You can burn more calories per minute when using a kettlebell (a cast iron weight resembling a cannonball with a handle) when compared to other forms of exercise. Although KBs have been around for a long time, they have been recently reintroduced as a fitness trend.

You can engage the core muscles rapidly and more easily than when doing a regular strength exercise. But, you also could harm your back faster than when lifting more traditional weights if you don’t know what you are doing. Learn how to swing without getting injured.

Three Must-do Moves

If your goal is to tax the cardiovascular system and/or to maximize the caloric burnout, researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that KB snatches (an exercise that starts with the KB beneath your groin and goes into an upright row to a shoulder press in a single smooth and powerful move) can burn up to 20 calories per minute. This is more potent than the elliptical (10 calories per minute), Spinning (15 calories per minute) or running at a 7-minute-mile pace (18 calories per minute).

The boundaries of the KB aren’t limited to the aerobic system but also to the neuro-muscular system. “It was found that KB swings create a hip-hinge squat pattern characterized by rapid muscle activation-relaxation cycles of substantial contraction of the low back extensors and the gluteal muscles,” concludes a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Stuart M. McGill and Leigh W. Marshall.

KB daily moves

You may not be aware of how many times a day you perform the same motion that’s in a kettlebell swing, but think about the motion when you lift a box from the floor to rapidly lift it up to a shelf. This type of movement pattern forces you to get power from the hips and the gluteus muscles while the abdominals and lower back muscles rapidly helps decelerate the move and stabilize the body.

Some of you probably associate lifting something up high with lower back pain too, and if you don’t lift from the hips and put the stress on the spine and don’t activate the core muscles to stop the move; an injury can happen.

The Squat and Lunge Rule

The authors explain that the KB swing incorporates an inertial component that increases the spine compression forces compared to more traditional lifting moves such as the deadlift.  “The spine can withstand high loads if it is postured close to neutral curvature. The corrected movement pattern requires hip hinging to bend and lift,” they wrote.

“The swing is quite complex move, which requires initial base line strength in primary muscle structures but also flexibility in the shoulder, spine, hip, knee, and ankle joint,” Kenneth Baldwin, Assistant Professor at the State University of New York and Executive Director of the National Posture Institute, explains. “If I were to just look at the pelvic/hip region, if someone cannot do a squat using their own body weight to angle with causing a tilt to their pelvic region, I wouldn’t teach the movement.”

Baldwin advises that the trainee should progress from performing body squat, to a perfectly done DB or barbell squat, maybe adding leg press and then finally move to KB swings.

Also, watch out for upper body flexibility. Baldwin also points out that hand grip with two hands on KB already puts individuals into internal rotation and protraction of shoulder blades, which resembles an existing problem as a consequence of long hours sitting in front of the computer.

McGill and Marshall emphasize that the KB swing may irritate some people back due to its unique compression and shear load ratios in the lumbar spine. However, when doing it correctly and in people with healthy backs the KB spine load can be viewed as a unique training opportunity.

Stronger back and gluteus KB workout

If you already have a solid strength-flexibility-mobility base and want to take your training to the next level, perform this routine once or twice a week on alternating days.

The more taxing moves are the ones that call for rapid acceleration and deceleration like the KB swing along with rotation moves like the squat to low high wood chop. Avoid those if you don’t know the technique properly.

Perform the exercises one after another with minimal rest in between or as you need it to tax the cardiovascular system as well.

Do the exercises in circuit, one after another, for 10-12 reps.

Keep your back straight, chest up and core tight at all times.

Perform a gentle warm up by doing one round of all the moves without weight just to feel the motion and get flexibility among the shoulder and hip joints.

Do not perform this routine if you have back or shoulder issues.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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