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. This seems to be a big question these days from beginners and from people who aren’t familiar with this type of training.
My perspective comes from 30 years of weight training experience. I’ve treated numerous people through the years from athletes to the general population, who were rehabilitating from injury.
I read research papers, read science heavy books and articles, and stay on top of the latest and greatest data and research in the field of exercise science and nutrition. I go to workshops, seminars, and meetings to constantly learn as much as I can, so I can share what I know to make a difference.
I felt it was really important for you to know my ‘ backstory’ here so you can understand the different perspectives I have on this topic. Kettle bells are extremely safe to do, providing you get the proper instruction.
Kettle bell training is a unique and dynamic movement based training that requires coordination, motor control, strength, mobility, stability, and other physiological and performance components. The thing you wouldn’t want to do is to try this on your own with no qualified instruction or making the mistake of getting an unqualified instructor.
Shed any doubt you have about kettle bells not being safe by making it a high priority to get the right instruction. Kettle bell training is a sensational training method for total body strength and power, cardiovascular fitness, joint health, improved flexibility, fat loss, improved performance, and much, much more.
When starting out, I recommend and teach the 3 most fundamental exercises, which are the kettle bell swing, the Turkish get up, and the goblet squat. Each of us move differently and depending on previous injuries, flexibility, strength, movement patterns, and other things, these 3 exercises could be challenging for some.
And, I would add, when you’ve been assessed on whether you have good quality movement to perform these exercises. The wrong way is to view a short video online by someone that may not have been properly trained in what they are doing and attempt to execute an exercise from that.
It’s worth your time and money to invest in yourself and get the right instruction for safe training and the potential for outstanding results. Specifically, the kettle bell swing has been shown to be a proven exercise to improve, not only spinal strength, but spinal strength endurance, which is key in preventing the incidence of low back pain.
It’s the single most important exercise for a strong, healthy back for most people. I’m not sure there is better exercise for total shoulder strength, mobility, stability, and health than the Turkish get up.
Kettle bell swings, when done correctly, are very safe, convenient and efficient. And like with all tools, if used correctly and for the right job, kettle bells will yield good results.
Plyometrics have strangely become popular as interval training tools. However, if you read the research or talk to trainers, you’ll discover that they’re not supposed to be done for high repetitions with low rest periods because they’re very stressful on the joints.
In short, they provide some much-needed butt work. A good treadmill for your home will set you back at least $1,000 and probably more if you want a higher quality one.
Make sure you are physically ready for a kettle bell swing. 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. 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. Quick test: Lie with your belly on the ground, arms and legs long in front of you.
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. 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. Using kettle bells has been hailed in recent years as the most efficient and effective way to train your body for burning tons of fat, getting super strong and lean, and obtaining the ultimate physique.
Make sure your kettle bell isn’t too heavy or too light; you should be able to press it over your head with control and stability, but with some resistance. Wrap one hand around the handle to make sure the tips of your fingers are only a couple of inches from your palm.
Vinyl coating doesn’t enhance performance or protect your floors, and it won’t have much longevity as it starts to crack and peel. Perhaps most significant, though, is the fact that when a kettle bell is covered, you can’t see whether holes from the mold were filled with a material other than iron.
Stomp both your feet into the floor to plant (or root) them solidly into the ground. Letting your hips lead the movement, sit back and let your knees follow; keep your weight in your heels as you reach back and down to put your hand(s) on the kettle bell.
Pinch your glutes, tighten your thighs and abs, and pull up your kneecaps. To breathe correctly during a kettle bell routine, you need to know how to tighten your abdominal muscles.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your weight on your heels, your spine tall, and your arms down at your sides. If you do this exercise correctly, you should feel not only your abs tighten, but your pelvic region as well.
By bracing your abs and breathing correctly during your kettle bell workouts, you protect your spine and give your body the oxygen it needs to achieve optimal performance and burn fat. About the Book Author Sarah Lure, ROC, CSS, founded Iron Core, the first kettle bell training studio in the United States to exclusively offer Russian Kettle bell Challenge (ROC) certified instruction.
Sarah is a nationally recognized kettle bell expert and has been featured in Fitness Magazine, among other publications.