The Biggest 8 Mistakes With Kettlebell Training

Yes, I am aware I have been dedicated a lot of posts lately to kettlebells, but they’re a passion right now; and with the certification less than 2 weeks behind me, they are still very fresh on my mind.

In the last post, I shared with you a quick synopsis of the training course we went through with Kettlebell Athletics.

A lot of you found the training interesting (which made my day) and asked me to discuss why we went with that specific training course.

So, to help really clear everything up, as well as to share some training tips, Dan and I decided to use What The Fitness as the best platform. This way you hear both of our opinions, as well as get both of our views on training in general…

In this What The Fitness expect for us to cover:

  • Why we chose Kettlebell Athletics (and what other certification we want to do as well
  • The 8 biggest mistakes we see with people trying to use kettlebells without proper training
  • Our personal preferences when it comes to program design
  • Where to order your own kettlebells for great pricing
  • And more!  

So without further ado, let’s get this episode going!

The 8 Biggest Mistakes Made When Using Kettlebells

Don’t have time to listen right now? No big deal, here’s the quick run-down of what we covered (make sure to listen later though, as there is no way I can share EVERYTHING we discussed).

Why Kettlebell Athletics? 

The easy answer: Because it saved us money!

We have been big fan’s of Jason C Brown for quite some time.

He’s the master trainer behind Kettlebell Athletics (and one of the Shape’s Hottest Trainers)! We were confident that he knew his stuff, and from the get go, knew that we wanted to go through his program.

But, we also wanted to go through RKC’s certification. Which is also a highly rated certification, and one of the most popular in the country. When Dan saw that they had a certification program this summer in Boston, we assumed it would be the most cost efficient program to get certified in. After all, after starting our own studio, saving money is a BIG deal.

Last month, we discovered that we were wrong. After crunching numbers, going to San Francisco for Kettlebell Athletics was a huge money saver.  We immediately booked our flights and made our way west.

We still plan on getting RKC certified, just not as fast as possible.

It worked out very well, since we had originally wanted Kettlebell Athletics to be our first certification! And we weren’t disappointed!

Why You Need A Trainer If You’re Going To Use Kettlebells

I asked our trainer, Clifton, what he would tell someone interested in kb training. His response? Make sure to consult a kettlebell certified trainer! 

I’m glad he agreed with us, since we recorded the podcast right before he tweeted back to me! See Clif, I did learn something! 🙂

Kettlebells are dangerous. It’s as simple as that.

If you don’t know what you are doing (even if you think you do), then you are likely going to end up with a back issue or even a dislocated shoulder, or some other exercise related injury that could have been prevented. Having guidance to help reinforce your knowledge is key. Even those that are experienced, often have someone around!

But why? What are some of the major issues we often encounter with someone that tries to do their own thing?

The 8 Biggest Kettlebell Mistakes


1. Not Following Movement Progression

If you don’t have a proper “hip-hinge” down then you won’t have a proper deadlift. Without a proper deadlift, you won’t have a proper kettlebell swing. If you don’t have a proper swing, you won’t have…

Well, you get it.

Kettlebell moves are tied together, and mastering the basics is key to mastering the more advanced moves.

2. Not Keeping A Neutral Spine

A straight spine (not a perpendicular spine) is key to successful training. A rounding of the upper back is common, as is arching the lower back and tucking in the tailbone.

This of course adds stress to the back and will cause form to suffer and incorrect muscles to fire.

Make sure to keep a stance with the chest forward, shoulders back, and maintain that straight position throughout the movement of the exercise. There are many, many times when I’ll ask Dan to watch my back for me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell!

3. Wide Stance

Ever see someone doing swings from a squat? I even had a trainer try to correct my form last year at a gym by telling me I needed to squat into my swing.

Um no.

A “squat stance” is too wide, instead you want to be in an “athletic stance” with feet about shoulder width apart, or just a smidge closer. This will allow for the hips to have more power to thrust during their hinge.

