According to the coaches, women often hold their breath when they train with kettlebells. But that’s a big mistake, says Jermain, “Breath is key to being successful at training.” And while breathing might seem like a simple thing to change, proper kettlebell breathing takes time to learn. Each exercise requires specific and focused breath work. “A trained coach/trainer can show you when to breathe to help the movement,” say the coaches.
“During a kettlebell swing, women often go too high and overarch the back,” says Jermain. This action puts a strain on the shoulders and lower back. So what’s the fix? According to the coaches, a kettlebell swing should go no higher than eye level. “I know CrossFitters will argue this point, but if you look at the spinal alignment on most people’s overhead swing, it’s off,” she says. “You can see the low back squeezing, and with enough weight it can end poorly.” She adds that this is a common source of injury.
The kettlebell experts say that doing the same workout day after day is a common mistake that can lead to a lack of results. “Mix it up,” say the coaches. “Do a few heavier and slower reps one day, then do lighter speed work with more repetitions during your next workout.” They say you can improve both strength and endurance with kettlebells. There are traditional kettlebell competitions and also endurance competitions.
Just like with traditional weight training, effective kettlebell training requires more weight. “Kettlebells are a full workout, harnessing momentum and explosive movements to engage muscles throughout the whole body,” says Jermain. The kettlebell swing, for example, engages the abs, glutes, arms, and legs if done correctly. “If the bell is too light, women tend to use only their arms to lift.” She says this can lead to injury. So what’s the fix? “Don’t be afraid of weight with kettlebells,” say the trainers.
All three experts say that women (and men) often get the bulk of their training advice from poorly trained coaches, Internet videos, or from watching others. But this can lead to frustration, burnout, and injury. They recommend that new and even veteran kettlebell athletes find a certified coach to teach them proper form. You can find a coach in your area by using The International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation’s instructor locator or by checking out the resources at The American Kettlebell Alliance.