What Are the Dangers of Kettlebells?

Fact Checked

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Burning more than 400 calories in a 20-minute workout may tempt you to try kettlebell training. Given the resurgence in popularity with trainers and specialty gyms, such as CrossFit, the American Council on Exercise commissioned a late-2009 study confirming the high calorie burn. Intense workouts require intense focus and newcomers to this fitness method should keep several factors in mind to stay safe from common dangers inherent to kettlebell training. Check with your doctor first to make sure this type of regime is appropriate for you, then set yourself up for success with this checklist.

Working Too Heavy

No matter how strong you think you are, avoid learning with a heavily weighted kettlebell. You will ultimately work with a bell that’s heavier than you can press or pull, according to Shannon Fable, an IDEA kettlebell expert, but you need to be able to control it during your curvilinear swinging movements. Start with a lighter-weight kettlebell when learning the basic movement patterns, then increase to a heavier weight as your confidence and control improve.

Not Enough Space

That swooping bell can do as much damage as a wrecking ball to your other equipment, walls or furniture. Plan your workout space based on your height plus one foot. A 6-foot man needs a clear 7-foot by 7-foot space to allow for the length of his kettlebell in full-swing.

No Exit Plan

Losing control is a given when you’re new at swinging a kettlebell, so you’ll need to stay focused and a have a plan. The potential danger of stopping in mid-swing is that you’ll either create an intense pull, and possibly a tear, on a shoulder muscle attachment, or you’ll unintentionally hit something with the kettlebell. When a swing goes awry, allow the movement to play itself out, then re-evaluate.

Working Too Long

Decide whether you could handle a 60-minute kettlebell routine. Your stabilizing muscles work overtime during every swing of the bell. When you start to fatigue, you’re more likely to lose control causing an injury or wrecking a wall. The high energy-burn of kettlebell training also makes longer workouts unnecessary. Plan a shorter workout than you would do on a treadmill or with weight training; 20 minutes is plenty.

Poor Body Mechanics

At first glance, kettlebell routines look like they focus mainly on arm and shoulder work. Using correct form, your hips are your primary energy drivers in a kettlebell routine. The shoulder and back muscles work to stabilize your form during the swing, but if you focus the work to originate from here, you will injure yourself.

Going it Alone

An impressive physique isn’t always the sign of a well-educated trainer. Learning proper form can not only save you from hurting yourself; you’ll build muscle and endurance faster if you learn the correct techniques for swinging a kettlebell. Look for a credentialed trainer via kettlebell and fitness associations, such as the Register of Kettlebell Professionals, the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, and the American Council on Exercise.