Kettlebell Workouts & Soreness

The KB swing can make you sore at first.
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Tennis can lead to a slightly sore elbow, while squash can cause sore glutes, for sure. After soccer, expect a few words from your quads, and deadlifts may leave you open to backchat from your hamstrings. Kettlebell workouts can similarly cause a bit of soreness -- but, hopefully, it's a delicious type of ache that means that even if you need to soak in a bath of Epsom salts, your body is sculpting into a work of art. You can safely experience a wee bit of soreness after your workout with KBs, the term trainers use for these cannonball-shaped weights with handles.

What May Happen

    New York-based kettlebells expert Lorna Kleidman acknowledges that you may indeed feel achy later. “The first couple of sessions may result in soreness due to the increased range of motion that the kettlebells allow for,” Kleidman notes. “When performing the swing, for example, the bell is moving through the legs, then redirected to come back up in front of the body. No other fitness tool allows for this range of motion, so it’s totally new to the body. This is how you create a lifted, round and firm butt, and fortunately, most folks love to feel sore in their glutes!”

Types of Soreness

    You might experience two kinds of soreness when exercising when kettlebells -- either right away, when you lift KBs either at high volume or high weight; and delayed onset soreness, which is felt a few days later. Immediate soreness disappears after just 30 seconds to three minutes, as the body removes metabolites from the muscle cells. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, peaks two days after new intense exercise and subsides. This is a sign that your muscles are recovering and increasing in size and strength, writes Irene Lewis-McCormick in “A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.”


    Try not to go too hard in your very first KB workout. Instead of going for the “no pain, no gain" method, stay in a moderate range of exertion, especially with your KB swing. Tracy Reifkind, author of “The Swing!: Lose the Fat and Get Fit with This Revolutionary Kettlebell Program,” concurs with Kleidman that the swing will be an issue, although she targets the area of the inner thigh as the likely soreness area. “It’s normal and it’s unavoidable,” she writes -- quite simply, a rite of passage for those new to KBs.


    The good news is that with any luck, after your first day break-in, soreness will be a thing of the past, Reifkind notes. A typical kettlebell workout evenly distributes its challenges to the body, as much of the upper and lower body and core work in harmony to complete a swing, snatch or Turkish getup. Work on proper technique, so that you really swing the KB rather than attempt to “shoulder” it up. Address lingering soreness in the thighs and glutes with foam-roller stretches, and modify your program to limit your reps, sets, frequency and amount of weight if you feel exceptionally sore.

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