Kettlebells – Useful Tool Or Fad?

Kettlebells have been around forever and used with great success by a minority of people.

Kettlebells originated in Russia and were made popular by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dragon Door in 2001 and later by Mike Mahler. The use of kettlebells became widespread. Every personal trainer and bootcamp instructor went out and bought a heap of kettlebells and saw them as the ‘ultimate training tool’ primarily because either – 1. They knew no better or – 2. They were the new ‘thing’ and everyone knows if something new comes out the masses dive on it as being revolutionary and the immediate solution to their problem.

Admittedly they look cool and they have their uses. I’m not setting out to tell you that kettlebells are useless or anything like it.

They ARE cool. Problem is that everyone I talk to gets injured because of poor form and or as a result of bad instruction.

Herein lies the problem; Kettlebells are pretty advanced and require a lot of instruction. Most kettlebell instructors have completed a weekend course and presto, they’re a kettlebell instructor.

For example, The first thing you learn in a kettlebell class will be the kettlebell swing.

This is a ‘posterior chain’ exercises that involve all the muscles on the back of the body. Glutes, hamstrings, lower, mid and upper back and even your shoulders get a bit of a workout.

Great. Problem?

The majority of people can’t get themselves into the position to swing a kettlebell in the first place. I’d say 40-50% of people lack any lumbar (lower back) control these days. When assessed most people can’t do a bodyweight squat while warming up never mind achieve the level of thoracic extension and lumbar stability required to perform a kettlebell swing. Left = Bad

Right = Good (perhaps a bit excessive but its better than the one on the left)

Take a look at the image on the left. This is what most people will do when asked to pick something up, squat or anything that requires them to lean over.

If this is bad, picture doing this over 100 times in a row in a set of kettlebell swings… Not a good idea and definitely not good news for you back.

In addition to this problem. One-one instruction is one thing and if you have a personal trainer showing you these exercises then you will probably be okay but If you have a kettlebell class or a boot camp. It’s almost impossible to keep an eye on everyone doing this potentially hazardous exercise. Especially if two or three people can’t get the technique and you have to spend some time perfecting it, it’s not worth it. There isn’t enough bang for your buck to warrant introducing these exercises early on in a program or if the person/class you’re teaching lack experience.


Kettlebells are cool and should definitely be a weapon in your training arsenal but make sure you get proper instruction and guidance as to what exercises you should be doing and how to do them correctly.

Personally, I think they are a great ‘tool’ in your toolbox and should be used accordingly. Too many trainers think they are suitable for everything when they are not. Think of a dumbbell as a hammer. It has multiple uses as a hammer can hammer a nail in and take one out and it’s pretty darn good at both. The use of kettlebells should be limited to a few exercises that they are famous for. Using them for everything can be likened to a spork. It’s not exactly optimal you’re better off using a spoon and a fork don’t try to be a smart arse and use that one tool for every job.

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