Working as a Personal Trainer and having taught well over 1000 kettlebell classes I’ve noticed a few things that I’m hoping you can benefit from in your own kettlebell training.
1 Use Your Heels
For most kettlebell exercises focus on getting your weight back on your mid-foot / heels to increase the amount of glute (buttock) activation.
The glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in the body. Using your glutes more often will not only increase your strength but burn more calories for you too!
Related: 7 Best Kettlebell Glutes Exercises
2 Stand Tall
Driving the crown of your head towards the sky will help you to push through with your hips and fully extend all those vital muscles that need activating in your body.
Standing tall also helps to prevent you from leaning backwards and straining your lower back.
3 Keep Your Neck Inline
Avoid craning or cranking on your neck and avoid future neck issues by keeping your head inline with your upper back.
During long sets of swings allow your head to follow the kettlebell down so you are not hyper extending the neck when the kettlebell is in the bottom position between your legs.
4 Generate Full Body Tension
During heavy grind based exercises like the overhead press really work on squeezing the kettlebell handle as you press overhead.
For even more strength squeeze your other hand tight into a fist, brace your abs, pinch your buttocks tight and grip the floor with your toes.
Adding full body tension will radically improve your strength!
5 Keep the Kettlebell Close
Other than exercises like the Swing keep the kettlebell close to the body.
Keeping the kettlebell close will ensure better control and enable more power.
6 Don’t Overuse the Arms
Exercises including the Clean, Swing, and Turkish Get Up all involve full body movements.
Learn to use your body as one complete unit rather than just trying to muscle the kettlebell up with your arms.
For example, during the Clean exercise your hips are what drive the kettlebell up, your arms are merely there to guide the kettlebell.
Here’s a tutorial on the kettlebell clean where I talk about this…
7 Take the Arm Around the Kettlebell
When performing the kettlebell clean don’t try and change the path of the kettlebell with your arm.
Pop the kettlebell straight up with your hips and take your arm around the kettlebell.
8 Avoid Sore Biceps
If you are getting sore biceps after your kettlebell training then chances are you are not straightening your arm correctly.
For example, at the bottom of the Clean your arm should straighten and then you should use your hips to drive the kettlebell back up.
There should be minimal bicep involvement in the Clean exercise.
9 Keep Your Wrist Straight
Whether in the racked position, at the top of the Snatch, or during the Turkish Get Up, you should keep your wrist straight.
If the kettlebell hurts your wrist then you may need to change your kettlebell for one with a better handle.
Keeping your wrist straight will avoid you straining your forearm and also keep a stronger alignment.
Here I talk about wrist position during the all important racked holding position…
10 Mix Up Your Weights
You can always Swing a heavier kettlebell with 2 hands than with 1, so why not reflect this in your training.
Use a heaver kettlebell for 2 handed exercises and a lighter one for 1 hand.
- 24kg Two Handed Swing – 30 secs
- 16kg One Handed Swing – 30 secs each side
- Rest and Repeat
11 Avoid Using Chalk
Chalk increases friction which can cause serious callouses if used during longer workouts.
If you are struggling to hold onto your kettlebell then work on improving your grip strength.
Try a series of heavier one handed swings to improve grip strength. The stronger your grip the stronger your overall strength will be.
Related: 6 Steps to Avoid Hand Injury
12 Stick to the Basics
Swings, Lunges, Snatches, Squats, Cleans, Turkish Get Ups, will deliver far more overall results than any other crazy kettlebell movements.
For the core of your training stick to the basics, feel free to play around with other exercises when you are more experienced but realise that real results come from progressing the basic movement patterns.
Here’s a basic workout example:
- Swing – 30 secs each side
- Reverse Lunge – 30 secs each side
- Clean – 30 secs each side
- Squat – 30 secs each side
- Turkish Get Up – 3 reps each side
- Rest 60-90 secs and repeat
13 Keep Workouts Simple
It’s always tempting to change kettlebell exercises frequently and develop lots of clever complex workouts but you need to give movements chance to overload.
Unless you are very experienced try to stick with the same exercise for at least 30 seconds.
14 Hold Before you Press
If you cannot hold a kettlebell overhead then you should not be pressing it overhead.
Develop your shoulder stabilisation muscles first by holding a kettlebell overhead for as long as you will be pressing it.
Try 30-45 seconds.
When you learn to hold before you press you avoid potential shoulder injuries, this is one reason why the Turkish Get Up is such an important exercise.
15 Keep Shoulders Packed
It’s very easy to let the kettlebell pull your arms forward but you need to resist this movement and keep your shoulders back and packed into their sockets.
Allowing your arms to be pulled forwards will risk injury to soft tissue.
16 Train without Shoes
Try exercising without shoes to keep your heels on the floor.
Keeping your heels down rather than elevated by training shoes will enable you to activate the important muscles at the back of your body more easily.
If you do have to wear shoes wear ones with minimal heel lift.
17 Know Your Goals
Performing 5 sets of 5 heavy Clean & Presses will give you totally different results from 10 minutes of intermittent kettlebell swings.
As a general rule the heavier the kettlebell and the less reps the more brute strength you will develop, the lighter and more reps the more endurance achieved.
For most people finding a weight you can work with continuously for 4 minutes produces a nice balance of both strength and endurance.
Related: What Size Kettlebell Should You Use
18 Make Sure Your Row
Kettlebells are great but many workouts miss out the all important horizontal rowing exercise.
Make sure you even out your workouts by adding in some rowing exercises like the Bent Over Row, Suitcase Row or Plank Row.
If you perform too many pushing exercises and not enough pulling exercises it will seriously affect your posture.
Related: 10 Kettlebell Exercises for the Back
Here’s a tutorial of the kettlebell row exercise…
19 Warm Up Well
Far too many people skip the warm up believing it is not that important.
Young kettlebellers may be able to get away with it but as you get older warming up and joint mobility becomes just as important as the workout itself.
If you want to avoid lower back issues, shoulder strains, neck problems and more you must warm up well.
20 Less is More
Kettlebell training is very demanding.
You are better performing smaller workouts daily eg. 20 – 50 swings or 1 – 5 Turkish Get Ups than going crazy at the weekends.
Build up your training slowly, listen to your body and save the super hard workouts for when you are much more experienced.
Remember, soft tissue takes time to develop, stay injury free and take your time!
21 Know Your Lower Back
If you experience lower back pain then you may not be using your hips correctly and not hinging at the hips.
If your lower back feels tired then just like your abs or any other muscles you may have just worked then hard.
Learn to distinguish between muscle fatigue and injury.
Certain exercises will work your lower back muscles no matter how hard you try to avoid it.
Leave me a comment below, and let me know if you have tried any of these quick actions…