Kettlebell: Friend or Foe?

By Dr. Brandon Siegmund

October 20, 2015

We have all gone to the gym and done some stretching to get ready for our workout and come across someone doing the dreaded two-handed kettlebell swing. Part of you wonders why they would do this to themselves and the other is curious to see if it’s as hard as it looks.

When you start performing the motion everything seems fine then as the reps start to add up your low back begins to tighten and even become painful. The main reason that this happens is because we start to sacrifice form of movement for the amount of repetitions that we are attempting to accomplish. This leads to acute back strains and if you have not been the victim of one before then you may know someone who has in the past.

Even when performing the exercise it may seem basic, but it’s a powerful movement that hits all the major muscle groups while burning fat and building muscular endurance. To perform this exercise, you’ll need to select the correct weight. Since you’ll be using both hands you can err towards the heavier side.

If it’s too light, you’ll be cheating yourself out of the benefits of the exercise. To figure out what kettle bell weight is appropriate swing a kettle bell 20 times on the top of every minute. If you can do this for 10 rounds with no fatigue then you should step it up. A good starting point is 20 lbs. for women and 35 lbs. for men.

Next, get your posture down. Stand with your feet hip width apart and feet at about a 20 degree angle (think 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock) gripping the kettle bell in front of you. Keeping your shoulders back, knees slightly bent and your back flat in the neutral position, push your hips behind you allowing your torso to move forward while your hips reach back.

Grasp the kettlebell and bring it back between your thighs (this is known at the hike, much like the football hike), almost as if you’re trying to hit your bottom. The key is to not reach with your arms on the way down because you risk injury of the shoulders and neck.

Then, using your hips and NOT your arms, drive the kettlebell forward to shoulder height all the while squeezing your glutes and lats. From here guide the kettlebell back into the starting position. It’s key to maintain good posture and keep your back flat to avoid injury.

I believe that people should learn to embrace the kettlebell workout and use it as a complementary tool to their chiropractic care. Many fear it due to risk of injury but if done properly, it is a very effective tool in building the core abdominal and glute muscles that help with lower back stability.

Please consult your chiropractor prior to including this exercise in your rehabilitation and ask a trainer at your local gym if additional help is needed in assessing your performance of the exercise.

Dr. Brandon Siegmund

About the author

Dr. Brandon Siegmund was born and raised outside of Fort Worth. After he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, Dr. Siegmund performed clinical research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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