Perhaps the greatest benefit is that many exercises that are done using kettle bells are ballistic and dynamic, meaning that the lifts are fast, as opposed to the controlled and slow strength training most gymnasts are accustomed to. Kettle bell exercises are designed to increase your heart rate in a totally different manner to cardio.
Kettle bell weights were first introduced in Russia and then became popular in the United States a few decades ago. They recently experienced a surge in popularity due to the multitude of books, videos, and workouts featuring kettle bells.
This is because they offer a truly unique training experience, using dynamic movements that pinpoint pretty much every aspect of fitness. Essentially, you hold the weight in both or one of your hands and progress through numerous exercises, which we will discuss later in this article.
Some movements involve switching the weight from one hand to the other, as the kettle bell swings up or while you move laterally. The motion of pretty much all kettle bell exercises creates a centrifugal force that focuses more attention on the muscles that are used for stabilization and deceleration.
On the other hand, dumbbells are effective at building muscle and stamina with controlled, slow movements, while exercises with kettle bells involve using the entire body. Kettle bell exercises yield many benefits, often much more than other activities, as they stimulate almost every muscle in the body.
They offer improved coordination and agility, better alignment and posture, and can make you more efficient at other exercises. These components include strength, cardio, stability, balance, endurance, and power.
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. This fact doesn’t change whether you take a dumbbell, tax, sandbag, fit ball or anything else, you need to respect the tool, treat it with care and progress from step one.
*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 kettlebelltraining, 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.
If your kettle bell lifting is causing back soreness, there may be a few things to look at and some effective habits to put into practice to help address it. The body is excellent at attempting to find balance, a kind of homeostasis that will have it function and perform, often at the expense of something somewhere.
Something breaks, an injury occurs, you can’t do what you love to do, and all your hard training won’t matter. Don’t be a fool and rush in thinking things like mobility work is a waste of time.
I’ll address three possible reasons for back soreness and pain, and offer some ways to fix it. These come from my experience but is in no way an exhaustive list of what may be the cause or the absolute dos and don'ts.
The upswing is all leg drive and momentum, (think about jumping backward) again keeping the weight over your base. You should get a natural lean back of your torso as the Kettle bell swings up from the force of your leg drive, and your arm is relaxed and long.
Back pain can creep up from not feeling the relaxation and tension needed to find the perfect rack position, or simply not having the mobility to get the Kettle bell on the hip. The rack position: legs straight, hips forward, shoulders down and elbows low.
The overhead position is where more low back pain issues bear their ugly head. If you’re in a hurry to load overhead without the mobility, stability, and strength to do so, all hell will break loose eventually.
Instead, you may be leaning back with lumbar extension, with the Kettle bell out in front of your shoulder joint, and elbow bent. Put your time in with proper technique, always quality over quantity and progression may be slow but solid as hell.
It might not occur to some, that for seasoned lifters, years of competing may not be all that healthy if mobility and asymmetries are not taken care of. Mobility must be created and maintained in order to set up the opportunity for continued stabilization and ultimately strength and stamina.
That is, you will get some progress out of your presses and jerks, but you will ultimately have to, at some point, stop and deal with your limitations. You have to gain flexibility, release tight rotator cuff, lats, traps, and neck muscles.
We use Active Release Therapy, the Big Stick, and Wall Slides-a mobility favorite from Michael Boyle. I will often see extensive Lords in the lower back (your tail tips up and your belly pooches out), a forward head posture, and rounded shoulders.
The ability for the spine to distribute load efficiently relies on your back, as a system being able to have the mobility and stability where it is supposed to be, and it is greatly limited by this dysfunctional posture. Thoracic spine mobility can be gained with the foam roller, lacrosse balls, the Big Stick, and exercises like light barbell behind the neck presses.
My go t’s include several T-spine mobility techniques like the partner push-pull from Gray Cook. The psoas and the Iliads are powerful hip flexors that pull on your pelvis, causing it to tilt forward (this is that tail tipping up and belly pooching out position again).
Your Lower Back is Weak We get quality over quantity-slow the hell down in your training and master the proper techniques. If there is a lack of integrity anywhere along this system such as immobility in the thoracic spine, the compensation can cause a hypermobile (and weak) low back.
This instability can cause lower back pain and load bearing overhead might hurt you. To fix this, work in some thoracic spine mobility every day and strengthen your low back.
