The 5 Biggest Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes When Using Kettlebells
by Darius Gilbert R.K.C. Team Leader
BIG Mistake #1: Too Focused on Quantity and not Quality
At DSP, our main focus in the training process is to make sure that all of our clients experience a positive adaptation. In other words, we want see some form of improvement in each workout. The only way to do this, is to make sure we focus on the quality of the exercise and not the quantity.
Too many of the programs either have too much volume, are based on how fast you can complete an exercise or are inappropriate for the general fitness client.
For instance, when teaching our clients to Swing the kettlebell for the first time we’ll start with Power Swings. The Power Swing is where we take the kettlebell from a dead start and perform one rep. The goal is for the client to show us that they can perform the perfect Swing…Glutes tight, abs braced and feet rooted to the floor. Once they can do this, we’ll ask for more reps. And we’re constantly stressing to do that perfect rep for however many reps prescribed. Safety should be viewed as a part of, not the opposite of performance.
While learning, it’s best to keep reps limited to as many as you can do with good technique. Once your form starts to deteriorate you must stop the set immediately. Once you’ve done too many reps, the body will start too conserve energy, making your technique less safe.
Training for quality and not quantity takes a certain mindset that most don’t have. The solution is to find an expert that can explain and break down the kettlebell exercises, troubleshoot your problems and provide a plan for moving forward. I’ve found that once this happens and the client understands the importance of training for quality, they’ll usually become more focused on detail.
BIG Mistake #2 Not Using the Hips!
Just about every kettlebell movement requires the use of the hips. Most kettlebell newbies will use the back and arms to complete lifts and this is a no – no! The importance of leading the movement with your hips can not be overstated. This is very important not only because it’s the best way to produce power, but will also protect the lower back.
Kettlebell exercises are total body movements that require synchronization of the upper and lower body. This is a main reason why Bodybuilders struggle with kettlebells. Big muscles are cool to look at, but they have a minimal effect on our movement compentency. The brain recognizes movement, therefore those that isolate muscles have a hard time nailing down kettlebell techniques that are often multi – planar and require a certain degree of athleticism.
One big fix for all newbies to kettlebells is to incorporate hip mobility and glute activation exercises into their warm up. This will help to teach separation of the trunk from the pelvis, which is key to extending the hips. Your kettlebell technique will improve tremendously, once the hips are opened and the glutes are firing!
BIG Mistake #3 Wearing Inappropriate Footwear
I simply cringe when I see people on Youtube or Facebook performing kettlebell exercises with thick soled tennis shoes. Although all of these mistakes are huge, this is one that can be fixed very easily. Train Barefoot!
Training barefoot will not only make the foot more stable, but it will also increase mobility in the ankle joint. Thick shoes create artificial stability in the foot and minimize the proprioceptive feedback we get from the ground when barefoot. Proprioception is our unconscious perception of space and our orientation and movement within the space around us.
Training barefoot will also help to correct muscle imbalances, build stronger arches and also improve and strengthen the neuromuscular pathways of the foot/leg. These mold the muscle firing sequences and ultimately affect the way we move.
BIG Mistake #4 Not Choosing the Appropriate Weights
Another pet peeve of mind is watching these super huge muscular people swinging 8kg kettlebells. The best kettlebell lifts, at least the ones that we use at DSP are total body exercises. Whether it’s the Deadlift, Snatch, Squat or Press, we’re going to use weights that force us to engage as many muscles as possible. For my 8 year old daughter that 8kg bell would be just right for a Swing. However it wouldn’t be good for anyone with weight training experience.
AT DSP Our female clientele generally start with a 8kg – 12kg kettlebell for ballistics and up to 16kg on Grinds. With men we typically start with a 16 kg for ballistics. That being said, the ideal weight is going to be a highly individual thing.
On the other hand, many go straight for the heaviest bell, and if you’re not using proper form, your risk of injury will go up exponentially.
BIG Mistake #5 Not Seeking Out an Expert First!
When hosting kettlebell certifications, there is one thing that is apparent amongst the participants. And that is the technique differences between those that have trained with a certified instructor and those that haven’t.
Most of the participants that have not worked with a trainer and have gone the Youtube route will fail the R.K.C. (Russian Kettlebell Certification).There are so many finer points to proper kettlebell technique that can not be gained from viewing videos. A skilled kettlebell instructor can fix and address technical issues that will not only boost your performance, but help prevent training injuries.
Kettlebell training is like learning any new skill. It takes time and practice. The absolute best way to get there is under the watchful eye of an expert instructor!