This is probably the most common mistake at any gym. Kettlebell users are no exception. Men are always guilty of starting off with weights that are too heavy and affect form. Women tend to start using weights that are too light to be worthwhile. If your weight is too heavy then you will run the risk of injury, especially in the lower back. If your weight is too light you will fail to activate all your muscles, especially your lower body. If you need further insight on making the decision on which size kettlebell to use or buy see our past blog post “What Size Kettlebell Should I Buy?”
How to Fix:
Do you think your kettlebell weight is too heavy? Check your form out in the mirror. Are you under control? Do you have to lean to get the weight up? Are your joints sore after a workout? A great test to see if your weight is too heavy is to see if you can get 8-9 quality reps in. If you are struggling and losing form on your last reps than your weight is too heavy. While the bodybuilding strategy of “maxing out” works great with static anaerobic exercise, kettlebell swings involving lots of motion require more quality reps to properly get your entire body involved. If you feel like your motion is completely off, do a few sets empty handed. Look at the closest mirror and observe yourself from all sides and focus on your form.
Do you think your kettlebell weight is too light? Do you feel your entire body working? Are you sweating? If you can get 10+ reps in and you don’t feel an entire body workout you might want to move up a weight. Feel free to use different kettlebells between sets. If your kettlebell workout plan is to do 3x8(3 sets of 8 reps each) do your first 2 sets with your original weight then move up for your last set. Your next work out do 1 set with the lighter weight and the final 2 with your heavier weight. This is a great way to slowly move your weight up while keeping form.
The beauty of kettlebell exercises is that you get a full body workout with muscle building, calorie burning, and functional strength. The most common mistakes made by kettlebell users by both beginners and experts have is that they only use one muscle group. This is especially common for weight lifters adding in kettleball workouts. Every single weight lifting guide and trainer out there will tell you to have strict motions focusing on one or two groups of muscles. Kettlebell workouts want the exact opposite! Make sure in any swing motion you are transferring the power from the balls of your feet to the apex of your motion. Another common mistake is using your arms too much. If you watch any competitive crossfit female competitor, they will use an unbelievable amount of weight during their kettlebell swings. That is because their form is impeccable and they use their body weight to as a counterweight and their arms are just for a connecting point, not for the heavy lifting.
How to Fix:
First of all make sure you are using the proper weight. Next make sure your form is good. Got it? Good.
Now visualize the tension in your entire body; glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, abdomen, shoulders, traps. You want to make sure your speed allows you to really feel each muscle group being used properly and under control. After your sets you feel your lower back hurting, than you need to use more quad and shoulder strength. If your arms hurt than try to focus on exploding and pushing off with your hamstrings.
This isn't just a kettlebell workout mistake, you will see this across all types of fitness. You want to be careful to not get caught up in numbers. Remember the goal is not to do “X sets and Y reps.” You should have two exclusive goals. Build muscle and burn calories. The majority for beginners is hovers around 8-9 reps. The number of reps and sets can all change based on your goals. You should never be to the point where you are have to struggle through your set. On the flip side don’t ever let it get to the point where you don’t suck a little wind at the end of your set. Use these metrics for measuring sticks to your kettlebell workout goals, not strict guidelines.
How to fix: Looking for a more cardiovascular workout? Drop a weight size and gun for 14-15 reps. Do you wan to pack on some muscle? Get a bit heavier and try for 5-6 reps. Don’t make the mistake and be “that guy” who tries to do 2 reps with the 90lb kettlebell. Conversely, don’t crank out 20 reps without breaking a sweat. Do what is comfortable to you and fits your goals.
This is a lesser known kettlebell workout mistake, mainly because it is primarily a problem for kettlebell users. I get it, at the end of the day you want to slip off your business shoes or high heels and into something comfortable. But you could be adding extra unneeded stress on your ankle ligaments. The higher up your heel is off the floor the less traction and feel for the ground you have. You lose stabilization and have to compromise form to make up for wobbling feet. By using more minimalist workout shoes you improve on control and have a small mechanical advantage. On that note, please don’t do any kettlebell workouts on bosu balls!
How to fix: Ideally you want more minimalistic workout shoes. Try to remember your workout shoes not as a fashion accessory but an essential fitness tool to get to where you want to go physically. If you are doing circuits in a controlled environment and still want the extra padding for high impact exercises consider slipping your shoes off for some kettlebell workouts. But BE CAREFUL to avoid dropped weights. Other wise, do your best to buy workout shoes with small heels and avoid Dr. Scholls inserts.
There could be entire websites dedicated to having perfect kettlebell form. This can be from improper rack position, slamming the kettlebell into your own wrist during snatches, thumb placement, grip strength and etc..
How to Fix: With so many variables, different kettlebells, hand sizes, arm lengths it's hard to give specific advice. Because each person is different I’ll narrow it down to some of the most popular mistakes found in kettlebell training.
- Don't give your kettlebell a death grip, just keep it firm and under control
- When flipping the kettlebell to a rack position(shown above) slow the weight down before it smashes into your forearms(also get some Kettleguards)
- Keep your wrist flexed and straight to avoid the kettlebell snapping back
- Keep your hand in the center of the weight
Hopefully you learned something new today. Do you agree with this list? What problems do you see in kettlebell training? Leave your comments and feedback below! Now get out there and make sure you are getting the most out of your kettlebell workouts! Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!