4. Using The Upper Body To Move The Bell

With my clients, I have seen them have a poor thrust and try to make it up by pulling the kettlebell up with their arms. The arms shouldn’t be a force for getting the weight up. It’s all a ballistic movement coming from the hip hinge (have I stressed that enough?).

By pulling the weight, and using the upper body, you take away some of that ballistic movement away as well as the flow. Plus, you end up putting strain on a lot of muscles that shouldn’t be stressed at all!

Think pendulum. The arms are the string, the kettlebell is the ball, and your legs/hips are the power.

5. Training To Failure Or 1 Rep Maxes

I don’t think I need to say a lot about this, but training with kettlebells is an overall performance booster, and not really meant for “one rep max” movements. Having a trainer ANYTIME you try to go to failure is extremely important for safety!

6. Squeezing The Handle With Everything You’ve Got

A firm grip on the handle is important… no one wants a kettlebell flying through the air. But squeezing the life out of it can cause unnecessary tension in the upper body and affect your form.

However… there are exceptions. Make sure to listen to the podcast!

7. Bruising & Pounding Your Forearms

I’ve been there and 99.9% of newbies will experience it as well. As you learn moves, you’ll feel pain from the kettlebell hitting your forearms. It’s key to learn to manipulate the bell in a way that leave you in control. You control the weight, not the other way around.

However, there are also certain moves (like the press) where it seems no matter what, a bruise can’t be helped. Practice and strength will help this, but I found a faster solution… kettlebell wrist guards.


One of the best gifts I received for Christmas! Yes, they make a huge difference. When you’re not thinking about the weight pressing on your forearm, you’re able to concentrate more on the moves!

8. Bad Shoes

nike free bionics

If you asked me what the #1 issue I see with runners is, I would answer bad shoes. If you ask me about strength training it’s the same.

For kettlebells, a minimal shoe is best. It allows you to have a better position with your body, maintain natural balance better, and have better control. Dan is a fan of Vibram’s… my personal favorites are my Nike Free Bionics.

The Kettlebell World: Interesting Fun Facts

Twice The Workout In Half The Time? 

That’s what an ACE study found when it came to kettlebell workouts. In the study, participants were burning around 20 calories per minute (13 aerobically, 6.6 anaerobically). That’s about the same amount you would burn if running a 6-minute mile. Crazy! And clearly, crazy affective. But unlike that 6-minute mile, you’ll also be adding strength to your entire body! Check out the full article here.


Image source

Kettlebell Science offers tons of research on training! If you’re into science, then check it out.

–> One study for example, found that while kettlebell training is great for strength, confidence, and even job satisfaction… it may not be as great for improving explosive performance (high jumps) like thought.

–> People love to compare all things exercise to running. This study did the same: kettlebell training to treadmill running. What did they find? That like all other things, comparing to treadmill running is stupid! It’s two different means of exercise which should be kept separated. But that’s not what the study really said… basically kettlebell training while it is great at increasing strength and improving cardio health, doesn’t provide the endurance that running on a treadmill does. Well duh. Endurance is created by doing something for a long time. Show me someone swinging a kettlebell for as long as it takes someone to run a 5K. Totally different.

In the podcast Dan mentioned another study done on NCAA soccer players. This article also goes to study a kettlebells effect on aerobic capacity. What did the researchers find? Well, one group of players underwent kettlebell training, while a second group underwent circuit training using weights and body weights. At the end, they were tested for VO2 improvements. The kettlebell group improved by 6%, while there was no big change in the circuit group. Pretty cool!

Where To Get Kettlebells?

And finally, I leave you with some of the places we’ve found for purchasing kettlebells. There are so many options, and places like Dicks Sporting Goods, even had a great selection. This is where we picked up our first few bells.

Rogue Fitness

Rage Kettlebells

Dragon Door Kettlebells

Muscle Driver

There are many, many places that sell great quality bells. These are just the ones we’ve checked out for our own purchases.


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