Kettlebell Safety Tips

Nothing excites me more than to have someone eager to jump on the fitness bandwagon.

Kettlebell Safety TipsThis eager-beaver attitude can be a very useful thing, but can also land you in a ton of trouble if you’re not careful.

Everyone has to start somewhere and this means making progressions and learning techniques and safety before opting for advanced training methodologies like kettlebell training. This is especially important if you have never trained or learned even the most basic techniques and decide to go out and buy some kettlebells, figuring you can teach yourself by watching YouTube videos like Bob Harper’s Ripped to the Core.

Please, oh please, do not be a victim of this. If you are not aware of what is even remotely right body mechanics and what is wrong you are in for some serious injuries that will slap that beaver tail of yours back to the fat forest of no-fitness faster than Lindsay Lohan’s stint of sobriety!

While I am not a kettlebell specialist, I have been incorporating some of the basics for several years through learning from others and on my own, and have clients, who have developed a certain level of strength and body awareness, use the basic moves. Having a solid foundation is vital, as some of the most common errors stem from a lack of understanding of the hip thrust and the importance of the shrug and pull, which can easily develop from experience with lifting dumbbells and barbells.

Do not fear these often intimidating balls of iron, as they are exceptional tools for conditioning, fat loss and strength (not to mention they are way cool and super fun) but must be used with caution and control.

To begin, seek out a local class or one-to-one training with a certified professional. It is important to start slow and to start a bit lighter than you’re used to, so you can safely learn the movements and the cues for each exercise. You want every move to be powerful, but you also need to be sure that you have control or you might find yourself with  debilitating back and shoulder injuries, not to mention the serious forearm bruising that can occur from catching the kettlebell wrong.

There are also different breathing techniques for different goals, which is something I learned recently from a great kettlebell coach (Christopher Reed). The best way to either learn or to introduce kettlebells into your training regime is to focus on one of the basic moves at a time, such as the most popular swing. You can begin by learning the double-hand swing and progress to a single-hand switch swing, then the single hand snatch and so forth. Kettlebells are also a great tool for more basic work too like pistols, deck squats and windmills.

There is a lot more to using kettlebells than simply picking one up and swinging it around. Accepting these tidbits and taking your time to learn and progress is beyond important. If you are a complete newbie to training and can’t find someone local to teach you how to lift and breathe properly, start with learning how to lift and control your body with barbells or dumbbells.

Kettlebell Safety Tips

Hard Lockout – before you even pick up a kettlebell, you must know how to apply muscle tension and lockout your core properly for optimal spinal stabilization. The lockout will protect your back.

Squat Mechanics – perfect your squatting technique with box squats and assess and correct any errors before progressing to deadlifts. Make sure to use the hard lockout technique to finish your squat and deadlift to maintain spinal stability.

Grip – HOLD ON! Don’t lose your concentration, intensity or your grip! Hold on tight enough to control the kettlebell, but don’t overgrip to the point of causing unneeded lower extremity stress. For multiple reps like the Secret Service Snatch Test, consider using chalk to keep your hands dry and your grip from slipping. Using gloves can decrease your tactile sensory input, grip force, and impede your ability to feel the kettlebell position and force lines.

Neutral Wrists – Keep your wrists neutral or straight. Don’t hyperextend.

Shoulders – Keep your shoulders packed by lowering back and down into its optimal position of control and strength.

Line of Fire – Make sure the kettlebell swing path is clear of equipment and people!

Don’t Fight the Kettlebell – The kettlebell will always win. If you can’t control the kettlebell in the proper position, drop it off and jump out of way as opposed to letting it dislocate your shoulder or worse!  If you dump the kettlebell, make sure to quickly get your body out of the way!

Stay Focused – Until after you have locked out and stepped away from the kettlebell. This is mental as much as physical. Condition your mind to always follow the basic fundamentals for optimal safety and performance, then your body will follow!

Recovery – Maintain correct posture throughout your kettlebell routine for optimal recovery, breathing deeply from the diaphragm.

Progress Slowly and Smartly – Lift only what you can control. Work on mastering the seven fundamental kettlebell movements: deadlifts, swings, cleans, presses, Turkish get-ups, high pulls and snatches. Never skip over or rush the basic fundamentals!

Quality First – No matter how advanced you become, always return to the fundamentals and focus on quality. This will ensure safety and optimize your performance.

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