Thinking about trying kettlebells? Use these tips from Los Angeles–based trainer Paul Katami, creator of the DVD Ultimate Kettlebell Workouts for Beginners ($17, amazon.com), to reduce the risk of injury and get a better workout.
Perfect Your Swing
If you watch someone doing a kettlebell swing—bringing the bell between her legs and swinging it up to chin height—it’s easy to think that she’s using her arms. But in fact the swing comes from the legs and the gluteals and is a hip-driven movement; the arms just go along for the ride. The energy that’s created when you push your legs up from a bent position (similar to a dead lift) and when you snap your hips to a standing position is what lifts the bell.
Rely on these points, too, to execute a safer swing:
- When the bell is between your legs, you should be hinged forward slightly from the hips, not the waist. Your back should be long and not rounded.
- Keep your heels on the floor throughout the swing.
- Don’t push your hips forward at the top of the swing. Just stack them on top of your legs in a normal, neutral standing position.
- Allow the bell to come to chin height, but not higher. Then let momentum move the bell back down.
- As the bell swings back down, don’t squat with your knees; hinge from the hips.
Follow Your Own Rhythm
The speed of your swing depends on the weight of your kettlebell—heavier ones will slow the swing down. Use the rhythm that works for the weight of the bell you have; don’t force yourself to follow a certain beat or to mirror the person in the DVD you’re using.
Release Tension in Your Shoulders
This allows your arms to swing freely and prevents you from muscling the weight around, which puts too much stress on your muscles and joints.
Get the Right Grip
Keep your wrists neutral; there should be no bend in them whatsoever. Until you get used to kettlebells, you might want to wear wrist protectors, little sweatband-type pieces of fabric (often sold near the kettlebells in sporting-goods stores). Also, stay loose on the handle. While you don’t want to drop the bell, a white-knuckle grip will prevent it from swiveling in your hand the way it should to create the momentum that makes kettlebells so effective.