Lower back soreness can be greatly reduced by gaining mobility, stability, and strength in the shoulder. It is best used along with other exercises and techniques that increase range on motion and strength in the hips and upper back.
A1: Foam roll hip, T-spine extensions B1: Partner mobility rolls with the Big Stick-upper traps, lats x50-70 C1: T-spine mobility push/pulls and rib cage openers x 3-5 L/R D1: Wall Squats x 10| E1: Scorpion x 10 F1: Goblet Squats (with 2 sec pause) x 10 x 1-3 sets G1: Arm Bar x 1-5 reps L/R, hold for 5-20 belly breath H: Halos x 10 L/R 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. If you are performing the kettle bell swing correctly then you should feel your buttocks, hamstrings and core muscles working hard.
If you have mastered the hip hinge, are swinging the kettle bell, but experiencing back pain then here are 7 reasons things may be going wrong: 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. The lower back should stay flat by isometrically contracting the muscles to maintain a neutral spine position throughout the swing.
If you suffer from middle back pain after yourkettlebell swings 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.
If you are recovering from a kettlebellback injury then wait until your back is fully healed before attempting the kettle bell swing again. Kettle bell swings are excellent for strengthening the lower back, but they do need to be performed correctly using a good quality hip hinge movement.
The kettle bell : one of my personal favorite workout tools, and one that I feel is underutilized by many. Kettle bells provide for a larger range of mobility than barbells or even dumbbells, helping to maximize the pump and working on different types of muscles or focusing on one in particular.
Besides looking great, strong back muscles can help to improve your posture and align your spine. Bad posture has become quite the epidemic lately due to the large amount of desk jobs and smartphone use that is rampant in our society.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, and hold your kettle bell using both hands in front of your chest, arms straight outwards. Sit into the stance, pushing your butt outwards and moving your chest forwards.
Correcting this will place more emphasis on your shoulder muscles and also your core will have to work overtime to counteract this rotation. A properly performed kettle bell swing will work your entire body, promoting stronger shoulders and back as well as a strong core and more flexible hips.
Bend slightly at the knees but concentrate your movement on hinging your hips, then grasp the kettle bell. You should focus on keeping the same elements to a good kettle bell swing when doing the clean exercise.
Performing a good clean can be somewhat complicated, as there are a lot of moving parts to the exercise. Step out with one leg landing wider than shoulder width apart, squatting at the same time.
Adding a kettle bell means more muscles have to work to stabilize the weight, making it an even more effective exercise. Start in plank position, while keeping your right hand on a sturdy object that won’t easily move, like a bench or chair.
Interested in the best kettle bell and battle rope workouts on the web, with hundreds of video lessons taught by certified instructors? Head over to the Living. Fit workouts page, where you will find some of the best kettle bell and battle rope exercises, all with complete breakdown videos and community support every step of the way.
Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood never made a movie called, The Good, The Great and The Awesome. There’s quite enough negativity in the real world without my highlighting the bad and ugly points about something we all love.
The fact that a kettle bell can be swung through two planes of motion during one repetition develops applicability to real life challenges and activities. A great deal of work can be achieved in a very short period of time with kettle bell complexes and visible results come very quickly for consistent swingers.
When kettle bell exercises are put together to form complexes and chains, a great deal of full body work in many movement patterns can be performed. If an exercise has a score of one, it means every rep will bring an untrained person further away from good form.
Unfortunately, most kettle bell exercises score quite low on this scale, therefore require considerable technical coaching to ensure that every rep isn’t doing more harm than good. I didn’t realize this concept for the first few years of leading my own kettle bell class in London.
My regulars reached such a high level of skill that the class became completely inaccessible for most new starters. This led to my having to spend one-on-one time with newbies at massively discounted rates to develop a basic level of skill.
The bad point of group kettle bell classes is that they must remain super simple with a minimal exercise library. This is especially important if the goal is building a bigger class and ultimately being able to bring on another instructor.
Having a super simple session plan and sticking to it indefinitely may not sound great to you or some clients, but look at Hiram yoga. Instead, use your creativity to design a kick-ass repeatable class-plan that includes progressions and regressions suitable for all new-starters but challenging enough for the intermediates.
Use the ingredients of swings, crawling and any of the high-scoring exercises listed in the previous point and you have an unlimited choice of workout options. Just because a coach has a master’s degree in kinesiology, a personal trainer certification and ten years’ experience at competitive track and field, it doesn’t mean they know the first thing about using (let alone teaching) kettle bells.
