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5 Kettlebell Mistakes That Are Wrecking Your Body

Avoid these crucial errors so you can get awesome results.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Kettlebells are one of the best tools to burn fat and get lean. You can do a variety of incredible exercises that target many muscles, and you only need one or two for an amazing workout. Yet many people use poor technique, which can limit improvement or even cause injury. That's why we're here to point out five mistakes you're making with kettlebells that destroy your body. They're actually quite common, but should be avoided at all costs.

Learning these critical fitness errors will help you master kettlebells so you can make the very most of your training and get great results. (Your joints will thank you, too!)

Keep reading for five mistakes you're making with kettlebells that destroy your body, along with how to avoid them. And next, don't miss 5 Exercise Habits That Are Destroying Your Body After 50.

1. You're skipping the foundations.

two people doing kettlebell deadlift at the gym

I used to see trainers teach their clients the kettlebell swing, but their clients weren't ready for it—they couldn't even do a proper deadlift, so the movement looked ugly and dangerous.

Start by learning how to do the kettlebell deadlift, which teaches you how to hinge your hips and load your glutes and hamstrings. If necessary, put the kettlebell on an elevated box so you can maintain the correct form.

2. You're relying on your arms.

With kettlebell swings, many people lift the weight with their arms instead of using their hips to propel it. (You'll often see this when people do swings that go dangerously above their heads.)

Instead, your arms should feel like wet noodles. To see how this feels, grab a gym towel, pull it through the kettlebell handle, grab both ends of the towel, and do your kettlebell swings—the kettlebell should provide constant tension against the towel. This prevents you from relying on your arms and teaches the correct technique.

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3. You're letting the kettlebell "slam."

kettlebell snatch

When doing snatches or cleans, sometimes, people let the kettlebell slam on their arm or forearm, which is a sign of incorrect technique and, uh, doesn't feel good at all!

There are two fixes. First, try a heavier weight. If the weight is too light, the kettlebell can get too far from you, which leads to the dreaded "slam." Second, instead of starting a clean or snatch from the ground, start from the top. That way, as you bring down the kettlebell to start the movement, you'll feel how your arm is supposed to move around the kettlebell, and you can reverse that motion on the way up.

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4. You're using the kettlebell improperly.

A kettlebell is such an incredible tool, but don't use it for exercises it wasn't made for or substitute it for a dumbbell. (If you're doing bicep curls with a kettlebell, then yeah, that's you.)

Also, many kettlebells sold online are laughably oversized or not designed for their intended purpose. Look for ones that are approved by the Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC).

5. You have poor neck posture.

The last of these common mistakes with kettlebells is having poor neck posture while performing your exercises. For instance, during the swing, some people look straight ahead even as their entire torso hinges down, which puts a lot of stress on the neck—especially when doing fast movements. Some will also look at the mirror to check their technique, which can cause the same issues.

Instead, always keep your neck in a neutral posture, and never fix your eyes on something in front of you. To check your form, record a video from the side and make adjustments that way.

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Read more about Anthony
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