Kettlebell Repetitive Movements

Are constant repetitive kettlebell movements good for your joints?

In one of our online kettlebell communities, we received the following question.

“Are constant repetitive kettlebell movements good for your joints?”

It’s a good question and often asked. It’s good because the user is doing research on how to stay injury free, which is a super important aspect when it comes to any form of resistance training. The conversation went further as follows.

“Is walking all day, every day good for you? Not if you don’t progress properly and condition yourself gradually. Is moving with a weight good for you? Not if you don’t advance progressively. There is a threshold for everything. Don’t pass that threshold. So, are repetitive movements good for your joints? Absolutely. Are repetitive movements good when your diet sucks? The answer is, the threshold will be lower.”
Taco Fleur

Kettlebell sport is a good example of high-volume repetitive movements. The sport produces great athletes that perform incredible feats. They are in great shape, and their joints function optimally.

Sure, some might have injuries, but that comes down to, did they follow the right progression; did they leave their ego at the door; did they push through the boundaries; and so on. The conversation continued.

“Well, constant repetition and use of the body’s joints and muscles keep them healthy and strong. But unnecessary weight on certain joints over a constant period of time is not good. So when and how is the threshold defined?”
B. Russomanno

The definition of the word constant is a situation that does not change. A good example of that is an overweight person carrying too much weight. With a kettlebell, the threshold needs to be found, and one needs to stay well within that threshold. One then needs to progressively work on increasing that threshold to eventually reach the optimal time frame. The conversation continued.

“What exactly is that threshold? Well, we’re all different, so that threshold can’t be given in a formula as 100 x 20kg is too much. When your body says no. When you get injured. When you don’t recover as you should. You’ve passed that threshold. You need to learn how to identify the stage before that. It can only be given in the descriptions I provided and you yourself are the measuring instrument. If someone is looking to have that work done for them, then they need to hire a coach to create a detailed program based on their history, goals, and current state, and then they need to stay in constant contact.”
Taco Fleur

The process to identify the threshold is explained in our book Preventing Kettlebell Training Injuries, but in short, it’s all about gradual progression, which means that the first day one picks up the kettlebell to not go at it like a bull at a gate and instead:

  • Picks a light weight
  • Starts with the fundamentals
  • Starts with low volume
  • Starts with short sets

And then gradually builds up.

Are kettlebell exercises bad for joints?

I’ve written an article on Quora to answer this related question.

Absolutely not and absolutely yes. Just like any other exercise with any tool can be bad or good, so can exercises with kettlebells be good or bad. In the end, it depends on whether you use them properly and program properly to meet your goals through a proper progression with adequate rest and recovery, etc.

So, assuming you do the exercises right, choose the right exercises, plan properly, progress properly, and so on, then NO, they are not bad for joints, in fact, they’re the opposite, they are extremely good for the joints.

The kettlebell swing, for example, works the hips and knees, or hips, knees, and ankles if you perform it squat style. Perform the snatch and you’re adding the shoulders as well, One exercise, one tool, and you’re working so many goals.

Any form of exercise done right is good for the joints as it increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat/prevent so many other symptoms.

Does kettlebell training have to be high-volume repetitive movements?

No, kettlebell training does not always have to be high-volume repetitive movements. Kettlebell training is suitable for many different forms of training like mobility, flexibility, strength, cardio, power, and so on.

Some of the work shown in the following video would not be repeated for high volume but will create tremendous results for joint mobility.

Here’s a strength workout with double kettlebell. The kettlebell combo is only performed for 20 repetitions and the user is in charge of how he/she rests between each rep.

You can find the full details on this workout on the Kettlebell Exercise Encyclopedia website here.

Another thing to keep in mind with kettlebell training is, are you only pushing heavy weights and not giving your body what it needs outside of that? Your body needs to be challenged from all angles and through all ranges, with a focus on increasing that range safely over time. A kettlebell weight doesn’t always need to be added for that work.

Thanks to B. Russomanno for asking the question. If you have any questions about kettlebell training, please come and join one of our many online kettlebell communities for answers and interaction.


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