first seven days. The prescribed kettle bell weight for this challenge is: For women-16 kilos or 35 pounds.

If you are feeling brave, you can perform this workout a few more times. Just make sure you rest an adequate amount of time between workouts.

The kettle bell swing is a serious way to pack on muscle, increase your strength and cardiovascular endurance, while burning a shit ton of calories. They are an excellent way to get your workout on and kick some ass in the least amount of time possible and without having to leave the comfort of your home.

You can buy a kettle bell anywhere, from sporting goods stores, Amazon, and even Walmart. If you are unsure of which brand to buy, We own two CAP kettle bells.

Everyone from bodybuilders to the most casual exerciser loves kettlebellswings for a reason: they rock. To properly do a kettle bell swing, you ’ll need to do a powerful hip thrust using your glutes and hamstring muscles.

kettlebell swing exercise rehak james corrective trainer movement patterns demonstrating
(Source: blog.merrittclubs.com)

Doing moderate to high reps of kettlebellswings will put your muscular endurance through the roof. Moderate to high repetitions of kettlebellswings will give your heart and lungs an incredible workout.

Anyone who’s ever tried the 200 Rep Reckless Challenge Workout will know that by the end, you ’re gasping for air and your heart feels like it’s going to beat out of your chest. Kettle bells are a perfect match for interval training, and the constant acceleration of your breathing and heart rate during HIIT will help to boost your anaerobic capacity.

(I typically use a 35 pound kettle bell for my workouts because I’m aiming for speed and endurance). Brushing your arms on your inner thighs, forcefully extend your knees and hips to accelerate the kettle bell up.

At the top position, the kettle bell should be nearly straight above your head and slightly facing forward (there is some contention on this; some people say the kettle bell should be facing completely skyward, but I was always taught to have it point slightly forward so if for some reason you loose control, it would fall in front of you, not behind you). Absorb the kettle bell weight as it follows the same path back to the starting position.

Now you can see why we include kettlebellswings in so many of the 12-Minute Athlete workouts … they’re an incredibly effective (and fun) exercise. Try a kettle bell swing using just one arm at a time… it’ll build extra balance and force you to use your core even more to stabilize yourself.

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That’s OK, you can still get many of the benefits of a kettle bell swing by swinging a sandbag, a dumbbell, or even a duffle bag full of heavy stuff (just make sure it’s not to big that it hits the ground every time).

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