Testosterone and overconfidence are rife in the personal training and coaching industry, which when mixed with a lack of knowledge is a dangerous combo. I would recommend a family member wanting to learn kettle bells to seek out anyone with an SFG or ROC certification.
I’ve been on a lot of wonderful kettle bell courses (and bad ones) and there are some amazing world-class teachers out there. Unfortunately, none I know of (including those in the GS world) have technique testing standards to the same degree as Strongest and ROC.
When untrained chair-shaped humans swing heavy metal objects in two planes of motion, injury usually occurs. I’m all for training grip strength but if one of those slippery things flies out of your sweaty hand you could be in for a torn finger tendon (seen it happen).
These can be very useful for the top 1% of athletes who possess an existing elite level of body awareness, proprioception and mobility. For average, everyday athletes who live in chairs, they’re completely unsuitable and if performed for reps, they’re downright dangerous.
This danger warning is particularly relevant to those with a posteriorly tilted pelvis, which is approximately 60% of the American population. Posterior filters already start everyday hinge movements by flexing the lumbar vertebrae first.
Swinging a kettle bell overhead makes gravity do the role of the lats and cheats them out of a job during the back swing. When people use their shoulders to swing overhead, it takes away from their ability to produce force with their hip hinge.
I’m all for working joints through their full range of motion, but not at the cost of making a high-value exercise considerably less effective. If the goal is working the shoulder through its full range of motion during a hip hinge pattern, we have the snatch.
Of course, if you enjoy overhead swings and can perform them without overextending the lower back, then crack on. Extended wrists are a classic indicator of both untrained newbies and of coaches or athletes who have extensive barbell experience then jumped into kettle bells without any training or understanding.
An extended wrist sends a signal to the shoulder to move away from the midline, making a press or any overhead activity less stable (weaker). Also consider that 40% of power production comes from fascia, not muscle contractions (Carla Stucco’s Functional Atlas of Human Facial System).
By looking forward (extending the cervical spine) at the bottom of the swing, you’re cheating yourself out of potential power. A neutral cervical spine with the deep neck flexors engaged also facilitates a stronger neurological innervation to the abdominal and glutes.
Most new students don’t know how to maintain a neutral cervical spine during a hinge pattern while swinging a heavy iron ball. When new students focus on keeping their neck neutral, many nod the head forward or point the chin out.
This promotes slight cervical extension, but it generally helps prevent the rest of their spine from flexing. After a new student has a few thousand swings under his/her belt and a strong hinge pattern has been established, it is then appropriate to switch to a neutral cervical spine position for more power.
However, if the reason for wearing gloves is to prevent the skin on your hands from blistering, stop it. I’m no advocate of the dumb saying, “no pain, no gain,” but I think that discomfort is an important factor that’s missing from the modern human’s life.
What you want is the ability to pack your shoulder and stabilize a load, while maintaining vertical proprioception. That’s a fancy word for your muscles and joints ability to right themselves, stabilize, react and interact with the outside world.
The key is vertical stability and the ability to keep your shoulder stable while in motion. Lower back soreness can be greatly reduced by gaining mobility, stability, and strength in the shoulder.
It is best used along with other exercises and techniques that increase range of motion and strength in the hips and upper back. Roll towards the kettle bell, grab the handle with both hands and hug it close to your body keeping our right elbow tight to your side and slowly roll back on your back bring the kettle bell with you.
Take a strong grip on the kettle bell with your right hand, letting it sit deep across the heel of your palm. Bend your right leg and plant your foot flat on the floor with your heel close to your hips.
Keeping your eyes on the kettle bell, reposition your left arm up over your head flat against the floor. Push off your planted foot and slowly roll over, resting your head on your left arm, keeping your arm vertical, turning your hips flat to the ground as you roll over.
Stabilize the kettle bell vertically in this position with a strong grip, knuckles to the ceiling, and your lats locking down towards your hips. So within this article you will find everything you need to know to strengthen your back using kettle bells including 10 exercises for the back and also 3 backkettlebell workouts, one each for beginner, intermediate and advanced.
The beauty of kettlebelltraining is that it doesn’t rely on specific muscle groups like conventional body building type training. Instead, kettle bell exercises tend to be programmed by movement patterns which naturally falls in line with the way the body is designed to move.
So the kettle bell exercises for the back tend to be a consequence of the Pulling and Dead lift movement patterns. Improved posture : in a world that is dominated by forward bending, sitting and hunching over a computer, exercising your back will help straighten you up.
