Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years
I have written a few posts for Whole9 about getting started with kettlebells. Kettlebells are an excellent fitness tool and can provide benefits that few other fitness tools can. These benefits include building true core strength, increasing flexibility, and unifying the mind and body. They are also a great way to train all of your muscles and cardio at the same time. Unfortunately, in my ten years of training and teaching with kettlebells, I more often than not, see them being utilized improperly and therefore not providing people with the true benefit that they are capable of. Today, I would like to address the most common mistakes I see people making when training with kettlebells.
1. Missing the point entirely
This is the biggest mistake I see people make with a kettlebell. While it is a very versatile tool, it is not meant for muscle isolation and is ideally suited for power phase training. Before you learn the true versatility of the kettlebell, master the three primary kettlebell lifts, kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean&press, and kettlebell snatch.
2. Using too light of a kettlebell
People today are stuck on the idea of isolating their muscles when they train with exercises such as bicep curls and leg extensions. A kettlebell is a functional training tool and therefore its main focus is to use your entire kinetic chain with each movement. People often grab too light of weight because they are used to lifting with one muscle at a time. Your whole body working together as one can lift a lot more than just one muscle on it’s own. When people underestimate how much weight they are able to train with, they don’t get the full benefit from their training. When you are first learning to kettlebell train, you may need to use a lighter kettlebell for technique. However, once you have that down, don’t underestimate the strength of your body working together as one unit. Review my kettlebell weight selection chart to see what weight I recommend you use depending on your athletic ability.
3. Letting the Bell Get Heavy
Swinging the bell too low, or letting it get too far out front of your body are generally the culprit here. Remember, with everything but the swing, there will be a pulling upward of the bell to keep it on an up and down course so you don’t shoot it out front. Always remember that when kettlebell training you are trying to be as efficient as possible so you can maximize your potential. This is generally done by keeping the kettlebell as close to the plumb line of your body as possible.
4. Too Tense
This is the number one reason people are unable to lift to their potential, they are too tight. When I say tense, I don’t just mean inflexible, but also that they don’t know how to relax their muscles to maximize their movements. This tension is usually in the hips and shoulders and can manifest itself a number of ways. Kettlebell training when done properly is a very fluid practice and should almost look like an art form.
5. Swinging Overhead
This is the most common misinterpretation of a kettlebell move I see today, and it’s generally done on purpose which is why I am pointing it out. In the past decade, a swing has developed in America that drives the bell overhead, an up and down movement. While I am not saying this isn’t safe and effective for certain people, it isn’t a kettlebell swing. A kettlebell swing is a front to back lift, not up and down. When you swing a kettlebell that high over your head you are not able to use nearly as much weight as you are when you utilize your hips and accelerate the bell forward to shoulder level.
6. Sloppy Technique
It takes a long time to develop proper technique with all of the various kettlebell moves and beyond. Failure to take the time to develop the techniques from the ground up makes the practice not just pointless, but quite likely, detrimental. Train with intention and stay focused on every little move and breath. Kettlebell training is more than just mindlessly repping weights, it’s a practice that you can better with each one of your workouts.
I often tell people that kettlebell training is like driving a stick-shift for the first time. There is a lot to think about as you try to coordinate at first but after a short period of time your body learns the motor patterns and is able to do it somewhat unconsciously. However, instead of moving into mindless repetition mode, use the new found coordination to make each movement smoother. Kettlebell training, when done properly, is as much about learning to use your body than anything else.
Below is a video I have put together with all of the basic kettlebell moves and how to properly progress the. If you are just getting started with your kettlebell training or want to perfect your technique I highly recommend this workout.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
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