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The Worst Kettlebell Exercise

ultimate sandbag

There is a weird sentiment going around fitness.

“There is no bad movement.” 

Hmm, while I would never claim to be the movement police, last time I checked most people get injured because they moved poorly, not just a “different” way. This is important because understanding how our bodies would prefer to move (when they are working as they are designed) we can help remove excessive stress from structures that aren’t mean to absorb high forces and use the RIGHT muscles in the RIGHT sequences. 

stability training
Most importantly, this helps give us a filter to what makes for a good or bad exercise. The reality is, a bad exercise doesn’t always look obvious. You don’t have to watch a horrible series of videos of people doing blatantly bad things in the gym to see bad exercises. 

I get really passionate about this topic, because as coaches, we also like to think of ourselves (probably should if we aren’t) as health professionals. The first rule of any good health professional is to “do no harm”. When we recommend or program exercises into a workout we are prescribing actions to people and we should always look to minimize risk. As that seems sensible, that often doesn’t happen. 

The Worst Kettlebell Exercise

Not really from a point of coaches TRYING to do bad things, but a misunderstanding of the body. Sometimes it is from people trying to do a “cool” new thing to get lots of likes but they miss what risk they could be putting people at in the process. 

An example that hits very close to me are some kettlebell exercises that I see people doing. Especially when they misunderstand concepts of rotation and the hip hinge. Two movement patterns that have a big potential to be trained with the kettlebell if done correctly. 

The first one here, is one I see too often as a “rotational swing”. When we discuss an exercise we always look at what the body does, not the weight. Here while we get rotation in the body, because the feet stay planted, we do so through mostly the lumbar spine. With a very small amount (upwards of 14 degrees) of rotation to it, this quickly becomes a very risky kettlebell exercise.

 

That doesn’t mean we can’t do ANY rotational kettlebell training. In fact, I love the kettlebell to teach aspects of anti-rotation and rotational based training. Typically I do anti-rotational first so people know how to prevent excessive movement while we eventually can patten the footwork for proper rotational training with the kettlebell. Below are some of those concepts. 

kettlebell

The other drill that I think is very risky is when people try to do a hip hinge clean from a half kneeling position. The whole issue starts with being half kneeling itself. When we try to swing the kettlebell standing we get hip flexion that then creates powerful force absorption to create the projection we get with the swing. 

The point is we can’t get that same movement in the half kneeling position. It doesn’t mean we can’t challenge our kettlebell movements in more diverse ways, but the movement has to take the priority. The quality and why we move certain ways should be what helps us determine what makes for a great exercise and one that can be interesting but not worth the risk it exposes our body to, being great it not being stuck to a few exercises, but being smart about where to go with your training.