Ready for your kettlebell workout? | health beat
For novice to elite athletes, weight lifting with a kettlebell can improve posture and strengthen the lower body.
Kettlebell workouts use the muscles of the posterior chain – the postural muscles of the spine as well as the glutes, hamstrings and calves.
“These muscles are often overlooked in American strength training, which focuses more on aesthetic areas of the body, such as the chest, biceps, abs, and quads,” says Jason Burgess, MS, AT, an athletic trainer with Spectrum Health Medical Group. “Posterior chain training can improve your balance and stability, as well as limit strength imbalances that can lead to injury.”
Kettlebells provide a great cardio workout alternative on rainy days or when space is limited, Burgess said.
When done over multiple, long intervals, exercises like the swing, snatch, and kettlebell cleanse can rival a six-minute mile run.
For sports requiring horizontal acceleration and propulsion, such as sprinting, kettlebell training can be just as effective as traditional weight training, and in some cases kettlebell training may even be the better choice.
Choose a weight
Most kettlebell exercises are designed for a single weight, unlike dumbbells, which often require a set of two.
Additionally, the kettlebell’s handle and lugs have advantages over conventional weights, Burgess said.
The shape and the gripping space allow use with one or two hands. With the handle positioned several inches from the center of mass, dynamic exercises require more work to stabilize the kettlebell.
Kettlebell weights range from around 8 to 150 pounds, making them accessible to novices and elite athletes alike.
Kettlebell exercises generally require power and coordination. Choosing too much weight – a common mistake among beginners – can lead to loss of control and injury.
Burgess offered some kettlebell weight guidelines:
- Novice men: 25 to 35 pounds
- Athletic men: 35 to 44 pounds
- Novice women: 18 to 25 pounds
- Athletic women: 25 to 35 pounds
He recommends starting with lighter weights and increasing as the movements are mastered. To avoid injury, be sure to progress slowly and stay focused on an adequate range of motion.
Master the moves
Before you even pick up a kettlebell, work on mastering the back and glute bridge, Burgess said.
Kettlebells can then be added to these exercises.
From there, move on to a kneeling kettlebell deadlift and a Romanian kettlebell deadlift. This can prepare you for swing, clean, and snatch progression.
The rock-back quadruped
This can help assess hip range of motion and trunk stability.
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly below your shoulders. Your knees should be below your hips, about the width you normally would in a squat. The feet and ankles should be in contact with the floor as in a squatting position.
Engaging the core and maintaining a neutral spine, sit down toward your ankles as deeply as possible, then return to the starting position. You should be able to move past 90 degrees of hip flexion while maintaining a neutral spine.
The gluteal bridge
Lie flat with your knees bent at about 90 degrees to assess hip and core stability. Feet should be flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Arms should be at your sides with palms down.
Tighten your core and engage the glutes. Push through your heels to drive your hips up until they’re aligned with your thighs and core. Pause at the top, then lower back to the starting position. You should be able to bring your hips up to or just past neutral alignment while maintaining a flat back throughout the exercise.
Kneeling Kettlebell Deadlifts
Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees shoulder-width apart. Place the kettlebell behind your back and grab it by the handle with both hands. The palms should be facing backwards.
Engage your core and drive your hips towards your heels while maintaining your balance with a neutral spine. You should be able to flex your hips about 90 degrees. Push your hips forward to return to the starting position.
Romanian Kettlebell Deadlifts
Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell between your legs, grasping the handle with both hands and palms facing back.
Engage your core, unlock your knees, and drive your hips back, similar to the kneeling deadlift. As you lower the kettlebell between your legs, maintain a neutral spine and allow a slight bend in the knees.
You should feel tension building in your glutes and hamstrings as you descend. When this tension prevents you from pushing back further, push your hips forward and up and return to the starting position.
“The kettlebell is an incredibly versatile tool and a great choice for anyone looking to take on a new challenge in their resistance training regimen,” Burgess said.
He cautioned, however, that kettlebells aren’t for everyone.
“Those with limited balance or mobility, particularly in the hips, should stick to more fundamental movements using body weight or more stable tools, such as dumbbells or dumbbells,” said he declared.
Burgess added an important tip: choose the right size kettlebell and progress slowly through each level of exercise, it will help you avoid injury.
“However, novice lifters should consider working with a certified personal trainer, strength coach, or movement specialist to get started safely,” Burgess said.