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How to Use Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises to Avoid Workout Injury

By Greg Brookes

How to Use Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises to Avoid Workout Injury

Before you begin your kettlebell workout it is important to perform some kettlebell warm up exercises.

Your kettlebell warm up exercises do not need to be complicated and understanding why you are performing specific movements will help you remember them.

Here is a 3 step process that you can follow:

STEP 1 – Full Body Joint Mobility

Good joint mobility will keep you young and nourish your body.

Keeping your joints mobile will ensure you are able to move without compensation, it will reduce the chance of you getting injured and will also help keep your joints healthy.

As you age your joint mobility gets more and more restricted often due to your lack of movement but also due to the kind of movements you perform each day.

Keeping an eye of your joint mobility and increasing the range in your joints that seem to be deteriorating will have a big impact on your health.

As you mobilise your joints you actively push and pull nutrients into your joints which helps to heal and nourish them.

It is best to take a systematic approach to your joint mobility starting at the top and working your way down to your ankles.

Pay particular attention to those areas that lack movement.

Here are the 8 areas you should focus on:

1. Neck Warm Up Exercises (cervical spine)

The neck and shoulder joints are connected so any issues you have with your neck will affect your shoulders and vice versa.

Keep the movements slow and controlled

Breath comfortably, don’t hold your breath and don’t over extend the movement.

Keep your shoulders down and back.

Here’s a list of the neck warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Ear to Shoulder
  2. Head Left to Right
  3. Head Forwards and Backwards
  • 5 reps on each side is usually enough.

2. Shoulder Warm Up Exercises

Warming up the shoulders is very important before you start your kettlebell workouts.

Most kettlebell exercises will use your shoulders whether directly, for example the overhead press, or indirectly while being held  performing an exercise.

Poor shoulder mobility will force your upper and lower back to over compensate often resulting in overuse and injury.

It is common to see people leaning backwards in order to hold the kettlebell straight overhead.

A lack of mobility in the overhead position is due to poor upper back and shoulder mobility and usually results in an overarch in the lower back.

If you get a sore lower back when pressing overhead this is probably due to a lack in upper body mobility.

Here’s a list of the shoulder warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Shoulder Circles Forwards and Backwards
  2. Shoulder Decreasing Circles
  3. Shoulder Overhead Lasso
  4. Shoulder Internal and External Rotations
  5. Shoulder Chest Hugs
  6. Shoulder Shrug Circles
  7. Shoulder Rotations, One Forwards and One Backwards

Spend a few minutes working through theses shoulder warm up exercises paying particular attention to the areas that feel restricted.

3. Upper Back Warm Up Exercises (thoracic spine)

There are a number of spinal joints that make up the upper back.

All of the vertebrae of the spine are stacked up on top of each other and rotate, flex forwards and backwards and also side to side.

The spine works as a complete unit so each segment gives a little movement but together the movement is much greater.

Most people have poor upper back mobility due to extensive periods of sitting and general lack of movement.

Poor upper back mobility will result in an overuse of the shoulders, neck and lower back due to movement compensations.

Try to focus on each segment of the upper back as you mobilise them.

Do not hold your breath, breathe slow and steady.

Here’s a list of the upper back warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Upper Back Rotations
  2. Upper Back Lateral Reach
  3. Upper Back Chest Openers

As this area is often restricted spend as much time as it takes to really loosen up the upper back.

I would also recommend spending extra time on this area during the day and also in the evenings.

4. Elbow Warm Up Exercises

The elbow joint is used a lot during kettlebell training so a quick elbow warm up is helpful.

As the elbow is a relatively simple joint there are only a few movements necessary.

Here’s a list of the elbow warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Elbow Flex and Extend
  2. Elbow Lassos

Limited mobility in the elbow can affect the movement in the shoulders and wrist due to compensations.

If you do not experience elbow mobility issues or your elbow joints are super flexible then you need only spend 30-60 seconds here.

5. Wrist Warm Up Exercises

As you can imagine kettlebell training works the wrist joint hard.

Limited movement in the wrist joint can be due to excessive flexion or extension based exercises.

Office workers may also experience wrist issues due to hours spent on a computer keyboard.

Here’s a list of the wrist warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Single Wrist Rotations, side to side, forwards and backwards
  2. Double Wrist Figure of 8’s

Work through the wrist warm up exercises pushing the joint a little harder towards areas of restriction.

6. Hip Warm Up Exercises

Tight hips can cause all sorts of issues during your kettlebell training.

A limited movement in the hips will cause excessive movement at the lower back usually resulting in back issues.

