I trained with kettlebell experts and learned I was using the weights all wrong. Here are 3 of my mistakes and how I fixed them.

·4 min read
Steph Rose and Rachel Hosie performing a kettlebell swing.
The author, Rachel, right, learning to perform a kettlebell swing correctly with Steph Rose. William Smith
  • Kettlebells are "unconventional" and work differently from dumbbells, Jay and Steph Rose say.

  • I trained with the kettlebell experts and was shocked to learn I'd been using the weights all wrong.

  • With the right technique you can avoid common mistakes and engage more muscles for better results.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Kettlebells are popular weights both in the gym and for at-home workouts. Most people, however, are using them incorrectly, the movement specialists Jay and Steph Rose of Phase Six told Insider.

Because of kettlebells' design, using them incorrectly can lead to injury. Wrist pain or bruising is a popular complaint, but the Roses say the weight shouldn't bruise your wrist if used correctly.

Steph Rose explained that kettlebells work by pulling the wrist in a downward motion - it requires strength to pull the weight back up against gravity.

Exercising with a kettlebell also requires full-body engagement, which is why the Roses think it's superior to using conventional weights.

The top exercises the Roses recommend are the kettlebell swing, goblet squat, clean and snatch, and Turkish get-up.

I thought I knew how to perform all these exercises correctly, but I quickly realized kettlebells require a different approach.

Kettlebell swing

Steph Rose performing a kettlebell swing.
Rose in the setup "silverback position" of a kettlebell swing, and the top of the movement. William Smith

To do a kettlebell swing, start in a "silverback stance," as the Roses call it, with the kettlebell tilted in front of you - drop your hips back, roll your shoulder blades down, and keep your chest up.

Don't grip the kettlebell too tightly (have your thumbs over your fingers to avoid tears), and think about spreading the ground apart with your feet to create lower body tension.

Remember the movement is a hinge, not a squat, and you need to focus on performing a pelvic tuck rather than just an extension - this engages more muscles. The power comes from driving through the hips, but avoid arching your back.

Rachel learning to kettlebell swing with Jay and Steph Rose.
Rachel getting to grips with the silverback position with Jay and Steph Rose. William Smith

You don't need to fully extend your arms at the top of the swing, because the movement isn't an arm raise; the weight shouldn't go higher than chest height.

When you finish your swings, control the kettlebell back down to your start position.

Kettlebell clean

Rachel in the set-up position for a kettlebell clean, alongside Jay and Steph Rose.
Rachel in the setup position for a kettlebell clean. William Smith

To perform a kettlebell clean, your setup position is similar to that of a swing (the silverback stance again), except you're using only one hand to hold the weight. The kettlebell should be angled inward.

Jay Rose demonstrating the angle to hold a kettlebell.
The kettlebell should be held at a 45-degree angle. William Smith

Where most people go wrong when cleaning a kettlebell, I learned, is that they grip the handle too tightly, so instead of letting the weight rotate they flip it and it bashes their wrist.

To clean the kettlebell, engage the lower body, push through the floor, and think about the kettlebell rotating like a corkscrew into the rack position.

At the top of the movement, hold the kettlebell slightly away from the body to keep everything engaged, rather than resting.

Rachel in the kettlebell clean position.
Hold the weight away from your body, keep your wrist straight, and keep it inside your elbow. William Smith

The wrist should be straight or slightly flexed inward (as if you're about to punch yourself), but never bent backward, the Roses said. And the wrist should never be outside your elbow either.

You return to the start position in the same way, unraveling the kettlebell down.

Overhead kettlebell position

Steph and Jay Rose performing Turkish get-ups with kettlebells.
The overhead kettlebell position is used in Turkish get-ups, as Steph and Jay demonstrated. William Smith

The overhead kettlebell position is used in a variety of movements, such as Turkish get-ups and snatches.

Again, position the kettlebell at a 45-degree angle across your palm.

One of the most common mistakes the Roses see people doing is bending the wrist while holding the kettlebell overhead. Keeping the wrist straight reduces injury risk and engages more muscles in the arm.

Your shoulder should be down, core engaged, and your arm should be locked out.

"You have to be completely engaged because of the way it's balanced," Jay said. "Your legs are screwed into the ground, which causes the glutes to activate, and then your whole posterior chain and anterior is all active."

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