Kettlebell training made me the strongest I’ve ever seen

I CAN PROPOSE MINE phone on the rubber floor, record and straddle my kettlebell. At the overhead beep, I perform a one-arm gorilla row, leap back for a one-arm clean, lunge to the side, grab the bell above my head, duck for a windmill, jerk again and I do a single arm swing to finish. Then I do it all on the other side, and then on the first side again, back and forth until the next beep.

On my way home from class, I review the footage and find the 10-second clip where I seem more confident. I was the queen of cardio, with a little yoga sprinkled in. Now I’m the type of person who posts videos of herself sweating and grunting as she works her way through a kettlebell complex on social media. (This type of person might also be known as a flesh head, which is what my Men’s health colleague Brett Williams immediately comments on my video). And you know what? I am proudly embracing my inner flesh.

Before kettlebells, I was all about cardio.

Apparently I am one of a growing number of people and women, specificallyachieve meathead status recently. Strength training with free weights (which includes kettlebell work) ranked second in the American College of Sports Medicines Worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2023up from fourth place in 2022 and eighth place in 2021.

That’s not to say I jumped on a bandwagon. I grew up going to the gym with my mom, who worked as a personal trainer. I did deadlifts and squats and bench press as a high schooler. But since college, my exercise regimen has completely shifted towards cardio. Partly it was because I rarely saw women in the weight room of my campus gym, and partly because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to plan out lifting routines. (Plus, I could multitask while reading and using the elliptical or treadmill at the same time, because nothing helps pass the time on a treadmill like a 17th-century academic paper on the history of art.)

Moving to New York City and building my career as a journalist and author left me with even less mental energy to plan the types of strength training workouts I loved.

In 2021, I returned to strength training.

A random stroke of luck brought me back to strength training. In 2021, I learned that two of my favorite trainers from the (since discontinued) ClassPass Live app, Alex Redelico and Dean de Luna, had started a fitness company, Come on City, based near my home in Long Island City, New York. At the time, they were offering outdoor bootcamp classes that included dumbbells and kettlebells. (They’ve since opened an indoor studio offering HIIT, strength training, and kettlebell performance classes.) Eager to meet them IRL, I showed up to class one day, and when I started lifting weights again, I remembered the excitement to hear me strong.

Kettlebells became my favorite piece of equipment, and not just because I could feel and see my muscles getting stronger. While cleaning and swinging for the first time, I found it liberating to learn new skills just for the fun of it and not to achieve a greater goal (besides impressing my peers on social media). Plus, there’s something more satisfying about swinging heavy kettlebells like a woman. In a world that wants us to be increasingly delicate and ever smaller, it gives us the power to sweat, grunt and take up space.

jordyn holds a kettlebell in the air as her trainer, alex, gives her directions

My trainer Alex is probably telling me to engage my core and squeeze my glutes even harder.

Jordyn Taylor

I was incredibly inspired by Alex, who is a head shorter than me and lifts huge kettlebells as his NBD. With her background in ballet, she said that when she started kettlebelling in 2017, she was immediately intrigued by the transition of movements and how this choreography could be created within a kettlebell ensemble. Kettlebells, like ballet and the other dance forms she has studied, are all about technique and a purposeful skill set that requires both physical and mental effort.

When you clean with a single arm kettlebell, you jerk it off the ground and slide it around your wrist to land in the rack position. The move can bruise the back of your forearm, especially when you’re new to the skill and still honing your technique. Over and over, the kettlebells hit my forearm. I wore the bruises as badges of honor. Over time, my form solidified and the bruises became less pronounced—a physical reminder of the progress I was making.

Then, the lower back pain hit.

The bruises on my forearm, I could handle, but the back pain was worrying.

Over my first year or so of kettlebell training, I gradually increased the weight I was cleaning and swinging: 26 pounds; 35; 44; 53 It all seemed great, until it did. During cleans and swings, I started noticing severe pain in the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscles of my lower back. I had the same feeling during deadlifts and medicine ball slams, anything that made me bend over and straighten up. The pain felt like a sudden stab during the movement itself, but then persisted as a dull ache for the days that followed. It also affected my sleep.

I didn’t want to give up my newfound passion, so I made an appointment at Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy who specialize in sports performance training. It didn’t take long for Philip Tam, PT, DPT, to assess my shape and diagnose the problem: It was my hip hinge, or rather, the lack of it.

Logically, I knew I should be using my legs to lift heavy objects off the ground, but that’s not what I was doing in practice. I was bending over and lifting with my back which explained why my muscles were screaming in pain. Working with Phil once a week, I practiced starting a clean by pulling my hips back. Once I was in the correct starting position, I strengthened my core and used my legs and hips to throw that kettlebell off the ground. The first time I got it right, I was blown away; engaging the right muscles had taken the pressure off my QLs, which didn’t hurt at all.

jordyn holds a kettlebell in the air during a turkish getup

Halfway through a Turkish trick.

Jordyn Taylor

I started prioritizing my shape over how much weight I was lifting.

Back at Strength City, I transitioned to lighter weight kettlebells as I focused on perfecting my form. My trainer Alex always stresses the importance of nailing the basics before progressing into anything wacky—in my case, swinging heavy kettlebells before fully grabbing the hip hinge.

My ballet teacher told me something that has stuck with me in everything I approach: Until you start putting more effort into honing your fundamental skills, you will never successfully excel at the fun stuff, she told me. lately. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to kettlebells or any movement practice, really. Until you’re proficient in the correct basic skill (hitting, swinging, cleaning, pressing) you’ll only cheat your progress when you jump into the fun stuff like snatches, jerks, and tricky complexes.

I only considered increasing my weights again once I felt confident in my hip hinge and could clean and swing lighter kettlebells without pain. These days, I’m back to swinging 53-pound bells using the correct muscles this time. My QLs aren’t screaming. Sometimes when I’m fatigued, they let out a little yelp, which I take as a reminder to re-engage my core, glutes, and hamstrings.

I’ve learned a lot since I started training with kettlebells in 2021, but this is the most important thing of all: if you skip the basics, you’ll struggle if not seriously hurt yourself. When it comes to any type of strength training, you are only as strong as your form.

preview for How to Fix Your Kettlebell Swing |  Form control
Headshot of Jordyn Taylor

Jordyn Taylor is Executive Digital Editor of Men’s Health. She is co-author of “Best”. Sex. Ever.: 200 Frank, Funny & Friendly Answers About Getting It On’ and adjunct professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University. She has covered sex, relationships, health, wellness and LGBTQ+ issues since 2013 and previously served as a reporter and editor at Mic and the New York Observer.

#Kettlebell #training #strongest #Ive
Image Source :

Leave a Comment