Caution & Common-sense with Kettlebell

The popularity of kettlebells has exploded over the last few years that they are common in most gyms today because of their versatility and effect.

Kettlebells are an incredibly powerful tool. When used correctly they can:

  • Enhance Fat Loss

  • Increase Strength

  • Develop muscle function primarily the posterior chain

  • Explosivity due to many ballistic movements

  • Help stabilization

And so much more…

However, their use is often questionable as they also have the potential of causing harm when used incorrectly by the untrained.

Unfortunately, the everyday person see all Personal Trainers as simply having “different styles” and having relatively the same training; and because trainers hold some qualifications in fitness, physiology or exercise science, it somehow makes them qualified in all areas. Sadly this is simply not the case.

In this photo I demonstrate a Kettlebell Windmill. When done correctly the spine is kept in a safe more neutral position. You'll find on the internet, people are loading the spine in flexion (bending) and often rotation, doing this (Spine flexion and rotation) is considered probably the highest risk movement possible for the spine. Why? Because the mechanics increases the risk of injury to the discs in the spine. Loading the spine in a compromised position, that's bad news for disc, it weakens the annular fibres and may result in a herniation. Another example in this exercise is that the knees may be bent depending on the client's mobility to avoid compromising spinal integrity. Yet do an internet search and you'll find the Windmill done incorrectly virtually everywhere. An example of people considering themselves an expert by 'Chinese Whispers'.

For example: a Physiotherapist is qualified to do Physiotherapy however their studies do not include Olympic Lifting. Therefore should they wish to instruct in Olympic Lifting they would then need to complete a specific course in Olympic Lifting, just as a trainer should. Olympic Lifting and Kettlebells are not part of any recognition in the Certificate IV and no insurance would cover them for that.

In Australia there have been major efforts to clean up the highly unregulated fitness industry. This is welcomed by many and in 2012 AFIRM (Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management) was created to assess the risk in the delivery of fitness services, which in my opinion was long overdue. AFIRM has produced a manual that none of the Personal Trainers and Industry Professional that I know (and that’s a real lot) have read, yet alone, know about.

“Fitness industry professionals need to be aware that they can face criminal prosecution for conduct they engage in as part of their business activity, regardless of their knowledge or their intentions… As the Act (Work Health and Safety Act 2011) makes clear, the duty is owed not only to the PCBU’s employees, but also to anyone who may be put at risk to their health and safety by the conduct of the business or undertaking.” - AFIRM MANUAL

If you are already training with Kettlebells with a trainer, ask to see their specific recognized qualifications in Australia in Kettlebells. You might ask why?

You’ll quickly find that NO insurance policy will cover a person using kettlebells unless it’s specified or a clause recognizes their further study in attaining a Kettlebell certification. That means if you are injured you will have to employ a lawyer and sue the trainer personally and chase them.

I’ve worked very hard over many years to learn and qualify multiple times in Kettlebell techniques and I’ve helped teach and spread the use of kettlebells within my sphere of influence. Even Kettlebell instructors and world champions whom have multiple degrees and a lifetime of experience teach differently. This is why to have a good understanding, one must qualify, practice, and learn in great detail. I truly believe you are only as good as you are taught – if someone has never been taught why or how something is risky, then they are ignorant. Unfortunately ignorance from a trainer means a great potential for injury. AFIRM has shown that the law agrees that ignorance is not a plausible excuse.

How many times do we see non-kettlebell exercise done with a Kettlebell?

To me it looks like trying to hammer a nail with a screwdriver, it is simply embarrassing to watch and is honestly like someone walking outside the house without pants on. It is potentially dangerous and using a Kettlebell to do something does not make it a Kettlebell exercise. This is why I have been reluctant to publish any videos showing the use of kettlebells, because a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Client Tony - Perform a "Snatch"

The AFIRM manual also clearly states that doing an exercise because it was seen on the Internet or by watching others perform an exercise, does not make a person qualified to perform it. You actually have to be qualified, to have been assessed to perform the exercise correctly with minimal potential for any injury, and to understand the purpose and it’s application on each particular client and their specific risk profile.

Finally the AFIRM manual has sounded the alarm on the woeful standards of personal training courses and level of instruction. Put simply Personal Trainers in their current practices are putting the public at high risk.

In summary, in Australia, if you want to do Kettlebell training:

  • Learn from qualified Kettlebell trainers

  • Ask to see their qualifications and insurance

  • If they are not qualified and/or covered, ask them to get qualified/insured and ask them to perform exercise that they know they are qualified to perform, not what they think they know.

  • If you are a trainer and are unqualified, immediately discontinue using Kettlebells and seek training and get insurance cover for Kettlebell. You may be seen as criminally negligent. Also using Kettlebell as a paperweight would be more respectful to those trained and dedicated to Kettlebells and their use. Do not try to dupe your client, or worse yet publish material showing your ignorance

If you wish to train with Kettlebell techniques, learn Kettlebell Sport, or if you are a personal trainer and want to further your understanding and your own exercise program using Kettlebells, you may contact me through my details at the top of this blog. I have completed Kettlebell training and have trained myself and others successfully in a safe way that’s qualified and insured – hopefully I’ll be able to share a thing or two with you ;)


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