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Is It Kettlebell Neck

Kettle bells are taking the bodybuilding and sports world by storm. Drop the head back and look toward the ceiling, allowing the neck to relax and feel a good stretch.

author
James Lee
• Thursday, 26 November, 2020
• 14 min read
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Finally, allow the head to drop to one side, touching your ear to your shoulder. You may need to assist your neck by pulling your head gently to the side with one hand.

Continue holding the kettle bells in each hand, but turn your palms to face forward. Keeping your body and neck upright, squeeze your shoulder blades together and allow the kettle bells to come slightly outward and back as you flex your upper back and neck muscles.

Do not perform this exercise if you have any problems with the shoulder or rotator cuff. Tips Always keep your neck in a neutral position when lifting weights to decrease the chance of injury. \be sure to stretch your neck before beginning any weight training workouts.

Warnings Don't start any new workout without an OK from a doctor, especially if you have had any sports-type injuries in the past. \make sure you use the proper weight of kettle bells when starting your workout, and don't lift more than the suggested weight for your body size. One of which is the current Guinness World Record holder for the hour-long cycle and multiple Master of Sport in IFF, the other is her coach, is the lead instructor for the CrossFit Kettle bell certification process and is an accomplished kettle bell athlete himself.

Zach, Too, their affiliate coaches and their interns teach the kettle bell swing as an integrated athletic movement. The gaze is fixed on a single point allowing the torso and thoracic spine to rotate around it.

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The result is a smooth and subtle cervical extension at the bottom of the swing and a relative mild flexion at the lockout at the top of a KB snatch. Notice how I do not swing my gaze up and down with the bell as though I’m holding an orange or some other citrus fruit under my chin.

When you fix your gaze, you are not extending or moving your neck and head but relative extension does occur. A mildly extended neck position when not weight-bearing is not dangerous or inefficient.

This alternative approach is so stiff, athletic and dysfunctional, that you need only try it to realize that it is a poorly thought out idea. Just for fun and to drive home the point, I’ll break down a brief argument into three categories: Safety, Performance, and Biomechanics.

There is no more risk of a compressive extension injury while extending the neck a few degrees at the base of a kettle bell swing as there is looking up at a basketball before jumping for a rebound. If you are recovering from a neck injury that is so inflamed that the mild relative motion involved in the proper mechanics of a swing is causing pain and inflammation, you need to put swings on the shelf for a couple of weeks, get an assessment, some treatment, heal up and get back to the bell when you’re ready.

It is better to peel back to a regression movement rather than defile your technique and stubbornly push through with stiff-necked kettle bell swings. She has published and impressive volume of studies over the past decade exploring the importance of fixing the gaze on an object and it’s effect on efficiency of movement and athletic performance.

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Her colleagues, and she refers to it as “external fixation” or “attentional focus” and have proven time and time again that gaze fixation improves measurable markers of athletic performance in everything from muscular recruitment, to throwing darts, to juggling. In 2007, she and her colleagues analyzed in a published controlled study the effect of fixing the gaze upon a target in the vertical jump test.

As I described before, the hip extension of a KB swing or snatch closely matches that of the mechanics of a vertical jump. In her study, she had uninstructed control groups to simply jump as high as they were able using whatever strategy they felt was most effective.

It describes a common biomechanical fault of stiff/ hypertonic neck and upper back. When these imbalances or not addressed, the result is the Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes also pictured below.

These models, when understood and applied correctly, would actually support increased cervical mobility which is achieved with the fixed gaze, mobile cervical style of swing as taught by my coaches and most of the serious coaches in the kettle bell world. In fact, fixing the treatment area and creating relative motion at that segment by moving the surrounding body is often THE most effective way to rehabilitate, activate and treat the neck.

Examples of this style of mobility include the Turkish Get-Up and Baby Get-Up for shoulder and glute medium rehabilitation. Holding a tennis ball, large orange or grapefruit under your chin while exercising is not entirely useless.

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When you swing a bell, lock your spine into a rigid lever, fire your hips into extension, and allow your neck to relax and respond naturally. Dr. Pond holds the rank of IFF Elite Level Sprinter which he earned at this year’s Northwest Kettle bell Championships in the #70 snatch division.