Similarly if you are not able to move well through your hips then you force excessive movement through your knees.

Bad knee joints is often a result of poor hip mobility.

Many of the hip warm up exercises are based on the simple hip hinge movement pattern that is used extensively within kettlebell training.

The kettlebell swing is the perfect example of an exercise that uses the hip hinge movement pattern.

The hip mobility warm up exercises here work both into the upper hips and also the lower hips.

Here’s a list of the hip warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Hip Circles and side to side
  2. Hips Backwards
  3. Hips Forwards
  4. Leg Circles
  5. Lateral Leg Swings
  6. Forward Leg Swings

Along with the upper back warm up this area is very important for general movement in daily life.

So if you feel your mobility is restricted in the hip area then work on these movement throughout the day too.

7. Knee Warm Up Exercises

A relatively simple joint but one that causes a lot of problems.

If you struggle with knee joint issues then you will need to look at your hip and ankle mobility to see if any compensations are being made.

I find many people struggle with knee pain due to a lack of strength in the legs and hips so this too should be another focus.

Deep bodyweight squats, mentioned later, will build up the legs and help protect against knee pain.

Here’s a list of the knee warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Knee Flex and Extend
  2. Knee Heel Flicks
  3. Deep Squats
  4. Leg Extension from Deep Squat

The deep squat exercise is an amazing exercise to not only strengthen the legs and hips but also pump nutrients into the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.

You can hold onto a chair, post or door frame if necessary to assist in the deep squat movement.

8. Ankle Warm Up Exercises

Ankle mobility is often overlooked but very important.

Mobile ankle joints will enable the knees to work as they should.

As many of us now don’t walk on uneven ground it is important to work through the ankle joint pushing into any restricted areas.

You want to keep the ankle joint nice and mobile so that any unexpected twists or turns can be catered for nice and easily.

Here’s a list of the ankle warm up exercises detailed in the video above:

  1. Ankle Warm Up Circles
  2. Ankle Inversion Warm Up
  3. Ankle Eversion Warm Up
  4. Ankle Extension Warm Up
  5. Ankle Flexion Warm Up

Spend time working on the areas that lack mobility and less time on those that are already mobile.

STEP 2 – Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises

Now that your joints are nice and mobile you can move onto more specific movement based warm up exercises.

It makes no sense to warm up with one movement and then perform another

For example, if you are going to be performing the Kettlebell Swing in your workout then you need warm up exercises based around the hip hinge and the kettlebell swing movement.

Let’s look at the 3 most common movement patterns that are used during kettlebell training and how to warm up for each of them.

Kettlebell Swing Warm Up Exercises

The kettlebell swing is based on the deadlift movement pattern and involves a creasing at the hips.

Exercises that use the deadlift movement pattern include:

There are 2 warms ups that I recommend here:

1. Empty Swings

kettlebell swing preparation

The first warm up exercise I recommend in preparation for the kettlebell swing is the empty handed swing.

The empty handed swing simply involves repeating the one handed swing movement but without a kettlebell in your hand.

Don’t forget to fully repeat the movement tightening the abs and buttocks at the top of the movement.

  • 10 reps on each side is about right

2. Hip Bridge

hip bridge warm up

The second swing preparation exercise is the basic hip bridge which helps to activate the buttocks.

Remember to push from the heels and squeeze the Glutes nice and tight at the top.

Do not overextend from the lower back, you should finish in a nice straight line as you can see below.

  • 5 – 10 reps is all you need to do

Kettlebell Squat Warm Up Exercises

One of our most important movement patterns is the squat.

The squat uses most muscles in the body and is a multi-joint movement.

Examples of the kettlebell squat exercise include:

Choose just one of the squat warm ups below:

1. Bodyweight Squats

Bodyweight Squat Warm Up Exercise

Nice and simple, just practice the bodyweight squat.

Remember to keep your chest nice and high and drop down nice and deep.

Shallow squats will not condition your buttocks so get down as deep as possible.

  • 5 – 10 repetitions is all you need

2. Yoga Squats

If you are very comfortable with the standard bodyweight squat then I recommend progressing to the yoga squat.

The yoga squat will work nicely into the upper back as well as the hips and legs.

  • Again 5 – 10 repetitions should do the trick

You don’t need to do both of the squat warm up exercises above, just choose one.

Kettlebell Lunge Warm Up Exercises

The lunge pattern requires good single leg strength as well as hip mobility.

Examples of kettlebell lunges include:

I recommend that you use both of the these lunge warm up exercises:

1. Bodyweight Alternating Reverse Lunges

kettlebell lunge warm up exercise

Practice the forward or reverse lunge exercise but without using a kettlebell.

