Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tips on Kettlebell Safety

I like Kettlebells.  There is just something primal about lifting, swinging, and holding these cast iron cannonballs over my head that really resounds with me.  To tell you the truth, my kettlebell workout is the first exercise routine that I've ever really enjoyed doing, I actually look forward to getting started with my routine.

I bought my first kettlebell in early June of last year.  It was a 15 lb 'bell by Black Mountain Products.  I was doing the Nerd Fitness Beginner's Body Weight Workout at the time and was ready to increase my weight for dumbell rows.   When I picked up my 20 lb 'bell, I also purchased a copy of Pavel's "Kettlebell Simple and Sinister".  Pavel speaks to me.  I like his no BS, no excuses, no holds barred take on teaching Strength First.

I swung my first kettlebell on July 25th, seven months and 24 days after my double lung transplant.  It was only a 20 lb 'bell, and it was only 5 two handed swings, but I was hooked.

My transplant procedure involved cutting me from armpit to armpit, splitting my sternum, and using a chest splitter to open me up like a clam shell.  I still have two more months before my Team considers my sternum to be fully healed.  Safely moving weights is of the highest priority, damaging my chest was, and is, not an option.

Properly performed kettlebell swings and get ups are not only safe for the chest, they strengthen and protect the chest and back.

I plan on a series of posts on the kettlebell exercises that I use to get stronger.  Notice I said stronger.  If you swing kettlebells, you are strong.

This first post is about kettlebell safety.  Like I've said before, life is supposed to be fun.  Dealing with an exercise induced injury is not fun.

The first thing I have to say about kettlebells is that Kettlebells Don't Care! They don't care how many push ups you can do, or what your bench press personal record is.  They don't care how far you can run or how old you are.  Kettlebells demand your attention, your focus, and your thoughtful manipulation.

Use correct form to move even your lightest kettlebells.  Developing and maintaining good habits will really come in handy when you move up to the heavier 'bells.

Here is Karen Smith, Master StrongFirst Gira, on safely handling kettlebells:

Focus is very, very important when working with kettlebells.  Don't be watching TV, joking with your friends, or dinking around with your phone.  Focus on the bell, on the movement, and on your form.  Practice making every movement perfect.  If you find it hard to focus with a certain weight, that may be an indicator that it is time to progress.

It is also important to be well grounded when working with kettlebells.  What do I mean about well grounded?  I mean stuck to the floor.  Kettlebell swings and snatches generate one heck of a lot of force and slippery feet could cause you to lose balance or even fall.  I prefer to be barefoot when working out, but some days my just don't stick to the floor quite as well as I would like.  If my feet don't stick to the floor during my warmups, I put on a pair of shoes.  My StrongFirst kettlebell trainer, Kris, taught me how to grip the floor with my toes and screw my feet into the ground.

One of the really nice thing about kettlebells is that you do not need a whole lot of room to get in an exercise, but you do need enough room.  Make sure you have enough room to complete your movement, and bail out of the movement if things go sideways.

Well, that is pretty much it.  Kettlebells are awesome tools used to help us reach our fitness and strength goals.  Take your time learning new movements, practice perfect form, and become Strong First.

To find a StrongFirst KB instructor in your area, click here.

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