Are kettlebell safe?

Are Kettlebells Safe? No they’re not!

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.

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

Make sure to check out the many HOW TO videos
at the bottom of this page.

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 you’re playing with fire, and 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 taken 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 will help you progress will depend 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.

  1. Assessment
  2. Bodyweight Squat
  3. Bodyweight Hip Hinge
  4. Kettlebell Hang Lift
  5. Kettlebell Dead Lift
  6. Assisted single-arm clean*
  7. Dead Clean
  8. Racking
  9. Conventional two-arm swing
  10. Two-arm clean
  11. Single-arm swing
  12. Single-arm swing clean
  13. Front squat
  14. Bent-over rows
  15. Strict press
  16. Push press
  17. Jerk
  18. Turkish get-up
  19. Snatch

*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 another 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 a better range of motion, and 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 that I had 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 in any other form of training. I believe this is largely due to the unilateral qualities of the kettlebell, which takes me to my favorite saying “Press a 40kg barbell and your dominant side will usually press more, but press two twenties, and you’re pressing two twenties!”.

Subscribe for more kettlebell videos and come and join our online kettlebell challenges here.

Examples of Bad Kettlebell Techniques

Let’s run through some bad kettlebell technique demonstrations, so that you can identify what will hurt you in the future. Another great thing to take away from this is that no matter how many followers they have or how well-known they are, they might know nothing about kettlebells and pretend that they do.

In the following example, the trainer is likable, he talks cute, the Dr. well… I don’t really know him or the trainer for that matter, but the Dr. seems like he has authority on the net due to the huge amount of followers on his Facebook. Awesome stuff that people like to hear is said, things like “YEAH LOOKS GOOD!”, “ATTA BOY!”, “LOVE IT, FANTASTIC”, and they look like they’re having so much fun.

I am guilty too!

Yes, I’m guilty too, I had horrible form when I started, I had no idea what a snatch was, I just did what I saw and thought I knew what I was doing. This article is not to have a dig at the trainer, every trainer has to start somewhere, and every trainer makes mistakes, but hopefully, they keep learning and more importantly, OWN UP. The whole problem with the video is that it’s being put out by what appears to be an ‘authority’ in the fitness industry and respected by many people. When you are an authority, you owe it to your following to make sure that what you promote is of high-quality.

The title should be “How to Mess up your shoulders”

It’s absolutely horrid, this is not for shoulder mobility, every angle they rack the kettlebell in is dangerous to the shoulders, with over one million followers, if only 1% is going to grab a heavy kettlebell and start doing this, well, do your maths …

Let me tell you, no matter what you do, you don’t just cover the Kettlebell Snatch in 7 minutes, and if you do, you point to more resources, you make it clear that this exercise requires more research, work with a professional, or is for advanced users only.

I certainly would not be promoting a super explosive ballistic movement to what is probably an over-40 audience. EVERYTHING in this video screams SHOULDER INJURY.


Dr. Joseph Mercola teamed up with world-class fitness experts and trainers to incorporate his expertise on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle with their comprehensive experience in wellness and fitness. is the world’s #1 natural health website with over 1.5 million newsletter subscribers led by Dr. Joseph Mercola

I’m very disappointed with Mercola Peak Fitness and Dr. Joseph Mercola for putting out a video to their audience with absolutely horrible form and technique, this is asking for a lawsuit, especially when you’re supposed to be ‘the authority’ and promoting this as SHOULDER_MOBILITY.  When you have a large following like that, you have a responsibility to make sure that you know what you put out is good.

What is wrong?

Let’s cover a few things that are wrong, because covering everything, well, that would require a book.

When the trainer demonstrates:

  • there is no insert; the hand is not punched into the handle to get the proper grip required for a press or kettlebell rack
  • not having the handle 45 degrees over the heel of the palm causes stress on the wrist when pressing (read more)
  • the kettlebell comes too high with the clean
  • the kettlebell is flipping over the fist and banging on the forearm
  • he’s not naming the exercises correctly; it’s a hang clean and dead snatch that he’s demonstrating

The trainer’s body language and looks tell me that he knows he’s in trouble, but he’s like “I’m getting paid well, the guy I’m working with is a well-known person, I’m on camera, I have no idea how to get myself out of this mess?”.

When the doctor demonstrates:

  • the kettlebell lands on the outside line of the elbow, causing stress on the shoulder
  • there is no drive from the lower body, it’s all upper body, a clean should be lower-body powered
  • every angle he holds that kettlebell in is wrong


Aren’t you being pedantic?

No! Agreed that one can get too technical and pedantic, but this is a completely other matter, this is just plain wrong from so many angles.

When people watch this and try it at home, people get injured, the kettlebell gets a bad name, and kettlebell training will be seen as dangerous! Yes, kettlebell training is extremely dangerous when you put out incorrect techniques like this, and so is any other form of resistance training for that matter. I know it sounds mean, but seriously, with such authority comes responsibility, and this is taking the piss with that responsibility.

The things Cavemantraining will always represent:

  • admit mistakes publicly (have already done so)
  • correct mistakes
  • continue learning

Let’s hope that the good doctor has those values too, for the sake of his followers.

The ironic thing is that they just published an article about CrossFit, and everything in it is spot on, then why the above?

That said, there’s no denying it can be effective if and when done with proper form and some common sense. In fact, in a gym with good trainers/coaches it may be one of the best fitness programs you can engage in.

I have contacted their website personally and let them know about the video in a professional matter, not expecting any answers, but I felt compelled to do so.

I’ll leave you with two incredible and free resources that will teach you about proper grips, hand insertion, and racking. You can download the free PDFs from our website here and here. The video below is a great resource to invest some time in to learn the fundamentals and avoid the mistakes covered in the first video.

For those that want to take it a step further, look at becoming kettlebell certified online or buy one of our kettlebell videos.

Leave a Comment

Shopping Basket