Kettlebell Use for Recovery and Performance

Re-posted by David Rief

Milwaukie Spine and Sport

Treating Musculoskeletal and neuro-fascial injury with chiropractic and massage therapy are great starts however utilization of proper movement mechanics while under load is just as integral to recovery and reduction of future injury. Here at Milwaukie Spine and Sport, LLC we choose the use of kettle bells for there varied weights and ease of storage in our clinical setting. This allows us to teach our patients how to manipulate themselves around differing weights and sizes of implements. My favorite being placing a kettle bell inside of a box and instructing the patient on proper mechanics to lift it.
The following is a piece written by Kettlebell Kings ™ on the benefit of kettle bells in sports performance. As with any recommendation please consult with your healthcare provider before performing or starting any exercise routine or maneuvers.  A thank you to Kettlebell Kings ™ for allowing us to use their awesome article!

Kettlebell Training for Sports Performance

by Kettlebell Kings

Kettlebell training contributes to sports performance by strengthening and stabilizing muscles, reducing the risk of injury, increasing explosive power, and enhancing cardio-respiratory endurance.

Like other types of resistance training, kettlebell lifting is an efficient way to build lean muscle mass and strengthen joints, tendons, and ligaments. Building strong joints, tendons, and ligaments makes you less likely to suffer from overuse injuries. Since kettlebells are bottom-heavy and kettlebell movements often have a long lever arm, kettlebell training builds a ton of core and shoulder stability. Lifting kettlebells can help prevent back and shoulder injuries due to the strength it builds in your core and shoulder girdle.  

Unlike most other types of resistance training, kettlebell training contains a large cardiovascular component due to the explosive nature of movements such as the swing, clean, and snatch. In traditional weightlifting with barbells, you take long breaks between sets, which allows the body to build maximal strength but prevents the heart rate from remaining elevated. Most kettlebell movements are cardiovascular exercises with an added weight component, which means you build strength-endurance. For most sports, building explosiveness and strength-endurance is more important than building maximal strength, as the heart becomes more efficient and able to quickly pump blood throughout the entire body, increasing your oxygen levels.

The kettlebell swing, the most well-known kettlebell movement, focuses heavily on the posterior chain. The posterior chain is a group of muscles on the posterior side of the body – including the hamstrings, glutes, back, and lats  and is integral to power production. Power production, in turn, is integral in almost any type of sports performance.

Highlighted below are three key kettlebell movements that help enhance sports performance: the kettlebell swing, the kettlebell sumo deadlift, and the Turkish Get Up. The kettlebell swing and deadlift are important for building the posterior chain, the swing enhances explosiveness, and the Turkish Get Up helps mitigate injury risk by strengthening and stabilizing the shoulders and core.

Perform these movements in a circuit, moving between each exercise as quickly as possible. Complete at least three circuits or set a timer and complete as many circuits as possible (15 minutes is a good place to start). Youll want one moderately heavy kettlebell for this workout series. We recommend women start with a 8-12 kg (18-26 lbs.) kettlebell, and men start with a 12-16 kg (26-35 lbs.) kettlebell. If this routine is easy to complete with proper form, increase the weight of the kettlebell.

Two-Hand Kettlebell Swing

  • Start with the kettlebell in front of the feet. Hinge forward and grab hold of the kettlebell handle with both hands. The hips should be at or below shoulder level. Set your back by pulling the shoulders down and away from the ears. Tip the bell back as you sink your weight back into the hips and hamstrings.
  • Hike the bell back between your legs, keeping shoulders over the toes. Hips should remain at or below shoulder level. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Drive the feet into the floor and extend the hips; contracting the glutes and abs to maintain a straight line at the completion of your hip extension. The bell should float” to the top position; the elbows should have a slight bend to allow for this.
  • Allow gravity to bring the bell down toward your body, waiting for the arms to hit the waistband before you start to hinge back.
  • Hinge into the backswing of the next repetition, keeping the knees back in order to maximally engage the hamstrings and glutes. Make sure the bell does not flip up in the backswing.
  • Perform 10-12 reps to complete the set.  

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

  • Place a kettlebell between your feet. The feet should be wider than hip width apart; toes turned out about 45 degrees. Hinge at the hips to grab hold of the kettlebell handle with both hands. Set the back and shoulders in place by pulling the shoulders down and away from the ears. Ensure the back is flat and the shoulders are at or above hip level.
  • Drive through the feet to come up to a standing position, loading the hamstrings and fully extending the hips by contracting the glutes at the top. Since the toes are turned out, you will feel more glute activation than on a regular deadlift.
  • Hinge at the hips and bring the bell back down the same path, keeping the back flat and core engaged. Tap the bell to the floor and prepare for the next repetition.
  • Perform 10-12 reps per set.

Turkish Get Up

  • Start lying on your side in the fetal position. Insert your hand fully through the kettlebell handle.
  • Roll onto your back, keeping both hands over the kettlebell handle and elbow tight to the body. Set the legs about 45 degrees apart, with the leg bent and foot flat on the side you are holding the kettlebell. The other leg should be straight.
  • Press the kettlebell up until the arm is straight and the weight of the kettlebell is balanced over the shoulder. Remove the free arm and place it on the floor, palm down and about 45 degrees from the body.
  • Use the elbow of the free arm and the foot of the bent leg to drive into the ground and bring yourself up onto your elbow, then up onto your hand.
  • Lift the hips, then pass the straight leg underneath until the knee is under the hip. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell.
  • Bring the torso up straight, then pivot the back leg so you are in a lunge position.
  • Drive into the heel of the front leg to come up to a standing position.
  • To reverse the movement, step back with the leg opposite to the side youre holding the kettlebell and come back into the bottom of the lunge position (knee resting on the floor).
  • Pivot the back foot in, then slide the free arm down the thigh and onto the floor directly beneath the shoulder. Pass the back leg through the free arm and the front leg and set your hips down onto the floor.
  • Lower down to the elbow. As you lower all the way down to the floor, feather the kettlebell across the body slightly to slow its descent.
  • Perform 8-10 reps per side.

These three movements provide a full body workout and when performed properly, greatly enhance sports performance. The high-repetition nature of this routine will allow you to practice your form and starting with a light kettlebell will develop your explosiveness. Cool down after doing this routine with 10 minutes of cardio and 5-10 minutes of stretching.

About Kettlebell Kings

Kettlebell Kings is a premium-quality kettlebell and kettlebell content provider, based in Austin, Texas. You can view our equipment, kettlebell how-tos, and get expert advice at and For more information, call us at 855-7KETTLE to learn more.

Dr. David Rief
Dr. David RiefChiropractor, USA Level One Weight Lifting Coach