How to do popular moves right
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.
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.