Kettlebells: How To Do It Right

Kettlebells are all the rage in fitness these days.  But these old school training tools can cause injury if not used properly.  We interviewed Sandy Sommer, RKC of Charm City Kettlebells, a 4 year kettlebell expert to get the pros and cons of kettlebells.

What do you need to know about kettlebells?

Sandy: The first think is to remember the dynamic nature of most kettlebell exercises. You’re working in an arc instead of perpendicular to the ground.  There’s a huge opportunity for injury if they’re not done well and safely. I really don’t think anybody has any business picking up a kettlebell without instruction or they’re potentially going to injure themselves.

Why the risk of injury?

Sandy:You’re talking about something that is moving on an arc and has momentum behind it.  You have to know the appropriate size bell.  Too light is going to be as dangerous as too heavy.

What is a typical first session like?

Sandy:We interview someone and make sure that their past doesn’t preclude them for doing kettlebells such as joint impingements or other injuries.  You need some prudence and self-awareness and dialing back the testosterone a bit if you will.  Form is everything. We don’t train to failure, we leave a little something in the tank.  When I read that so and so did 300 swings in a row it leaves me scratching my head because no one should think that’s typical.  A session can take an hour with warm ups and stretching but the kettlebell part is about 20 minutes, usually no more.

Why is working with a certifed kettlebell trainer so important?

Sandy: Why certification is so important is that your average personal training certification doesn’t include kettle bell training.  You don’t teach spin unless you’re a certified spin instructor but that hold true with kettlebells and that bothers me.  My feeling is that it does require a body of knowledge to teach safely.  Some of the stuff I’ve seen on You Tube as instructional as horrendous.

How are Kettlebells different from free weights?

Sandy:Kettlebells behave heavier than they actually are because the center of gravity is below the grip, not in line with the grip and you’re moving in an arc instead of perpendicular to the ground.

What’s so great about kettlebells?

Sandy: I move better at 48 then I did when I was 23 and just finished playing college football.  I have no pain anywhere and I did have some lumbar pain that I had to live with for quite some time.  One of the most beneficial things is how to use the glutes.

I’ve got a six pack just from doing kettlebells.  I see better butts, better legs, better abs, better everything.  Every exercise we get folks involved with is truly a full body movement pattern.

What’s the best way to move?

Sandy: Done properly all the movement is from anterior (in front of the body) to posterior (behind the body). What we see is a lot of people than end up rotating theri spine along the thoracic area or rounding their back through the lumbar or the cervical part of the spine.  The spine should stay neutral.

The eyes should never follow the kettlebell, the neck should be neutral, the whole spine should be neutral.  We see a lot of rounding and flexion and that’s wrong.

More Info

Sandy is certified through the Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certification.  He recommends buying kettlebells from here. He also recommends working with people who are trained through the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation.

You should always make sure that your kettlebell trainer is also a certified personal trainer and has a good solid understanding of anatomy before working with them.

What do you think of kettlebell training?  Have you tried it?  Do you know anyone who was injured from it?

How to Lose Weight at 40

I’m smack dab in the middle of my 40s, and I can tell you from personal experience that getting five pounds off used to be a whole lot easier in my 20s and 30s than it is today. It’s easy to feel like you’re at war with your body trying to get the scale to budge, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve got some tips to keep you focused.

Realize Your Body Has Changed

Our hormones are dropping, our metabolism is shifting, we can not eat the way we used to.  I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t shovel food in my mouth like I used to and still stay in my skinny jeans. Yes, this is annoying. No, this is not fair. But the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can do something about it.

Weight Gain in Your 40s is a Bad Idea

Trust me, I’ve seen it hundreds of times with my clients. You do not want to gain weight in your 40s.  It’s sooo much harder to get it off and keep it off.  If you’ve been futzing around for a couple decades since college, now is the time to take “being in the normal weight range” seriously.  We are getting older, there are diseases to think about.  After all, seven of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. are related to obesity. It is literally in our own hands how long we live simply by choosing what we eat and how we move. Time to pay attention.

Ditch Starches, Ditch Sugar

Do these two things and your life will be much easier. No, you don’t need to eliminate them entirely from your diet; you’ll only set yourself up for failure. But I guarantee that the more you cut back on processed foods loaded with starches and sugars, the better you’ll feel. The bloat will magically evaporate, digestive disturbances will calm down, all kinds of good things will happen. If you don’t believe me, watch the documentary “Sugar:  The Bitter Truth.” This film really woke me up, and when I started making dietary changes, I saw immediate benefits.

Move Smart

I was a Jane Fonda girl with multiple sets of leg warmers and I hopped and bopped with the best of them. I’m pretty sure if I did those workouts now my knees would never forgive me. Pick exercise that feels good to your body and engages your mind.  This could mean a high-impact activity like running or Zumba, or it could be something more forgiving to the joints like yoga or Pilates. And can we please send the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality that has crept back into fitness back to the 1980s?  Whose bright idea was it to dust that off again?  (I’m looking at you CrossFit and P90X!)  In our 40s, we have enough on our plates, so choose a handful of activities that work for you and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

Your First Line of Defense is Your Plate

The most important thing you can do is eat well.  Period.  Yes I’m a Pilates instructor, but what I focus on first is what I put in my body. Lean proteins and vegetables should be the first priority, add in whole grains and fruits in smaller quantities, and treat everything else as an occasional treat.  It’s the best way to ward off the diseases of old age and stay vibrant.

This is the period in our lives when those high school and college reunions start to really make you think.  Remember the high school jock who looks like he swallowed a whale?  Remember the nebbishy guy who looks pretty darned hot these days?  A couple decades of crappy living really starts to show in one’s 40s and you can tell with a glance who took care of themselves and who didn’t.

I plan on living to be 100 and I plan on looking good while I’m doing it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even middle-aged yet. How about you?  What are you doing to live your best life?