You have a sore back, so you go see your athletic trainer. He doesn’t take you through a typical stretching drill. In fact, his prescription is so surprising you can’t believe it when he tells you: Do Kettlebell Swings.
While it sounds bizarre, new science suggests that the exercise might be one of the best ways to relieve low-back pain and increase your durability.
Low-Back Muscle Responsiveness
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health found that the Kettlebell Swing increased low-back strength and improved the body’s ability to effectively respond to an outside force trying to knock it out of a stationary position. The longer it takes your back muscles to respond to an outside force, the greater the chance that you will get hurt during a collision or even when falling down. The swing directly improves this element of low back health.
Low-Back Strength and Endurance
A second study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, looked specifically at how kettlebell training affects musculoskeletal health. It found that the Kettlebell Swing helps alleviate back pain by strengthening and conditioning the muscles in this troublesome area. It was also theorized that the constant contraction and relaxation of the Swing acts as a type of massage for the back, increasing blood flow and reducing pain.
If you’d like to receive the benefits of Kettlebell Swings, add them to your workouts once or twice per week. Do them after your dynamic warm-up and before strength exercises so that your muscles aren’t fatigued. The movement may appear simple, like you are just swinging the weight, but to get the full health benefit of the exercise requires close focus on proper technique.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart in a quarter-squat stance holding a kettlebell between your legs.
- Keeping your arms straight, drive through your heels and thrust your hips forward to propel the kettlebell to chin level in front.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of movement.
- Return to start position with control and repeat rhythmically.
- Do not pull the kettlebell up with your arms.
- The kettlebell should travel between your thighs, not your knees.
- Keep your chest up and your shoulders pulled back.
If you’re having difficulty mastering the movement, find a certified kettlebell expert who can teach you the intricacies of the movement.
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Jay, K, Frisch, D, Hansen, K, et al. “Kettlebell training for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health: A randomized controlled trial.” Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health 37(3): 196-203, 2011.
Jay, K, Jakobsen, MD, Sundstrup, E, et al. “Effects of kettlebell training on postural coordination and jump performance: A randomized controlled trial.” Published ahead of print. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013.