Having a body that can move its joints through a full range of movement is very important for Kettlebell Training. A joint that does not move through its full range inhibits other muscles and reduces muscle activation. I see problems with many muscles but the 2 most common ones seem to be the Hip Flexors and Hamstrings.
Your hip flexor muscles help you bring your knee to your chest. Tight Hip Flexors will prevent adequate hip extension vital for many of the core exercises including the swing, clean, snatch, squat and more. If you have done a lot of Swings and feel serious fatigue, not just a little tired, in the lower back then chances are your Hip Flexors are tight or your technique is off.
Having Tight Hip Flexors means you cannot extend your hips correctly. If you cannot extend your hips correctly then you must get the extension from somewhere else, the lower back usually provides this extra extension. So excess Swings with tight hip flexors usually results in a sore lower back not only because of the compensator lower back extension but also because the Psoas Major (one of the hip flexors) attaches to the lumbar spine. Tight Hip flexors will repeatedly pull on the lower back.
Why Hip Flexors get tight and how to prevent this will be saved for another time but just be aware that mobilising and stretching the Hip Flexors is vital.
The Hip Flexor Stretch
Take a deep lunge position and then rotate the pelvis forwards by pulling the pubic bone towards the chest and bracing the abs, this will target the Hip Flexors. You should feel the stretch in the back leg towards the top of the thigh. Performing this stretch before and after a Kettlebell session will help to reduce Hip Flexor tightness and improve your technique.
A good alternative mobility drill for the Hip Flexors is to take a deep lunge position and then rotate the hips in a circular motion with both hands on the floor inside the knee in front of you.
The reasons for tight hamstrings go way outside the realms of this ebook but the ability to touch your toes is vital. Performing kettlebell exercises with very tight hamstrings is only going to lead to lower back compensation and ultimately injury.
The hamstrings attach to the bottom of the pelvis. Tight hamstrings prevent rotation of the pelvis as you lean forwards. If the pelvis cannot rotate forwards then the lower back must do the job. Tight hamstrings will therefore result in far more compensatory movement from the lower back. You will experience problems with any Swing based movement and Squat based movement if you have tight hamstrings.
Hamstrings can become tight for a number of reasons from a badly functioning core to spending too much time sitting down. Ultimately spending some time stretching your hamstrings both before and after a kettlebell workout will generally do you good.
The Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back between a doorframe with palms by your side and facing upwards. Raise both legs so feet are pointing towards the ceiling. Ensure both legs are straight; only go as high as you can keeping them straight. Now place the one leg nearest the doorframe behind the frame to lock it into position.Â Lower the other leg to the floor trying to put the back of the knee on the floor and then raise it up again. Keep both legs dead straight at all times. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings of the leg against the doorframe as the other leg is lowered. You will need to adjust your position to increase or decrease the stretch. Perform 10 lowers before changing position and stretching the other leg.
Spending some time to mobilize and stretch out tight muscles before and after your kettlebell workouts will certainly improve technique and emphasize better muscle activation.