Functional training has become a staple in the fitness industry and people can't seem to get enough of bootcamps, CrossFit and adventure runs. One form of such widespread functional fitness is kettlebell training. You've probably seen kettlebells at your gym but may not have realized what the heck they were. People use kettlebells to perform all kinds of exercises that are usually plyometric in nature. Proper kettlebell workouts can be effective; however, there are some disadvantages and risks involved with this type of training.
You Must Learn Proper Form
It is incredibly important to perform kettlebell exercises with proper form, which requires an investment of time and often money. According to the Australian Institute of Kettlebells, the benefits of this training cannot be completely gained if you bypass the process of learning the technical and safety aspects related to using kettlebells. Unfortunately, it may be more difficult to find a fitness professional with a kettlebell background and certification who can teach you correct form than it is to find a credentialed personal trainer who can demonstrate basic resistance exercises.
Space and Grip
It's hard to perform kettlebell movements in a crowded gym because you need a lot of space to avoid knocking out fellow gym-goers. Some gyms have group fitness rooms where you can use kettlebells, but these are often closed off from the rest of the gym, so it might be more difficult to alert someone that you've been hurt if you are alone. If you do find a large area to train, there is still the risk of the kettlebell handle slipping out of your sweaty hand mid-movement, which would quickly convert it into a steel missile with huge destructive power.
There's a slew of mistakes people make with kettlebells and most of them are due to the assumption that they can be used in the same fashion as dumbbells. Yes, dumbbells are also made of steel and you hold them in your hands, but that's about it. Some folks attempt to complete sets to failure, but this will destroy proper form and thus set the stage for injury. A set should always stop a few reps before exhaustion.
Not maintaining a neutral position is a common problem that can hurt your back. Trying to force the upper body to muscle a load that the lower body should be helping with is also common and can lead to back injury as well. Kettlebells can carry an immense amount of momentum, so a repetition that starts with bad form cannot be saved. However, many people will try to correct form mid-rep, which can be very dangerous for the spine and musculature.
Proceed With Caution
Kettlebell training does have advantages as well. It can be a fun and dynamic way to challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system. However, you must proceed with caution. If you decide to take up kettlebell training, opt to first take a workshop that goes over safety and basic movements. Once you progress to classes, verify the instructor is credentialed and is not some minimum wage high school student who lifted weights once and has therefore been deemed proficient in kettlebell training by the gym manager. As you become more experienced with kettlebells, you may be tempted to check out online videos to learn new movements, but be smart about this, too. Remember, anyone can post a video on the net. Discuss a maneuver you found on YouTube with your kettlebell instructor before attempting to hoist a 30-pound ball of steel.
Always talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.