Can Kettlebell Swings Hurt Your Back And Replace Cardio?

Can Kettlebell Swings Hurt Your Back? Can Kettlebells Replace Cardio?

Two common questions often asked are “Can kettlebell swings hurt your back?“, and “Can kettlebells replace cardio?“.

The answer to both is yes. This kettlebell information will explain in detail how kettlebell swings can hurt your back and how kettlebell swings can replace running on the treadmill and other cardio work that’s high impact.

Kettlebell swings can hurt your back, and here are 5 common mistakes that can be the cause:

  1. The weight is too light
  2. The weight is too heavy
  3. Too many reps
  4. Too much volume
  5. Form and technique is incorrect

It’s important to remember that this article covers the most common kettlebell swing and that there are many other variations of the kettlebell swing. However, to not confuse the matter, the swing variations won’t be covered.

Can Kettlebell Swings Help Back Pain?

Before I dive deeper into the reasons why kettlebell swings can hurt your back, it’s important to mention that kettlebell swings, when done correctly, are more likely to help prevent back pain.

Kettlebells are great for working on flexibility, strength, and endurance, all of which will help prevent or eliminate back pain caused by weakness, inflexibility, or other issues.

What Weight To Use For Kettlebell Swings

Our website has a lot of information on how to pick the right weight for kettlebell training, but kettlebell swings are very popular for beginners to start with so I will give some idea of what weight to use for kettlebell swings and why using a kettlebell weight too light causes back pain, which is a very common mistake, especially for female beginners.

There are also 20 other common kettlebell mistakes that I have covered in another article which you should check out after finishing here.

Kettlebell Swing Weight Too Light

A kettlebell too light is a major cause of back pain and this is because the movement turns from moving the weight ballisticly (fast) into raising (slow). When the weight is too light then the body automatically moves it by raising it with the help of the shoulders and back. The back stays under tension during the whole movement and the muscles do not get to relax.

A ballistic exercise is where you power the weight and it keeps going when you release it. So, the difference is that you can’t move a light weight fast as it would flop all over the place.

One might think, it’s a light weight, it’s safe, and best to start with. But raising a weight rather than swinging a weight keeps the whole body tense during the up and down phase. You are keeping it far from the body which all ends up being a load on the back, whereas if done correctly, it would only be a short burst of load during the upswing and there would be none at the top of the swing.

Imagine holding the weight out at the front at chest level for a long period of time, no matter how light that weight is, it will affect the back. This is exactly what happens with the swing when it’s not performed as a ballistic exercise.

Now imagine pulling the weight out and guiding it to the top of the swing and guiding it back between the legs on the backswing as it drops back down. If you don’t follow the weight, then the only time there would be a load on the back is when you would pull it out from between the legs. The difference is that this would be tension and relaxation for the muscles doing the work versus constant tension with a raise.

A ballistic exercise with a bit of weight behind it is:

  • power (short and explosive)
  • ballistic flight (let it freely move by the power already provided)
  • rest for the muscles (different work is done by the body)
  • let the weight fall back down
  • control and guide the weight
  • repeat the steps at the end of the backswing

Kettlebell Swing Weight Too Heavy

A kettlebell too heavy is a common cause of back pain and is usually a mistake made by males who forget to check their ego at the door. So what kettlebell weight should you use for swings? You should use a weight that’s not too light and not too heavy, and it should be suitable for your level of training plus goals, but what is that?

You always want the kettlebell to be heavy enough so that it can be used for a ballistic exercise like the kettlebell hip hinge swing for power. Yes, I mentioned those additional details on purpose, as things change when you do a different variation of the swing like the pendulum swing, which is a variation of the swing that is used for endurance cleans and snatches but that’s for another discussion.

A ballistic exercise requires the kettlebell to provide enough resistance so that it can be pulled into a ballistic flight. If the issue covered above is not the case with a light weight then it would be the opposite of what’s described which is the kettlebell uncontrollably flopping around.

A good guide for weight selection is usually males starting at least 12kg/26lb and preferably 16kg/35lb, and females at least 10kg/22lb and preferably 12kg/26lb to 14kg/30lb.

The best solution to correctly figuring out your correct kettlebell weight is by working together with a certified kettlebell instructor, or posting your video, goals, and experience in our 47,000+ large kettlebell community and asking for feedback.

Kettlebells To Replace Cardio

Although the heading is incorrect, kettlebells can be used for cardio! Most people type in kettlebells to replace cardio, but it’s not a replacement as you’re still doing cardio with kettlebells. You’re just not using a treadmill or spin bike, and you aren’t running, jogging, or swimming but still getting your cardio benefits from the kettlebell.

Cardio is exercise designed to benefit the heart and blood vessels, it elevates the heart rate and increases blood flow. In short, cardio strains your body’s cardiovascular system which improves its ability to perform the required functions. The kettlebell can replace running, the kettlebell can replace swimming, the kettlebell can replace cycling, and the answer to the question “Can kettlebell swings replace cardio?” is yes! That is if you program them correctly.

The great thing about most kettlebell exercises is that they are low-impact compared to high-impact running.

A great kettlebell program that progressively builds someone’s cardio up step by step and includes progressions for form and technique as well is THE PACE MAKER PROTOCOL by Cavemantraining™. This program is built upon 3 super effective exercises, the kettlebell swing, kettlebell snatch, and the overhead reverse lunge.

The program takes a complete beginner to someone who is super fit. The program has different levels to achieve, and the intermediate to advanced levels are just 20 minutes of work, unbroken, which creates a super tough and fit human being.

For anyone wanting hundreds of kettlebell workouts that can replace cardio, check out the kettlebell workout books which not only have cardio workouts but also strength, mobility, power, and more.

For anyone that prefers follow-along workout videos and even optional coaching to make sure all questions are answered and they’re doing things right, check out the inner circle membership which has been in existence for over 4 years and boasts over 250+ full-length kettlebell workouts ranging from beginner to advanced.

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