Ket­tle­bell Power!

How to do pop­u­lar moves right

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Ket­tle­bells have been around for cen­turies, and some of the ear­li­est il­lus­tra­tions of old-timey strong­men de­pict men in sin­glets heft­ing some huge home­made ket­tle­bells. But even these icons of iron were flawed in their tech­nique, and if chi­ro­prac­tic medicine had been around in the 1800s, all these guys would have been reg­u­lar cus­tomers. Be­cause while ket­tle­bells are in­cred­i­ble, ver­sa­tile tools, they are also some of the most abused when it comes to form, and on any given day in any gym in the world, you can see some truly heinous, YouTube-wor­thy ver­sions of ket­tle­bell moves that would make you mil­lions if caught on cam­era.

So it’s sim­ply not enough to just pick up a ket­tle­bell and start swing­ing it around — you could get in­jured (or in­jure some­one else) and will def­i­nitely look odd. “When used prop­erly, the ket­tle­bell builds mus­cle and burns fat us­ing func­tional, to­tal-body, non-im­pact move­ments that give your knees and joints a break,” says ket­tle­bell ex­pert Madi­son Doubroff, NASM, di­rec­tor of fit­ness at Bionic Body in Her­mosa Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. “It’s one of the most im­pres­sive tools for boost­ing agility, bal­ance, en­durance, stamina and strength si­mul­ta­ne­ously.”

Doubroff broke down five of the most ef­fec­tive (and most slaugh­tered) ket­tle­bell ex­er­cises, high­light­ing the most com­mon er­rors, then de­tail­ing the how-to on proper form and func­tion.

Be­fore you launch into the work­out, spend some time learn­ing the ex­er­cises, prac­tic­ing them un­til you can get a sense of proper form. And if you do know these, go through each de­scrip­tion and see whether you’re do­ing the move­ments cor­rectly. Mas­ter these moves and you’ll be a star strong­woman on YouTube and be­yond — even with­out the req­ui­site sin­glet.

TWO-ARM KET­TLE­BELL SWING

Tar­gets: legs and glutes, back, shoul­ders and core The Prob­lem: “Most peo­ple do this move in a squat po­si­tion in­stead of in a hip-hinge po­si­tion, bend­ing their knees as they go,” Doubroff says. “This places a ton of ten­sion on your lum­bar re­gion, and if you have any kind of lower-back pain or have over­ac­tive hips from sit­ting all day, it can re­ally com­pro­mise your lower back, es­pe­cially if you’re us­ing heavy weight.”

Setup: Hold a ket­tle­bell with both hands in an over­hand grip, arms hang­ing straight down in front of you, shoul­ders packed. Space your feet slightly wider than shoul­der-width apart, knees slightly bent, toes point­ing for­ward. Move: Keep­ing your spine straight and your head neu­tral, hinge at the waist (ap­prox­i­mately 45 de­grees) as you swing the weight back be­tween your legs. Then quickly snap your hips for­ward and tighten your glutes, us­ing just enough force so that the ket­tle­bell swings for­ward, end­ing the swing about chin height. Let grav­ity re­verse the mo­tion and bring the ket­tle­bell back down through your legs. Link your reps us­ing an even ca­dence.

Point­ers

l Push your hips back and hold your chest up as you swing the ket­tle­bell be­tween your legs. If you’re squat­ting and lean­ing for­ward, you’re do­ing it wrong.

Don’t pull the ket­tle­bell up. Let mo­men­tum swing it for you — your arms are just along for the ride.

Plant your feet. Your heels should stay on the ground through­out the move.

Ar­rest the mo­tion at head level to avoid over­ar­ch­ing your back.

Keep your shoul­ders packed and in place. Don’t let the ket­tle­bell pull them for­ward as you raise the weight or down as it comes back be­tween your legs.

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