There are many more muscles in the back that are used for stabilization and for assisting with pulling based movements but these are the main prime movers. Creating a balance between both pushing and pulling exercises is important to avoid any postural or overly dominate movement patterns.
When looking at your workouts over a weekly or monthly period be sure to balance out your pulling and pushing based exercises. The exercise is great as a warm up for the shoulder girdle which includes the upper back.
The dead lift movement pattern involves all those exercises where you are picking something up off the floor with a nice flat back. The single arm dead lift heavily works into the back of the body (posterior chain) starting with the hamstrings and moving up into the Glutes, Lower, Mid and Upper Back Muscles.
A second exercise based on the dead lift movement pattern but this time used standing on one leg. As the exercise is performed the loaded shoulder is connected with the standing hip via a muscular sling.
If you play sports or just want to develop a strong core for rotational movements then this is the exercise for you. As with the kettle bell one arm dead lift you will notice lots of muscular activation throughout the back of the body.
Careful consideration needs to be taken when performing this exercise to ensure the back and core muscles are isometrically held tight throughout. The kettle bell swing is the cornerstone of all kettlebelltraining and works most muscles of the body including most of those in the back.
However, once mastered the swing will develop great explosive power at the hips for sports as well as promoting cardio benefits without the need to move the feet. One common mistake made by beginners is to hinge at the lower back rather than using the hips to generate the power.
Hinging incorrectly like this can soon fatigue the lower back and therefore bring an end to the exercise very quickly. The one hand swing will add a little more rotation into the movement as well as increasing the demands on the shoulder stabilizers.
Now onto a more grind based kettlebellback exercise that will add some serious muscle onto the mid back and latissimus Doris. The kettle bell row is more of a traditional muscle building exercise but it will require good core strength to maintain the bent over position without compromising the lower back.
If you use just one kettle bell at a time you will get a great anti-rotational stabilization to the movement as the muscles of the core have to work hard to keep the back flat. The exercise can be made a lot easier by posting with one arm onto a bench / chair in order to take much of the demands off the core muscles.
The Kettle bell Row can also be made more challenging by performing the exercise to the side of the body. Caution must be taken when performing rowing based exercises to avoid hunching at the shoulders.
The kettle bell high pull is another dynamic movement that will have your heart racing but it also focuses much of its attention into the mid back. However, as you dynamically move from one side to the other you dip and lean your upper body forwards from the lower back.
The bob and weave is an underrated exercise that will increase your cardio, improve your hip mobility, legs, glutes, and core as well as the back muscles. One fun challenge using the snatch exercise involves performing as many repetitions as possible for 10 minutes changing hands whenever necessary.
If you want to work your upper back hard while also challenging your core muscles then this is the kettlebellback exercise for you. The ability to hold a push up plank for 60 seconds is a prerequisite for this exercise.
Exercise variations: the single arm dead lift can also be performed with 2 kettle bells, one in each hand. Finally, as with all weight training your body’s ability to strengthen and adapt to the load is your worse enemy so constantly look to increase loads or add a few more reps week on week.
The Pull and Dead lift movement patterns work into the back of the body as well as other muscles. Above I’ve listed 10 kettlebellback exercises starting with the easiest and working down to the more advanced.
There is also 3 kettlebellback workouts for women and men starting with one for beginners and then progressing to the more advanced. Caution must be taken not to progress too quickly and to allow time for muscles, ligaments, tendons and motor learning to develop.
With the right technique kettlebelltraining can be a huge benefit to your back as it promotes spinal control and stability and reduces the risk for muscle imbalance. Few exercises build muscle and develop power and strength in your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back like the kettle bell swing.
When you bend your knees, the quads take over, and this eliminates the main benefits of the swing. To set up, begin with the KB about a foot in front of you, grab it, and then throw your arms back as if you were hiking a football.
Overemphasis of upper-body muscles during ballistic movements deteriorates exercise flow and can place strain on vulnerable areas like your neck, shoulders, and lower back. Instead, relax your upper body, use a hip snap, and lock your knees out with each rep.
Ultimately, your form will suffer and lead to injury, so make sure you stop several reps short of failure. Attempting to invent new movements outside the basics won’t provide a reward worth the risk.
Make sure you relax your grip and hold the bell in the hook of your fingers, rather than the meat of your hand. To avoid making this mistake, punch the kettle bell upwards instead of swinging it while relaxing the grip and allowing the bell to gently catch against your forearm.