Kettlebells - An Injury Waiting to Happen

Perhaps not so good for swingers ...

Kettlebells, on their own, do not cause injuries – but – their misuse causes injuries often.

Is your kettlebell workout wrecking your body – and – does Australia’s World Super Lightweight Boxing Champion, Kostya Tszyu have anything to do with it?

After all….

“No matter if you’re a champion athlete or just want to keep fit, after a workout with the Kettlebell your entire body is strengthened and you feel ready to conquer the world.” Kostya Tszyu

This is not just about Kettlebells though…. We’re currently seeing a bunch of injuries from CrossFit and Bootcamps too.

This is reminiscent of several years ago when people and their PTs were getting carried away with Boxing when it emerged as a training modality.

Without throwing all PTs into the same category, the great PTs taught you boxing technique before you started pounding the leather. Most injuries that we saw back then were directly related to crappy boxing technique. Multiply that crappy technique with hundreds and hundreds of repetitions and your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck are all asking to be smashed to smithereens.

It seems that many of these emerging, popular training techniques like Kettlebells, CrossFit, and Bootcamps are sending us more injured people, with more injured body parts than there should be.

A short note to the gung-ho PTs who are indiscriminately smashing people…..

Hey – let’s back it up a little!

Progressive overload is a principle of training for a very good reason! You must allow people to adapt and develop their strength, balance, and coordination gradually. A client’s first workout does not need to be a workout designed for elite athletes or military personnel. Your clients do not need to be sore for days and days.

De-conditioned people can finish very tough, high intensity exercise sessions, but, that does not mean that they should be doing high-intensity workouts. Just because the heart, lungs, muscles, and mind a willing, you cannot see the toll on the joints…. That damage won’t appear for months or years after these high intensity, elite training sessions have passed”

A word of warning folks…. you should not get injured while you are simply seeking to improve your general health. It is wrong. Sure it will take a little longer doing it more safely, but, at least you’ll get there in one piece and without your joints needing to be replaced, or without your muscles and tendons needing to be sewn back together by a surgeon. That’s a good thing, right?

However, this post is not all about the PTs.

The person most responsible for your body is you. You alone know when you have had enough, or that a weight is too heavy for you, or that a marathon is too far for you to run. You alone must be the voice of reason for your own body.

For the purposes of today’s rant, let’s take a closer look at Kettlebells and ask what Kosta Tszyu has to do with Kettlebells.

Well, way, way before Kettlebells (KBs) ever appeared in our gyms and clubs, Kostya was training with KBs in his home country of Russia, as a 12 year old boy. Back then, KBs were used as counterbalances for measuring out grain at the local grower’s markets. Kostya put them to good use to build his remarkable endurance and strength that saw him realise his dream of becoming Super Lightweight Champion of the World.

But, Kostya didn’t start with the heaviest weight that he could lift. He understood that power without control was pointless. He needed to be powerful and accurate in his boxing. He had to have great power and had to be able to control where that power was directed.

For this reason, several factors are taken into account when developing your KB resistance training program.

How much weight is too much? Well there are several factors to consider.

It drives me insane to see generic advice on blogs that say that ‘beginners should start using x kgs’…. but the problem with this one-size-fits-all exercise prescription is that you cannot choose a starting KB weight based on whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced exerciser, or, whether you are male or female.

Firstly, what is a beginner? In resistance training, a beginner is someone who has been training with weights, consistently, 3 times per week, for at least 12 months.

What factors determine the Kettlebell that you choose, as a Beginner?

  • your grip strength
  • the KB handle circumference
  • your training age
  • the KB exercise that you are performing

What exercises can you do with Kettlebells?

  • carry it
  • hold it
  • lift it
  • swing it
  • pass from hand to hand
  • pass to training partner
  • or any combination of these

Benefits of KB exercises

  • develop strength in all planes of motion – as controlling offset centre of mass recruits chains of muscles
  • develop deep core muscles
  • develop functional myofascial chains
  • develop specific movement patterns
  • versatile

Some things to consider…

  • during your KB exercises you should be able to stop the weight at any point during any given exercise (i.e.., you should have complete control over the KB while it is in your hand/s)
  • as you increase the speed of an exercise, you increase the likelihood of injury
  • the more momentum you have in an exercise, the greater the chance of injury
  • KBs hurt if your drop them and they land on your toes
  • KBs hurt if they hit your head

 Take care.