If you’ve ever trained with me the first thing you’d say is, hopefully, that I am a good trainer. The second thing you’d say is, “HE LOVES KETTLEBELLS!” Last weeks blog covered tips on how to improve your squat. If you haven’t read that yet I suggest you do now CLICK HERE. As a trainer, I have a strong philosophy on using your own bodyweight, challenging different planes of motion, and utilizing workout time efficiently. There is no benefit to spending hours in the gym unless, of course, you are an athlete training for a competition or event. My workouts for my clients really only consist of 45 min of solid working out, tops! We warm up for 10 minutes, begin exercises, gradually increase intensity, 5-10 min finisher, then we cool down or stretch. I rarely use machines because they don’t challenge balance, stability, or coordination. Three things that are pretty essential to our aging bodies and the intense lifestyles we live. Kettlebells are my favorite tool I use for myself and for my clients. They challenge all the things I just listed along with your strength, endurance, and they are great for beginners or the most seasoned athlete. There are definitely many progressions to kettlebells and unfortunately, I see them misused a lot. This can result in serious injury or injuries that will sneak up on you later in life. Lets take it slow and start with a simple move, the kettlebell deadlift.
PICKING THE WEIGHT
Which weight to pick for your kettlebell is very important. It’s always best to start light and work your way up. For this particular move I suggest 10 lbs for beginner women, 15 lbs for beginner men, 20 lb for intermediate women, 30 lb for intermediate men. If you are advanced, you should be able to determine the weight by simply doing 5-10 repetitions and rating the difficulty from that. Sometimes the weights are in kilograms because kettlebells are from Russia, hence why they are referred to as Russian Kettlebells. Those recommendations don’t have to be exact and I may be off on the estimates because I don’t know your ability. Its just a loose guideline not to be taken as gospel. Attempt the deadlift and if you don’t feel comfortable with the weight, adjust. This is about form first and sometimes it comes down to going back and perfecting your bodyweight squat.
When done correctly, the KB deadlift works the legs, arms, and back in a way I can’t seem to emulate elsewhere. Right off the bat you can see it clearly resembles you picking up something off the floor. I can’t tell you how many times I hear of people injuring themselves from picking something off the dang floor! Learn the proper technique and you’ll have the “College Hunks Who Haul Junk” amazed at the strength! All you men out there will have your significant other or future significant other drooling in satisfaction. Then they will have you hauling more than you probably want to but who cares, you’re a beast! The KB deadlift also increases flexibility and mobility of the hips. This is due to the wide stance, allowing for more hip flexion. Good news here is that it means less pressure on the low back. This move definitely takes some prerequisites from a proper squat, a weighted squat, and good core strength. If you feel it in the low back it could be due to a weak core, rounded back during movement, or tight hips preventing proper range of motion (ROM). Don’t push it and go back to the fundamentals before continuing.
The only difference between this and a squat is that you’re picking it up from the ground rather than resisting weight and gravity from the top. A deadlift gets its name because you are lifting something that's in a sense, “dead” or still, from the floor. Rumor has it comes from the soldiers who literally “deadlifted” the dead soldiers from the ground. I need a fact check on that but I think it gets its name from the first explanation I gave. I like the KB deadlift because it forces you to keep your chest forward, which is also a friendly position for the low back. Just like the squat, my chest is forward, feet flat on the ground, butt back, and my knees don’t “cave” in or “bow” out. Make sure to keep those arms straight because the strength of the movement comes from the legs, not the arms. I see people lift with their arms and it’s a very bad habit to get into. Always “deadlift” the KB from the ground on each rep to ensure the proper ROM. Start with 3 sets of 8-12 reps and of course, begin going up in weight as you get stronger. I have so much more to share about kettlebells that will make you love and possibly hate them as much as I do!