The kettlebell is one of the most versatile training tools out there and can be used for developing functional strength, fitness, correcting muscular imbalances and rehabilitating injuries.
When performing kettlebell drills, you are forced to use all of your major muscle groups and internal stabilizers in order to move the bell efficiently. The bell places unique and dynamic demands on the core and the whole body which are unparalleled to any other form of resistance training.
Let’s be honest, when you watch someone using the bell properly it looks impressive and bad ass! Here are some important things to remember before starting to use this amazing training tool.
Top 10 Kettlebell Tips
Find a good coach: Just because someone can throw the kettlebell around impressively doesn’t mean that they are a good coach. Teaching people how to use the bell properly takes years of experience as it is such a technical discipline. If it is taught poorly, it has the potential to become a dangerous tool. Make sure you check out the credentials of your coach. Here are some of the best qualifications to look out for: IKFF certifications (Steve Cotter), RKC certifications (Pavol Tsatsouline), ADPF certifications (Angie Dowds)
Don’t train cold: An effective warm up is essential to any training program especially when training with kettlebells. A dynamic full body warm-up is the most effective way of preparing the body and the neuromuscular system. This type of warm-up ensures that muscles are not only warm, but the joints are mobilized, the spine is aligned and the mind is fully focused.
Master the fundamentals first: Kettlebell training is a discipline and it will take hours of practice to master the basic movements and positions. First you must be able to hinge (deadlift) efficiently before picking up the bell. Then you must master the kettle bell swing and rack position before you move on to any of the other dynamic movements. You will need to be patient and practice regularly if you are going to master this incredible training tool.
Don’t wear gloves: You don’t see power lifters wearing gloves so why would you wear gloves when you’re using kettlebells? Kettlebell training is amazing for working on grip strength and it is important that you develop a strong point of contact with the bell through the hand and forearms during all movements. Calluses on the hands will build over time allowing you to perform more repetitions without pain. Be proud of them as they are indication of the time, dedication and the pain you have been through to get to this point.
Train in bare feet: Trainers are for runners and should be avoided where possible when training with kettlebells. During all kettlebell movements you should start by creating tension and stability through the feet. Imagine you are gripping and rooting of the feet, grounding yourself to the floor and creating tension up into the lower extremity. This will create the powerful and solid base required for kettlebell training.
Don’t muscle the bell with the upper body: The power for all ballistic kettlebell movements is generated through the hinging and snapping of the hips and the firing of the glutes and quads. A common mistake is allowing the upper body to take control of these movements. Learning how to release the tension in the upper body while holding a heavy bell and tapping into the power of the hips is something that takes time, but can’t be rushed. Unfortunately you will not experience the real benefits of training with the kettlebell if you muscle the bell up like a free weight.
Don’t break your wrist: When you hold the kettlebell in rack or at high press position you must keep the wrist straight, pulling the bell inward by rolling the knuckles forward, creating a straight line between your pinky and your elbow. This will mean that you have full control over the bell as it passes through each movement. You will also avoid being smashed and bruised by the bell during cleans and at the top of the snatch.
Protect your back: All kettlebell movements involve keeping a neutral spine. Meaning that you maintain a straight line from top of the head to the base of the spine all the way through both static and ballistic movements. As long as you’re able to maintain a solid core this will help you protect your lower back.
Don’t be a hero: It’s important to progress in weight gradually. If you increase the weight too soon your technique will suffer and you will end up using the wrong muscles for that movement. You will also increase the risk of injuring yourself. However it is important to up the weight as soon as you have mastered a kettlebell movement in order to feel the full benefits of the training. It’s a fine line, go too heavy you run the risk of injury, but go to light and your body will start to cheat.
Stop if you don’t have it: If something feels off, make sure to stop. Go back to the fundamentals and start from there. Poor form = bad habits = injuries and inefficient training which will in turn hinder the results you deserve.