We kettle bell aficionados dedicate our energy to training that satisfies not only our desire to condition, but to also achieve ideal recovery. Recovery is more than just rest — it is the maintenance of muscle length, mobility of the joints, and postural calibration.

Morning routines, PRE- and post-workout stretching, and nighttime soft-tissue work aggregate recovery and training maintenance. As with training, you can use one kettle bell to overcome pain, postural issues, and tissue length discrepancies.

As a strength coach, I have learned that fervent training can produce soreness, joint stiffness, and nagging pain in the shoulders and neck. Trainees may develop imbalanced bodies that require corrective exercise, stretching, and mobilizations to ward off pain.

The worse pain comes in the morning — hours of side-sleeping creates stiffness, particularly in my traps, scalene, infraspinatus, and lats. Since my body unconsciously moves to the worst positions possible while I sleep, I thought it would be wise to develop a short routine of 3 loaded kettle bell stretches to align my body before venturing out to train clients each day.

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When we think of posture, it’s easy to imagine a golf ball sitting atop a tee. Like the golf tee, our thoracic spine needs to remain in a neutral position — a pattern that is disrupted from too much sitting, typing, driving, or lack of attention.

I have found two culprits in inducing my neck and shoulder pain: the PEC minor and latissimus Doris muscles. These muscles can pull on the rib cage, spine, and scapulae in an unwanted manner — warranting a need to address their length.

A light kettle bell serves to effectively load the body and teach it to find new positions of depth while stretching. I have found that opening up the chest, stretching the lats and extending the thoracic spine allows the head to sit atop the clavicle like the golf ball on a tee.

This contraction allows the stretched muscle to enhance proprioceptive strength so that the body learns the new position, rather than passively achieving length. Get more updates like this when we publish by subscribing at the bottom on mobile device or the right side on desk top!

In my quest to eliminate neck and shoulder pain from training and daily life, here are three techniques to enhance posture and stretch the muscles that may be pulling the spine, rib cage, and scapulae out of whack. Focus on keeping a proud chest, with neck fully extended in a long position.

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Instead, make sure the last rib angle is low, the pelvis in a posterior pelvic tilt, and the core engaged. Drop the shoulder blades down and back while actively pulling them together (depression and retraction).

After the five seconds, exhale and allow the kettle bell to sink deeper as the PEC minor and anterior deltoid gain length. If you have tight lats, triceps, and obliques like I do, you may find standard stretches are not enough to provide adequate length.

Focus on keeping a proud chest, with neck fully extended in a long position. While here, disallow the lumbar spine to extend by putting the pelvis into a posterior pelvic tilt.

You may note that it helps to contract the muscles of the upper back while driving the elbows into the surface. It’s only when soreness, joint stiffness, and crooked posture arises that we realize the importance of daily maintenance.

Keep in mind your health is the sum of not only you're training, but what we do to prepare our body for the next workout. Originally from San Diego, California, John Parker has been involved in organized sports and outdoor activities since a young age.

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Students benefit by learning how to effectively manage their nutrition, fitness, travel, and mindset in the most focused way possible. John’s interests include strength training, climbing, international travel, and road trips to the mountains.

Kettle bells are cast-iron weights (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Unlike traditional dumbbells, the Kettle bell ’s center of mass is extended beyond the hand, which facilitates ballistic and swinging movements.

In one study, a team of British scientists looked at the effects of Kettle bell training on maximum strength (assessed by half-squat 1-rep max ) and explosive strength (assessed by vertical jump height) (1). In this study, 21 healthy men who could perform a proficient half squat were tested for their half-squat 1RM and also their maximum vertical jump height, before a period of Kettle bell training and then again post- Kettle bell training.

The period of Kettle bell training was also compared to a period of jump squat power training, which is known to improve 1RM in the half squat and also vertical jump height. Meanwhile, the jump-squat training group performed at least four sets of three jump squats, using a load that maximized each subject’s peak power.

Meanwhile, explosive strength as measured by vertical jump height improved by an average of 19.8% following the training interventions, and analysis revealed that both types of training were equally effective in this instance also. Since energy is a measure of ‘force times distance’, the relatively large range of motion used in a Kettle bell swing results in a high energy expenditure and oxygen consumption; this has led some researchers to ask if Kettle bell swing training could be an effective method to improve aerobic fitness?

