If I had to pick one piece of fitness equipment and workout style to help prevent and/or treat low back pain, the choice would be easy – it would be the kettlebell workout.
It’s estimated that over 70% of the US population experiences some type of low back pain, with nearly half of them never seeking help for pain relief. What many people may not realize is that most types of low back pain are very treatable and even preventable with the right type of exercise routine.
At first glance a kettlebell might be a bit intimidating, especially for those with low back issues. But when you consider what kettlebell training has to offer, you’ll see it can be a powerful prescription for those concerned with, or already experiencing low back problems.
What makes kettlebells unique is that they add an element of abnormality and instability to strength training. The unique gripping handle, along with the almost awkward center of gravity, challenges the stabilizing muscles that act on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, and spinal column.
There are a few specific reasons why kettlebells are great for low backs. Let’s break them down and take a quick look at each one.
Kettlebell Workout for the Glutes
There is a very high correlation between weak glute muscles and low back pain. The glutes and muscles of the hips are very much emphasized in many kettlebell exercises.
Kettlebells will not only strengthen the glutes, but also “wake them up” and make them a primary mover. Many people with weak glutes will find that their low back will want to compensate and try to do the job of the glutes.
Strengthen those glutes and let them do their job in protecting the low back.
Kettlebell Workout to Improve Hip Mobility
Many kettlebell exercises will do a great job of loosening up the hip flexors, and this will play a vital role in protecting the low back.
Most of you know your hip flexors are on the front of your hips. If that area is tight, then it inhibits the movement through the back side of your hips….the glutes!
You already know how important the glutes are to protecting your low back, so by keeping your hip flexors loose, you’ll better prepare the glutes to do their job.
Kettlebell Workout to Build a Strong Core
Kettlebells (and other forms of strength training) should teach your body to brace itself through the abdominal area.
Think of bracing your stomach as if someone were going to punch you. This pressure created by your abdominal wall helps support your back and plays an important role in building strength throughout the body.
Kettlebells Strengthen Joints & Ligaments
The repetitive nature of many kettlebell exercises, combined with the load of the kettlebell, is very beneficial for your joints and ligaments.
This repetitive load teaches your joint cartilage to stay strong and healthy, while cartilage that is not frequently exposed to repetitive loads softens and become weak and injury prone.
This is especially evident when it comes to the spine.
Now that you know kettlebells can be an important training tool when it comes to the low back, let’s take a look at a couple of circuits that will help introduce you to kettlebells and get you on your way to keeping your back safe and sound.
Kettlebell Circuit #1
Perform the following circuit in a 30 seconds on/30 seconds off format for 3 total rounds:
Single Leg RDL – Right
Single Leg RDL – Left
Overhead Step Back Lunge – Right
Overhead Step Back Lunge – Left
Kettlebell Circuit #2
Perform the following exercise for 30 seconds each with little to no rest between exercise. Once you finish a full round, rest 60 seconds and repeat for 3-4 total rounds:
1 Arm Kettlebell Press – Right
1 Arm Kettlebell Press – Left
Kettlebell Circuit #3
Perform the following circuit for 30 seconds on/15 seconds off for 3 total rounds:
Kettlebell Hip Hinge
Kettlebell Waiters Walk
1 Arm Kettlebell Row – Right
1 Arm Kettlebell Row – Left
Kettlebell Sumo Squat
Always remember when using kettlebells that proper movement is the key! Most low back injuries occur through people moving their bodies poorly. So proper movement, combined with the added resistance of the kettlebell, will give your body a much needed challenge!
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.