As much as I feel at home with my kettlebell techniques, I am not an exception to injury. In fact, I’ve experienced a bunch of common injuries associated with weightlifting in general. Some of the minor ones, the types of injuries that won’t bother much with working out, include big calluses, arm bruising, bruises on my thighs, and a few shoulder blade injuries. These injuries made me wince but did not really prevent me from training. I usually just shrug the pain off and proceed. If I had to modify just so I wouldn’t exacerbate my injuries, I would do so.
1. Torn Hands
From minor injuries, let’s go now to a few major ones. Let’s begin with one of the most common: tearing your hands.
I once tore my hands so much that they were bleeding hard after a session. It’s funny since it happened when I tried to enhance my grip of the bell by applying a few layers of tissue paper. This is since, depending on the humidity, I can get pretty sweaty palms. And sometimes I fear having the kettlebells slip from my hands when I do a snatch or swing.
While it did make me grab the kettlebell better, the tissue paper also rubbed hard on my palms. It almost PEELED the skin on my palms off. I was literally in so much pain I couldn’t even grab on to anything without regretting the dumb idea of cheating the grip. It took me five days of not swinging and a whole lot of Betadine and Band-aid before I could feel the layers of skin getting thicker.
Don’t cheat the grip
When I tried to do a single swing before healing, the iron touching my hands’ unprotected skin didn’t exactly motivate me to continue. What I did to remedy my workout need was to go without kettlebells. At this point, I am thankful I know a few good bodyweight workouts. The only hard thing to do was when I had to use my hands, specifically my palms, when doing a push up. To do that, I used the closed-fist variation. Simply put, I just let my palms heal for one week and after that I was off swinging again.
Moral of the story? Don’t cheat the grip. Occasionally wipe your hands and the kettlebell with tissue but DO NOT wrap your hands or the handle of the kettlebell with tissue or even a towel. You not only risk tearing your hands but it also puts stress on your grip and you may end up with sprained hands after a session.
2. Bruised Forearms
After the hands, we move toward the arms. Now let me first say that bruising your arm is actually quite common in the kettlebell community. Yes, if you’re a real kettlebell enthusiast you would, on numerous occasions, bruise your forearms. Often times the bruising is minor or, with enough practice and mastery, will no longer be an issue. It would be wishful thinking to say that forearm bruising due to kettlebell training is something everyone eventually overcomes but that is simply not the case.
For instance, yours truly had serious forearm bruising when I overstepped my boundaries and practiced cleans with a 32 kg kettlebell. I practiced the swing with them for a few months and I thought maybe I could do cleans now. I also thought that transitioning from 16 kg to 32 kg shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Admittedly, I was naive about my error and unfortunately it took me a few weeks to understand how dumb it all was.
Never attempt a huge jump in weight
During this period, I repeatedly banged my forearms so much that the kind of bruises it left were large and dark. People at work even thought I was into BDSM. I also ended up developing bumps on my forearms which, as I searched for the answer, was (possibly) a result of calcification or tissue thickening. They once got so big I feared lifting heavier kettlebells. I watched and re-watched so many kettlebell clean videos just to check on what I’m doing wrong. The root of the problem, in all honesty, was my big jump on weight. I realized that when the bruising was already so bad that I started fearing for my forearms.
Long story short, I eventually practiced with a lower weight (24 kg), the bruising was either light or no longer present after much practice, and I can now double clean a pair of 32 kg effortlessly.
Moral of the story? Never attempt a huge jump in weight when it comes to kettlebell training. Perhaps increase your increments by up to 4 kg max at a time. Also, no matter how adept you are at kettlebells, it’s always good to have you technique checked by a professional or at least watch a few videos on how to properly execute a move specially when it comes to cleans and snatches to prevent forearm bruising.
3. Back Injury
Last on our list is the back injury which is probably the worst injury a kettlebell user will ever have. When done in good form, kettlebell workouts greatly benefit the back. This usually stems from a bad form particularly by overextending at the lumbar spine. The kettlebell swing is the common source of this injury or rather the improper use of it.
It’s better to have complete mastery of something small than look like an idiot attempting something you aren’t capable of yet.
Once again I’ve also experienced perhaps one of my most painful injuries due to a bad form. It actually happened to me twice but the second one wasn’t so bad that I was still able to perform swings. Cleans and snatches, which required more “back”, were off limits. The first time was the one that made me learn my lesson.
It happened when I was still forcing myself on a pair of 32 kg. I was swinging when I suddenly heard something pop (not crack) and I stopped right there. When I tried to stand up, it was as if I got stabbed in my lower back particularly the lower left. Sitting, standing, walking, turning in bed, I always ended up wincing in pain. I had to stop training for more than a week. Not only that, I also had a hard time doing my job. This was the single most painful injury I’ve ever had when using kettlebells. It was at this point that I decided not to double swing until I get a lighter pair. I was practically scared of double swinging that it took me a while to double swing again after this incident.
Moral of the story? As with forearm bruising, don’t get carried away with the weight you are using. Before you run you must first walk and before you walk you must first learn how to crawl. It’s better to have complete mastery of something small than look like an idiot attempting something you aren’t capable of yet. Also, form is key in any workout. The right form will give you all the benefits and the wrong form, all the drawbacks.
Those were the top 3 common kettlebell injuries. Mind you there are probably a lot more to enumerate but these three are the most common primarily due to it mostly affecting newcomers into the kettlebell scene. Perhaps even those who are relatively veteran can get these injuries too specially if they try to make the move adjust to them and not them adjust to the move. Kettlebells are great tools for fat burning, strength development, and enhancing overall fitness but safety will always come first. If you can afford it, have a professional teach you the proper ways of conducting every move or at least take some time to learn on Youtube or buy a few videos on kettlebell workouts.
Remember, the most common mistake is not recognizing the mistake. Get yourself educated, always take time to review, and stick to the technique!
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