Here’s What To Do If Kettlebell Swings Hurt Your Back

“Kettlebell swings hurt my back.”

This is something that I commonly hear from our physical therapy patients in Bethesda.

Many participate in Crossfit, sports or simply enjoy exercising. Regardless of their exercise preference, kettlebell swings often find their way into the regimen.

This is for good reason as the kettlebell swing is a great exercise. However, like all exercises, when performed improperly it can result in discomfort.

The swing is an activity meant to train the hamstrings and glutes to be explosive via a “hip hinge” motion. This powerful motion is generated at the hips and creates momentum to propel the kettlebell.

However, the kettlebell swing is not simply a glutes/hamstrings exercise. A large amount of stiffness must be generated in the trunk to control the spine against the forces created by kettlebell’s momentum.

The bell is pulling the trunk towards the floor (into flexion), as it swings downward and between the legs. Trunk control/strength is required to prevent the back from rounding into flexion. The first step to mastering this portion of the movement is to learn the hip hinge. This way you know what it feels like to have your back in the proper position. To master this, simply use a stick for feedback as seen in the exercise below.

Hip Hinge with a Dowel

The next step is to remove the stick and use a wall for feedback as you reach your hips towards it.

RDL Wall Reach

Finally, master the hinge by working on the Romanian deadlift as seen below.

Romanian Deadlift

People also experience low back pain at the top of the swing when standing tall. This is commonly due to hyperextension of the low back as it compensates for a lack of hip extension. This lack of hip extension can be a result of poor form or a mobility limitation with hip extension.

If you feel like hip extension mobility is your problem, give the activity below a shot!

Hip Extension Mobility Drill (quad focus)

These are just a couple of different reasons that a kettlebell swing may be giving you pain. The good news is that there are always things that you can work on to get back to the exercises that you enjoy.

For more information about lower back pain or why any exercises may be painful on your back, contact us or check out the articles below!

Essential Pillar Strength 1

Essential Pillar Strength 2

Essential Pillar Strength for Rehab

Physical Therapy, Exercise Best for Low Back Pain  

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