Focus on using perfect technique and getting your back knee down to the floor.

Keep your chest up and core tight.

  • 10 Alternating repetitions is enough

2. Hip Openers

kettlebell lunge hip opener warm up exercise

A great warm up exercise to gradually open up the hips.

Use your breathing to help gain extra depth to the movement.

Breathe out as you drop your hips.

  • Work up to 20 alternating repetitions

STEP 3 – General Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises

You should now how performed a full body mobility routine, focusing on the areas that are most restricted.

Plus, thought about what exercises you are performing in your workout and used a few movement specific warm up exercises.

Next you can move onto a final general kettlebell warm up that uses the kettlebell.

1. Kettlebell Slingshot Warm Up Exercise

Kettlebell Slingshot Warm Up Exercise

I like to start all kettlebell workouts with the kettlebell slingshot.

The kettlebell slingshot is a steady exercise that will switch on your muscles and prime you ready for more intense kettlebell exercises.

The kettlebell slingshot a great kettlebell warm up exercise for the shoulders, arms and grip

It also focuses the mind as you start to pass a weight from one hand to the other around your back.

  • 10 – 20 repetitions each way is all you need

2. Kettlebell Halo Warm Up Exercise

Kettlebell Halo Warm Up Exercise

Next it’s onto the Halo, a great movement for strengthening and increasing shoulder mobility.

By taking the kettlebell around the head you warm up the whole of the upper back as well as the shoulders.

Keep the kettlebell nice and close to the body throughout the whole movement.

  • Try 5 – 10 repetitions in each direction

3. Kettlebell Good Morning Warm Up Exercise

kettlebell good morning form

Now get your hips moving and increase your buttock activation with the kettlebell good morning exercise.

The kettlebell good morning also helps to mobilise your hamstrings.

Keep your back nice and flat as if performing a kettlebell swing or deadlift movement.

Don’t forget to breathe out on the way down and keep your abs nice and tight.

  • Try beginning with just 10 nice and steady repetitions.

4. Other Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises

turkish get up kettlebell warm up exercise

You should be feeling nice and warm now and even have a little sweat going on.

If you have heavy overhead pushing or pulling in your workout I would also recommend that you replicate that exercise but with a lighter kettlebell first.

So perhaps a few lighter kettlebell clean and presses would be a good kettlebell warm up exercise.

Alternatively, a few steady light kettlebell turkish get ups or kettlebell windmills would be a good option too.

Conclusion to Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises

The kettlebell warm up is a chance to improve your joint mobility as well as replicate the same movement patterns you will be using during your workout.

Start by moving through your joints starting at the neck and working down.

Spend time working on those areas that lack mobility and less time on those that are already mobile.

Balance the body

Next, you move on to more specific warm up exercises that focus on the movement patterns used within your workout.

If you are going to be performing the kettlebell swing then warm up the swing movement pattern.

Finally, finish by introducing the kettlebell and performing some general kettlebell warm up exercises.

Your whole warm up should take no longer than 10-15 minutes and is a good time to work on your weaknesses and assess how you are feeling that particular day.

Sometimes you can use a good warm up for a nice and easy workout on its own.

Overall…take your time, listen to your body and never skip your warm up!

To see more posts about prehab/rehab workouts, go here.

Leave me a comment below, and let me know if you have tried any of these exercises. How did you find them?

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    1. David Avatar

      Hi Cregg,

      Thanks to you I have finally found an exercise regime I enjoy and can actually do.

      One question re weights. I have a weak wrist from damage due to a car accident, so have started with an 8KG weight and then planned on progressing to 12KG and then 16KG as my wrist strengthens. Would you agree with this approach or go straight for 16KG..

      Many thanks.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Yes that is the correct approach David, just take it steady

    2. Juana Avatar

      Thank you very much,Greg!
      Very nice and complete warm up for kettlebell training.

      I’ve been doing Scott Sonnon’s “free to move-into flow ” joint mobility routines for ages,and got a great benefit from it.

      But it is good to get an alternative,it looks both our brain and body need changes to get new stimulus.so your tutorial is very much welcome 🙂

    3. Hans Avatar

      Mr Brookes, one best warmup exerciser program
      presentation I have every read on the Web ! Hats off
      to you, Sir.

      I am currently doing 13 warmup for 5 to 6 minutes,
      as presented by the American Fitness Council.

      Why do they call it a Kettlebell when it does not
      ring?? Will I get into trouble with my trainer if I call
      it a Kettleball?

