3 Ways to Avoid Kettlebell Injuries

3 Ways to Avoid Kettlebell Injuries

If you train hard and push your body to the limits it’s almost impossible to avoid some form of microtrauma, but being smart about your training and kettlebell training will help you avoid MOST major injuries. Most of the time the overuse of any movement pattern will eventually lead to potential repetitive use injuries. That goes for running, pushups, kettlebells work, or just about anything done with too much volume and intensity.  It’s easy to get a little overzealous with a challenge that has a thousand attached to it. Thousands of swings, snatches, squats, (pick your poison) will definitely get you fitter, but at what cost? With just about everything you do you should be thinking about your athletic longevity. How can you move like an athlete as long as humanly possible.  For me that means avoiding injury and here are three ways I like to assess and incorporate things to help me do just that.

  1. Always look at the Risk/Reward of a movement or workout
  2. Add in more isometrics 
  3. Don’t be an exercise junkie

Always look at the Risk/Reward of a movement or workout

Fancy workouts and high rep adventures sound good on paper and there’s definitely some validity to incorporating high rep work (within reason). The problem is human nature can add the dreaded “if some is good more is better” mentality.  More is only better with a few things in life which I’ll let you fill in the blanks, but when it comes to your training there’s a limit. Before I create or start a program I’ll look at the risk/reward ratio from all aspects. 

  • How long each session will take
  • how much time I have to dedicate to it
  • how balanced the session is
  • how much overall volume is in each session
  • how many days per week
  • how much technical skill is needed etc.

Assuming you’re not training for a specific event like the Olympics, then most people don’t need more than four lifting sessions per week. Training sessions RARELY have to be more than 45-60 minutes. If you’re taking longer than an hour (excluding warmup/decompression) then that probably tells me a few things:

  1. You’re taking too much time between sets
  2. You’re trying to do too many movements. 
  3. You’re doing too much volume within those movements

When in doubt, LESS IS MORE. How can I achieve the goals of strength, mobility, athleticism, endurance by doing the very least possible and then add accordingly. Find out when enough is enough and then add incrementally.  I want you to think of this from the perspective of avoiding burnout, increasing longevity, adding to the quality of daily life along with progression. High reps can be fun to add to your training, but do them within reason and with only a few movements.

  Add in more isometrics  

One of the easiest and safest ways to add in intensity, build stability and potentially allow for the use of more tension is with isometric work. Isometrics allow for an incredible amount of focus and intention and engagement of more musculature. The combination of stability (which is also a form of strength) with focused breathing (can’t hold your breath) with intention gives this seemingly simple position a lot more power.  It’s been well-researched that isometrics can build strength without breaking you down in the process. They help increase neuromuscular drive, avoid excessive wear and tear, and help you access more tension in the given muscle/exercise.  Three ways to utilize isometrics to get more bang for your buck are:

  1. Pre-fatigue - pick an exercise, perform 10-30 seconds of an isometric hold and then perform the reps intended for the set.
  2. Intraset - perform 5-10 seconds of a hold followed by 3-4 reps of the movement 2-3x without stopping. This is by far the most brutal, but can elicit some incredible hypertrophic results.
  3. Post-fatigue - pick an exercise (typically the last set) and perform 20-30 seconds after the last rep. 

More on isometrics coming in future articles, but don’t be afraid to slow down (or stop entirely) in your training. 

Don’t be an Exercise Junkie

If you’re constantly jumping from program to program daily you run the risk of overdoing a few movements and putting too much volume into a particular group of muscles or joint complexes.

  We all have movements we gravitate towards because we enjoy them or are good at them. If we’re not working from a master plan then those same few movements tend to make their way into training way too often.  I used to love kettlebell presses (and still find them useful of course). I found myself doing some version of presses almost daily when I was an exercise junkie. Eventually my shoulders started to wear down and even though strength was good, I was feeling achy and stiff more often than I cared to admit.  I’m not a fan of quick fixes, but there are the rare times that if I’m trying to increase strength/efficacy of a certain movement I might submit myself to a concentrated dose of a few movements for a few weeks, but that should not be the norm.  A well-rounded program will address multiple movement patterns, positions, strength, mobility, endurance and recovery. That means utilizing multiple rep and set schemes as well which is a great way to create balance.

If every workout is performed in the 90% or higher RM you’re going to get stronger, but at what cost. Excluding strength and power athletes the average person needs a multitude rep ranges to avoid potential training-related injuries. If you’re currently on a program take inventory.

How is everything feeling and progressing?

If you’re looking to jump into something look at it from all angles. If you’re a beginner in the kettlebell world make sure to join the first level of Living.Fit to access our free Kettlebell eBook with a beginner plan all mapped out for you! 

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