The following is a piece by Emanuel Haniotis. He’s an experienced kettlebell enthusiast and would like to offer you a look into how you can benefit from them.
Kettlebells were first introduced in the 1700s by Russian strongmen, and were used in techniques of swinging and lifting as a way to build strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. You’ve might have seen them in your gym; you know that weird iron ball with a handle on top? The truth is, kettlebells kick ass. When done properly, they are an unmatched tool for athletic performance, mobility, and metabolic conditioning. Unfortunately, there are too many videos out there by so called trainers and fitness models performing improper form, dangerous or simply stupid techniques and or exercises. It is imperative to learn the correct technique from an experienced, qualified kettlebell instructor. It is not enough working with a certified personal trainer or group fitness instructor to ensure that you will receive the adequate training required to perform kettlebell movements properly to avoid injury. You should find a qualified fitness professional who has received additional, specialized education in this form of training to safely and effectively coach clients to execute kettlebell exercises with proper form.
I won’t get in to the wide variety of kettlebell exercises out there but rather focus on the one exercise that is imperative to master before moving on to anything else and that is the two-hand swing. The swing movement uses the back muscles (latissimus dorsi and erector spinae) throughout the movement, but they are the main muscles engaged in the initiation phase of the swing. The abdominal muscles are primarily activated at precisely the halfway point and the gluteal muscles engage for the second half of the swing. Shear and compression forces were determined to be highest at the beginning of the swing. The swing should explode forward from the hips, not slowly raised by the shoulders from a squat position. The key to mastering the swing is learning how to properly hinge at the hips. Before you even pick up a kettlebell perform the wall touch. The wall touch is the first step in executing the hip hinge. Stand about 6-12 inches facing away from the wall. Place your hands on the crease wear your thigh meets your pelvis. Unlock your knees and stick your butt back until it touches the wall folding at the hips. Make sure your weight is still on your feet and not on the wall. Now, bring the hips back to full standing position. Perform this ten times and then increase the distance from the wall by 2-3 inches and repeat. If your knees bend, that’s ok, just make sure they are not bending more than 45 degrees and turning your movement into a squat. Practice this movement keeping your back straight, shoulders packed and core engaged until you feel completely comfortable before picking up a kettlebell.
There are some critics of kettlebell training that warn that the explosive movements can be dangerous to those who have back or shoulder problems, or a weak core. However, as I previously stated, training with kettlebells can be helpful for those same troublesome areas, as they offer improved mobility, function and increased strength for the muscles of the body as a whole, when done properly. As with any training program, it is best to learn and master foundational techniques with a light amount of weight and only then should you carefully progress to higher loads and larger volumes. If the learning and mastery phases are skipped, your nervous system and soft tissues are not allowed to adapt, which could result in injury.
If you’d like to contact Emanuel about getting in a kettlebell session, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org