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* Kettle bell training (20 minutes of Kettle bell snatching with 15 seconds of work and rest intervals) *Circuit training (multiple free-weight and dynamic body-weight exercises as part of a continuous circuit program for 20 minutes) The results showed that in the Kettle bell -trained group, the average increase in maximum oxygen uptake was 2.3 ml·kg¹·min¹, or approximately a 6% gain.

In the same year, another group of US scientists compared a Kettle bell high-intensity interval training program to a standard sprint interval cycling program in terms of aerobic demands on the body (3). Eight men completed two 12-minute sessions of Kettle bell and sprint-cycling intervals in a counterbalanced fashion.

When the subjects performed the Kettle bell intervals, their total caloric expenditure was found to be significantly higher, as were their oxygen consumption levels. Another aspect of Kettle bell training worth mentioning is muscle activation and injury.

When performing Kettle bell swings, the dynamic muscle-activation patterns are markedly different to those of conventional resistance training, where the trunk is relatively static. This has led some researchers to suggest that Kettle bell training may be a useful component of injury prevention and/or rehab programs.

Indeed, there is some evidence that Kettle bell training can reduce the occurrence of back and neck pain in those whose jobs involve heavy manual lifting (4), those with chronic low-back pain (5), and those with a history of knee and hamstring injury (6). So far, so good — but how effective is Kettle bell training in terms of actually improving sports performance?

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And more to the point, how does it stack up against conventional heavy-weight training, which has been shown to improve a number of parameters of sports performance. In a 2016 study on sprinting performance published by US scientists, researchers compared Kettle bell training to conventional stiff-legged dead lifts with free weights (7).

However, one study did directly compare the effects of heavy resistance weightlifting versus Kettle bell training on vertical jump, strength, and body composition (9). This is an important finding because recent research has demonstrated that strength gains resulting from heavy resistance training leads to improved ‘muscle economy’, which means less energy/oxygen consumption is required to sustain a given pace/power output.

Overall, the evidence suggests that using Kettle bells as part of a training program can deliver significant benefits. However, when it comes to the benefits for sports performance, there’s no real evidence that Kettle bell training is superior to a conventional heavy resistance program.

What’s the optimum volume of strength training ensuring maximum sport-performance gains? John Shepherd reviews some of the most common injuries suffered by runners and shows how they can be avoided by adding some simple pre-training exercises into your routine MORE

Groin strain is one of leading causes of injury in sports involving running and jumping. Peak Performance looks at new research on plyometric training, and how to manipulate it for greater benefits MORE

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Peak Performance looks at some new research on the best way to warm up for two key strength exercises MORE I came across some articles about the bobble head syndrome a few months ago, and have been trying to fix it since then. I think I have eliminated the worst parts of the bobble head motions, but the tension and pain seem to persist.

It feels like I create a lot of tension in my neck during the swings, but I have still not been able to figure out how to stop doing it. Should I try to relax my neck, or should I tense it as a part of “the packing of the shoulders”?

I came across some articles about the bobble head syndrome a few months ago, and have been trying to fix it since then. I think I have eliminated the worst parts of the bobble head motions, but the tension and pain seem to persist. It feels like I create a lot of tension in my neck during the swings, but I have still not been able to figure out how to stop doing it.

Should I try to relax my neck, or should I tense it as a part of “the packing of the shoulders”? I agree with above (anti-shrug) — learning to engage my lats and ease off my traps was a game-changer for me (pretend like you're holding $100 bills under your armpits). Also — and you'll have to experiment with this one — I found chin tuck exercises to be helpful.

And finally — have you been checked by somebody who knows what they're looking at and can physically evaluate (i.e. medical professional)? This might not be what you want to hear but I simply stopped doing KB swings because of the chronic tension in my neck that accompanied EVERY swing session.some days it wasn't bad, and some days it was nonexistent.

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You could work yourself with different mobility, OS resets, stretches, etc. Or you could eliminate the problem exercise. I just wouldn't expect any advice from this forum, as good as it may be, to help cure the tension in your neck.

You would probably do better to see an SFG who can teach you to swing crisply, and then see if the drill still causes you problems. Just keep it in line with your spine as it is standing straight up — the head moves with it.

