Kettlebell Back Pain

How To Not Hurt Your Back With The Kettlebell Drop From Racking or Overhead

A lot of kettlebell common mistakes and beginner annoyances are covered in our book Preventing Kettlebell Training Injuries, but there is one common mistake that is more common than others and that’s the following of the kettlebell.

There are two instances where the kettlebell falls away from us, and that’s the drop from racking and the drop from overhead. For example, the drop from racking for another clean, or the drop from overhead for another snatch. This common mistake results in lower back pains, injuries, and even tendon problems (tendinitis) around the elbows.

The common mistake is that as the weight falls away the weight is immediately followed by breaking at the hips and knees to bring the torso forward. The weight then moves much further away and the lower back reaches a point where a lot of load is placed on it.

A question asked during one of our online kettlebell certifications:

“What is the movement that initiates the descent from the racking position? And what joint initiates the fall from overhead in the full snatch? I think if I know the answers to those, I’ll be able to erase that shoulder bump and understand the clean and snatch better.”

S. Walker

The Answer

To Initiate The Drop From Racking

In most racking positions the weight always wants to fall away from the chest because the handle is closer to the chest and the weight is further away from the chest (the bell). Relaxing the muscles that hold the weight in will initiate the drop naturally. From there, the weight is guided.

There are racking positions where the weight is right above the legs and don’t want to fall away from the body, in that case, standing up straight will initiate the drop. If it doesn’t, then a slight rotation of the wrist will place the bell (the heavy part) in a position where it will.

As the weight falls, it naturally goes where gravity wants it to go, and that’s directly down to the ground. If you are performing a hang clean or snatch then that’s okay, but if you are performing a swing clean or snatch then you want the weight to move away from you so that it can enter the backswing.

For the kettlebell to enter the backswing, it needs to first move away from the body. To get the weight to fall away from the body the elbow needs to be kept where it is and the hand guides the weight as it falls away naturally.

As the weight falls, there comes a point where the arm is fully extended, this is the furthest the weight can fall away and then it enters the backswing. There are other things that happen during this phase, like grip transition, etc. but as all this happens, it’s important to not follow the kettlebell and stay standing tall. A point will come during the backswing where the hinge happens, but that should not happen during the drop. Of course, there are exceptions to this for more advanced techniques, but for beginners, this is the norm.

To Initiate The Drop From Overhead

For the drop from overhead, you can use wrist rotation as well, paired with the relaxation of the shoulder muscles that held the weight overhead, and you can also bring the shoulder back, all this results in the bell falling forward. There are more ways to initiate the overhead drop and drop from racking but these are good enough to start with for anyone wanting to refine their technique and avoid lower back pain or tendon issues that may arise from repetitive jerks during the drop.

This information is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning the finer techniques of kettlebell training and working out safely at home or in the gym. Cavemantraining™ and IKU™ have published online kettlebell courses, certifications, books, and kettlebell memberships.

The Common Mistakes

As mentioned, a common mistake is following the kettlebell which means to break at the joints and let the torso follow the weight at the same time it drops.

The next common mistake often seen with this is casting the weight out, throwing it, or bumping it away. Let it drop naturally.

Proper kettlebell training creates a strong back and prevents or even fixes back pain, but incorrect kettlebell training may result in the opposite. Injury or pain is never the fault of the kettlebell or the exercises, it’s a lack of understanding, lack of technique, lack of strength, or incorrect programming. Make sure that you invest in the kettlebell and it will invest in you.

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