      1. Arik Avatar

        Just call it Girya 🙂

      2. Rob Avatar

        Good warm routine Greg….not too long. If you ain’t got time to do a warm-up, you ain’t got time to train! 🙂

    4. Clark Sann Avatar
      Clark Sann

      Hello Greg,

      During the knee mobility exercise, I cannot keep my heel down. Any tips on what to do about that?


      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Hi Clark, if you are referring to the squats then I suggest you hold onto something like the back of a chair or door frame. Avoiding your heels raising during this movement is usually a combination of strength, core stability and motor control. Just practice 10 each morning 🙂

    5. Dan Avatar

      This mobility exercise is the greatest thing ever. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    6. Richard Joe-Leonn Avatar
      Richard Joe-Leonn

      I actually got this programme for my wife she’s struggled with a successful fitness programme for years I found Zuzla Light Kettlebell workout and because I’m a retired personal trainer I needed to modify her workouts My wife loves them. Then I started thinking about myself and realized I could add this to my fitness program SkiErg, Concept II and spin-classes glad we found this.
      thank you very much

    7. PS Avatar

      Great tips Greg.
      I m new to kettlebell workout.
      Really appreciate ur videos
      U make it look very simple and not intimidating like many other workout videos.
      Looking forward to a healthy journey and a healthy ‘Me’ with ur guidance programmes

    8. Jennie Scrimshaw Avatar
      Jennie Scrimshaw

      This is fantastic. Will be teaching my first kb class soon, and the thing I worried about most is not having a varied or long enough warm up. This has helped no end, thank you. ?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Thanks Jennie and best of luck with your class.

    9. brenda Avatar

      any suggestions as to how long I should use the same weight kettleball for my every day exercises? I started out with 10lbs, progressed to 15lbs, but not able to do much with a 20 lb. I do 100 two handed thrusts a day, with the 15lb, but wonder how long I should continue with increasing my reps, or just decrease my reps with the 20lbs to start again at 20-30 reps and try to build back up ? I find that using the 20 lbs kettleball my form is off.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        As a general rule Brenda, when you can comfortably swing a kettlebell for 60 seconds without stopping it’s time to increase the weight.

    10. Peter Korosec Avatar
      Peter Korosec

      excellent. But, could you please equip each workout with a simple short video, not only every second or third workout?
      It is hard to remember all the clean, snatch, pull, lunge workout terms.

      Otherwise, excellent!

    11. Tiffiny Little Avatar
      Tiffiny Little

      I LOVED this mobility warmup and will share w all my KB and gym rat friends! THANK YOU!!!!

    12. Debs Avatar

      I came across your website looking for warmup exercises for a kettlebell workout.
      I just tried your full body mobility routine. Wow!! my neck muscles feel better already.
      You explain the proper form in your videos well, so these videos are really helpful.
      Thank you.

    13. Jamison Avatar

      Thanks for sharing Greg, I’m new to kettlebell exercises and was looking for something to warm up the body. This is perfect.

      Kind of a extended favor, but what are the chances you could put together one long video with all these videos in a row? I use my phone to watch them in my workout space before I hit the swings, and it would be rad to just be able to scrub through one big file instead of going to each. No big deal if not!!!

      1. MK Avatar

        I second that!

        1. Mark Avatar

          I’d even settle for a PDF that I can print out with each step and maybe one picture of each to remind me of what it is. And I would love a full warm up video as well.

    14. Valerie Avatar

      Thankyou so much for sharing so much information I used to go to a kettlebell boot camp but now I work out at home watching your videos I have learnt and still learning so much from you so once again thankyou

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        My pleasure Valerie, I’m pleased you are enjoying the kettlebell info.

    15. Victoria Fisk Avatar
      Victoria Fisk

      Re-watch your videos often to remind myself of proper form. Love them!

    16. Georgia Avatar

      Excellent, thank you so much for sharing!!!!

    17. John Avatar

      Great videos, it’s refreshing to see someone showing the right way to do things! Cheers!

    18. Carmen M Avatar
      Carmen M

      I’ve been doing your full-body mobility routine 3-4x/week for a year and love it both as a first warmup prior to exercise or just as movement for rest days. At 52 yrs of age and coming back from a sedentary lifestyle, I love range of motion & mobility work and count your routine amongst one of the most helpful. Thanks so much & keep up the great work!

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Thanks Carmen, yes Mobility is so important, even more than regular exercise for some people.

    19. Doreen Avatar

      Felt very flexible and ready for a workout but great for days when I just need to stretch everything out, thank you