Hello, my name is Taco Fleur and I’m a professional kettlebell coach, online educator, owner of a popular youtube channel with many years of kettlebell experience and I’m here to tell you that kettlebells are not safe.
Let me explain. If I told you that they’re safe I would be lying, because just like any other piece of exercise equipment, it’s not safe unless it’s in the hands of someone who will respect it and treat it with the care it deserves.
KETTLEBELLS ARE EXTREMELY SAFE
within the proper context
“Anyone who starts kettlebell training needs to follow the kettlebell journey step-by-step, they need to earn their rites of passage, there are no shortcuts“ ~ Taco Fleur
You’re going to get hurt
Grab a kettlebell in your first week of training and start doing snatches like you’ve seen other more seasoned kettlebell enthusiasts perform with ease, and you’re playing with fire, there is no doubt you’re going to get hurt. The same applies to grabbing a barbell in your first week of training and start snatching it like you’re in the CrossFit Games, you’re going to get hurt. This fact doesn’t change whether you take a dumbbell, trx, sandbag, fitball or anything else, you need to respect the tool, treat it with care and progress from step one. It’s like Mario on the Nintendo, you don’t just start on level 32 and take on Tutankoopa just like you don’t just take on the Kettlebell Snatch.
Progression is key
Progression is a journey of taking your kettlebell training step by step, a journey preferably done with a certified kettlebell trainer from any style or company —don’t get dragged into “this style is better”, learn them all— and usually starts with the conventional double-arm swing, progresses to single arm swing, cleans, presses, turkish get-ups and snatches. There is way more in between to learn, but that all depends on your time, coach and goals.
The way a coach progresses you all depends on your learning capabilities and goals, here’s how I normally would progress someone with online coaching from nothing to a professional kettlebell enthusiast, taking into consideration that the student has no issues and is in good physical shape.
- Assisted single-arm clean*
- Bodyweight Squat
- Bodyweight Hip Hinge
- Kettlebell Hang Lift
- Kettlebell Dead Lift
- Dead Clean
- Conventional two-arm swing
- Two-arm clean
- Single-arm swing
- Single-arm swing clean
- Front squat
- Bent-over rows
- Strict press
- Push press
- Turkish get-up
*I throw the “Assisted single-arm clean” in very early, as I like my students to get familiar with the corkscrew motion, dealing with the proper weight distribution of the kettlebell to avoid pressure on the forearm, which if not dealt with early-on hinders progression at the stage of racking, cleaning and pressing.
After those fundamental exercises I would be looking at adding an other arsenal of kettlebell exercises, grinding, rotational, explosive, etc. see a list of all kettlebell exercises I put together here.
Are kettlebells bad for your shoulders?
Yes if you start doing weird things that you should not be doing or your body is just not ready for, otherwise, no they’re not bad for your shoulders, they’re amazing for shaping your shoulders, creating better range of motion, making them stronger and resilient to injury.
Are kettlebells bad for your back?
That’s like asking “are bicep curls bad for your biceps?”, kettlebells are the perfect tool to help eradicate chronic back-pain, but again, only when done right. The people that ask these questions either have participated in a kettlebell class with a cowboy trainer teaching or heard their friend complain about their back who just started swinging the bell while watching the Jilian Michaels version on youtube.
I would lie if I said I never seen anyone get injured during kettlebell training, I’ve never seen serious injury from a kettlebell, I have seen people out for a week because they did not listen to the weight suggested to them, they did not listen when the coach said, take a step back, regress and learn the hip hinge first. What I do know for a fact is that I’ve seen way less injury in Kettlebell Training than any other form of training. I believe this is largely due to the unilateral qualities of the kettlebell, which takes me to my favourite saying “press a 40kg barbell and your dominant side will usually press more, but press two twenties, and you’re pressing two twenties!”.
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