If you want to get more out of your kettlebell workouts then using active recovery exercises rather than just resting in between exercises is the answer.
Gyms are full of people standing around waiting to perform another exercise set or simply counting the clock down while their heart rate returns to a manageable level.
Active rest is a positive way to recover from an exercise or exercises without just standing around and doing nothing.
Active vs Passive Recovery
Active recovery exercises are low intensity exercises that are performed rather just doing nothing when you rest.
Passive recovery is your classic recovery method where you simply do nothing.
Active recovery examples include:
- Tai chi
The most important aspect of active recovery is that you keep the intensity low enough so as not to overload the body and impede recovery.
You can perform active recovery exercises at anytime: on your usual rest days or on workout days in between workout sets.
Benefits of Active Recovery Exercises
Active recovery exercises when performed on rest days can speed up your recovery or when performed in between sets can improve mobility or movement weaknesses.
Benefits of active recovery include:
- Pumping the body which circulates blood more effectively
- Releases tight or restricted movements
- Maintains a more consistent heart rate
- Helps to reduce lactic acid pooling and mobilise lactic acid into the bloodstream
Resting and doing nothing should only be used in extreme circumstances, generally performing some kind of light activity like walking will help promote quicker recovery than doing nothing.
What Type of Active Recovery is Best
Everyone should select exercises, activities or movements that better improve their own personal health and fitness goals.
On rest days getting out into the fresh air and walking or cycling can have more health and wellbeing benefits than just sitting indoors.
Using mobility movements in between workout sets can be a time efficient way to solve postural issues.
For example, if you sit all day at a desk and have a restricted upper back then you may want to work on some thoracic mobility or yoga based movements.
If you suffer from tight hips then perhaps some hip opening movements would be appropriate for you.
Think about your weaknesses. What feels restricted? What causes you the most problems?
Choose active recovery exercises that are right for you.
5 Active Recovery Exercises for Between Sets
Below I’ve included 5 active recovery exercises that I personally like to use in between workout sets rather than just standing around waiting for my heart rate to reduce.
Remember to work on your weaknesses, stretch tight restricted areas, or compliment exercises you are performing.
Here are the 5 active recovery exercises:
1 Kettlebell Slingshot
The kettlebell slingshot is one of my favourite active recovery exercises.
For many kettlebell workouts I don’t like to put the kettlebell down on the floor so rather than just standing there I pass the kettlebell around the body.
The kettlebell slingshot allows your heart rate to drop while you keep your shoulders, arms and core muscles active.
Keep your chest up and breathe deeply while trying to maintain nice stationary hips.
Get started: between exercises try the kettlebell slingshot for 30 – 60 seconds or until your heart rate has dropped to 60% of your max.
Learn more: Why I love the kettlebell slingshot
Watch the Kettlebell slingshot video below:
2 Kettlebell Halo
The kettlebell halo is another one of my most popular active recovery exercises.
The halo is more demanding than the slingshot although using a relatively light kettlebell can make it very manageable.
Use a kettlebell that enables you to relax your shoulders as you take the kettlebell around your neckline.
Keep your chin up and rotate the kettlebell around smoothly while you catch your breath.
Get started: Try 5 – 10 reps in each direction for as long as it takes to recover from your previous exercise.
Learn more: How to use kettlebell warm up exercises
Watch the Kettlebell halo below:
3 T Spine Rotations
Thoracic spine rotations are a great way to start the day, mobilise the spine and perfect as an active recovery exercise.
Most people suffer with upper back tightness due to excessive sitting or working at desks or on laptops.
Thoracic spine rotations are very simple to perform and will open up the segments of the spine improving mobility and promoting healthier joints.
Incorporating thoracic spine rotations as part of your workout as active recovery is a great way to mobilise the spine during sets.
Get started: Practice whenever you have some free time or have been sitting for too long. Great as a morning routine.
Watch the thoracic spine rotation exercise below:
4 Hip Circles
Another casualty of sitting too much is having a tight lower back and hips, hip circles are a great way to combat this.
During your workout add hip circles in between your sets in order to take advantage of your warm pliable muscles.
If you take notice when you perform your hip circles you should be able to notice areas of the circle that are restricted and require more work.
Get started: work through some hip circles in between your workout sets or during any time of the day when your hips feel tight.
Watch the hip circles exercise below:
5 Hip Openers
I use this particular hip opening exercise as part of a warm up with many of my clients but it also works well for active recovery.
If you suffer from a tight upper back or tight hips then this movement achieves a lot in just one movement.
Practicing the deep lunge aspect of the movement will open up restricted hips whereas the rotation and reach helps alleviate the upper back.
Get started: Try using this exercise as a warm up before your workout and then adding it in between exercises to better improve your mobility.
Discover more: 51 bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere
Watch the hip openers exercise below:
Active Recovery within a Kettlebell Workout
In case you are wondering how this all looks when included within a workout session here’s an example:
- Kettlebell Swing Left – 30 seconds
- Slingshot – 30 seconds
- Kettlebell Swing Right – 30 seconds
- Slingshot – 30 seconds
- Repeat for 3 – 5 rounds
You can see that the slingshot is used in between the kettlebell swings in order for the heart rate to calm down a little before swinging again.
You could easily replace the Slingshots with the Halo or some bodyweight mobility exercises too.
Discover more: 7 kettlebell swing workouts in under 10 minutes
Conclusion to Active Recovery Exercises
Active recovery exercises can be used in between workout sets and also on your rest days.
Keep the intensity of active recovery movements low so they don’t impede your recovery but rather promote better blood flow and healing.
Think about your weaknesses and rather than standing still or doing nothing work through some mobility or stretching based movements instead.
No matter whether you use active recovery in between sets or on rest days you can promote better health and wellbeing by choosing to be a little more active.
Have you tried any of these active recovery exercises? Let me know more below….