Pain and Overuse, Doing Kettlebells Right

Excerpted from The High Intensity Kettlebell Fitness Manual© by Mike Stefano, part of the HIKF Trainer's Course which includes over 30 protocols. For more on HIKF: CLICK HERE


The new Kettlebell lifter will have a hard time discerning between healthy discomfort and dangerous pain. Typically, joint pain should not be tolerated, and a clear sign of a gross technique issue or simple overuse, but there is an acclimation period where the body will experience some pain no matter how perfect technique. Any soreness that doesn’t disappear in a day or two needs to be addressed, and you should see your health care professional if you feel you’ve sustained or aggravated an injury. But there is a lot that can be done to reduce injury.

Kettlebell sets are hard, it hurts. There is no way around that. We seek to remove as much danger from the equation as possible, but the lifters with the best technique are capable of the most extreme sets, with the least occurrence of injury. Kettlebell Sport includes some of the most intense all out performances in athletics today.

HIKF methodology enables the lifter to develop tremendous explosive force, but with the goal of a soft landing. Inflammation is the enemy, and learning to stop smoothly, on a dime every rep, is something that’s perfected over time. Beginners should use every ache and pain as feedback on what needs to be fixed. Avoiding injury is the key to success. Early on, keep weight light to speed up the learning process. At a certain point, when it comes time to jump to a heavier kettlebell, new mistakes will reveal themselves. 

Some of the most common issues continually point to the same mistakes and are listed below. Use the chart below as a reference guide for future training. If you have a serious injury, be sure to see your doctor.

MINOR INJURY / PROBABLE CAUSE CHART
  1. Bruised Shoulder
    • Improper Clean / Improper drop from Lockout    
  2. Upper Trap Pain
    • Over pulling the kettlebell with the arm during Swing, Clean, or Snatch
  3. Elbow Pain
    • Bad timing when dropping the kettlebell from the Rack (Clean) or Lockout (Snatch)
  4. Bruised Forearm
    • Maintaining a straight wrist in Rack and / or Lockout
  5. Wrist Pain
    • Maintaining a straight wrist in Rack and / or Lockout
  6. Blistered Palm
    • Squeezing the bell handle in Swing, Clean or Snatch / Not using the Fingerlock
  7. Low Back Pain
    • Hyperextending (arch) or hyperflexing (round) the back during Swing, Clean, Snatch
  8. Hip Pain
    • Allowing the hips to “crash” as the bell is pulled too hard in Swing, Clean or Snatch
  9. Knee Pain
    • Bad timing in Push Press, Jerk, or LongCycle (first or second dip)
  10. Foot Pain
    • Staying up on your toes (heels in the air) prior to launching the bell in Jerk or LongCycle
Please be aware that this is not a complete list, and may not apply to everyone. All pain should be taken seriously, and if necessary, seek medical attention. 

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