A lot of people finish by thrusting the head forward at the top, be aware of this and don't let it happen. I believe it stems from excessive pulling back of the shoulders (miscue re shoulder packing) along with popping, the shoulders keep going and the head sort of cranes forwards at the top of the movement. I have some degenerative cervical disk symptoms, sometimes it helps to look forward a bit as I go into the hike, but as much as possible I try to keep the neck and head neutral.

I look about 8 feet in front of me at the floor and anchor my eyes to that point. Sounds like you would benefit from some professional help though, including medical.

IDK what anti-shrug means, but if it's about pulling the shoulders down to engage the lats then +1. Also, try a lighter load, see if the problem occurs ? If you can't find a solution, lay off exercise for a week and practice good posture.

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I would like to echo the comments about avoiding the shrug and engaging lats harder. I've had technique/pain issues solved from simple, harmless cues on this forum.

I have the habit to stabilize the entire spine by tensing the neck, and the only time that I managed to relieve this was by creating intro abdominal pressure properly. Supine or prone, correcting the breathing pattern and making it a habit to stabilize by using intro abdominal pressure was what I did.

What has helped me far is the following:a) walking with a small weight, a book or a pillow on my head? b) carrying a light KB directly after drill (a) — and sometimes also with something on my head.

Now and then I stop and try to turn my head in all directions while still breathing relaxed and controlled. c) maintaining this tall and balanced position while doing KB dead lifts (also single arm DLS) or drinking bird swings (smaller movement swings, starting from the plank position) d) engaging my lats during carries and lifts (pushing them laterally) and trying to relax my traps

So far my head posture has improved a lot and I get less and fewer problems from KB training. Edit: as Taipei says, ab strength (core bracing) is also really important

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I had a little neck stiffness after heavy swings until I got serious about T-spine, scapular and shoulder mobility. It improved my overhead shoulder mobility almost overnight as well as MA technique.

The picture below from this article demonstrates the corrected Neck Packing” position you need to be in at the completion of your Kettle bell Swing: your chin tucked into your chest. Also, I may have some fuzzy recall from reading forum responses, Original Strength authors, etc but I do believe that there is the thought out there it is next to impossible to rigidly pack the neck at the bottom of the swing...like the Breaking Muscle author says...because it overrides our natural vestibular reflexes involving our eyes/line of sight/getting our body in natural positions.

My copy of Simple and Sinister is not handy but I believe there is brief discussion of swing stance, with Pavel pictured at the bottom of a swing (“gorilla stance”) sans kettle bell, with eyes and head slightly up. Yes the article clearly states that the position shown puts undue tension on the neck

Kenny, if you look at the article you referenced, I think the author has the picture you posted as what NOT to do at the top of the swing. The article reference as “What NOT to do” addressed the first picture, with the neck position in the bottom part of the Kettle bell Swing.

The picture below demonstrate the correct position of the necks in the bottom part of the Kettle bell Swing... Research has demonstrated that great force production occurs when the tucked down; triggering the Tonic Neck Reflex.

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“ Packing the neck is simply defined as tucking the chin slightly and keeping the head motionless during a lifting attempt. Head and neck position in all weight training movements is something you must address.

Dr Bret Contreras' video demonstrates Neck Packing” for the Dead lift. The same “Necking Protocol” applies to Back Raises and Kettle bell Swings; that because the movement patter for the Dead lift, Back Raises, and Kettle bells is virtually the same.

The body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, the spine is neutral. If you review the article, you see it identifies that head position in the bottom part of the Kettle bell Swing as incorrect.

This head down position puts unnecessary tension from the neck through the spine.

Sources
1 www.sportsrec.com - https://www.sportsrec.com/use-kettlebells-neck-strengthening-exercises-2340077.html
2 sportsmednw.com - https://sportsmednw.com/neck-injuries-with-kettlebells-fix-your-gaze-fix-your-swing/
3 www.kettlebellkings.com - https://www.kettlebellkings.com/blog/ironing-out-the-pain-use-kettlebells-to-relieve-neck-shoulder-pain/
4 www.peakendurancesport.com - https://www.peakendurancesport.com/endurance-training/strength-conditioning-and-flexibility/kettlebell-training-superior-alternative-conventional-weights/
5 www.strongfirst.com - https://www.strongfirst.com/community/threads/neck-pain-after-swings.12176/