Kettlebell Training and Back Pain

Kettlebell Training and Back Pain

Chris Lopez:  Hi I am Chris

Rick Kaselj: I am Rick

Chris and Rick: “And we are here to help you out.”

Chris Lopez: We just thought that was kind of funny because we are a little relaxed. We are in New Brunswick right now, just finished some fitness meetings, helping each other out. If you don’t know this is Rick Kaselj from I am Chris Lopez from

And we are going to ask each other questions because Rick ironically enough has a back pain Kettlebell training question in his customer service inbox right now. And I wanted to talk to Rick about back pain and since that is a kettlebell question.

Rick Kaselj: And I want to talk to you about kettlebells on what else this person can do when it comes to the recovery of his back surgery because the common thinking out there is that “just because you are in injury or pain, you should do nothing. You should just lie down and rest and not move again.” And that is the worst thing you can do in the world because even with professional athletes, none of them will sit and do absolutely nothing. There are very few conditions where that is required and where movement is not recommended.

Let me read Jeff’s question:

Rick, I just started kettlebell training and really like it. Before my lumbar fusion operation in November of last year I bought and did the lumbar fusion exercises you put together and you answered some of my questions concerning weight training like could I ever do a dead lift again.

So I have a specific program called Lumbar Fusion Exercises and it’s a program for people that have had a lumbar fusion. It includes things to avoid and things to do to help overcome lumbar fusion. But once again that is a part of the process of recovery because just like with Jeff he wants to get back to doing what he did before and he can, he just has to train smarter.

Now the Second Part of the Question:

The question is when I can resume Kettlebell training? I have been doing some weight training but I would like to get back to kettlebell training. Is there any exercise routine with Kettlebells that I should avoid?

Well, Chris will cover that part.

I was nowhere near starting double kettlebell training which is quite advanced, but I would like to at some point in time. I am not trying to be, I am not looking at getting certified. I just want to lose some fat and become more defined. Okay so that is Jeff C. Thank you for your question.

So would you like to cover the part where he asked – “Are there any exercises that he should avoid, that Jeff should avoid?”

Chris Lopez: Anything that has to do with potential flexing of that lumbar spine, he should definitely avoid it. He wants to get back into swinging and we have spoken about this before, the Swing is the foundation of movements for all hard style training.

And it’s a great movement but you have to make sure that you have tightened up your hinge pattern. By hinging what I mean is that the swing is a hip dominant movement, it’s not a squat move and you can tell it by just using your kettlebell because it will give you great feedback.

If you got a squatty swing then the kettlebell nine times out of ten will be drooping down because you are coming from a low position on the ground to a vertical position.

Whereas if you got a proper hinge pattern when you are swinging a kettlebell, then that means you are getting it to what we call a Point C which is back wall and when you hinge or explosively extend your hips, the kettlebell will float out to the horizon or maybe even flip up.

Jeff if you are doing your training right now and you are noticing that the kettlebell is drooping down then that means you have got a squatty swing probably and you should really work more on hinging your hips. We are talking about a vertical shin angle where your shins are straight up and down. You can bend your knees slightly but you want your butt as far back as you can get it, where your spine is either in neutral or probably in a better situation because that’s spinal fusion then in an arched position and that’s ideally what you want to do now.

The double kettlebell swing is actually a different niche because it lowers your anterior chain a little bit more. So you have got a wider stance and that is why it is a more advanced exercise because with the wider stance you are not able to get into that posterior chain as much so you really again have to emphasize to get deep into that hinge as far as you can because the handles are so big, you have got to get them through the knees.

Rick Kaselj: But it’s one of those things, it’s not that you cannot do it forever, you will need to progress to it. With injuries, you will need to kind of slowly progress through things and just be smarter. You can’t just jump into it like you are nineteen and master it in five minutes. You have got to be a little bit smarter.

And then the other thing I like about kettlebell swinging is that it teaches that hip hinging that you highlight which is so important because when we start getting flexion or curling of that lower back, it puts way more load in that spine.

If you have a sensitive back, back pain, a back injury or a lumbar fusion, you would want to keep that spine in neutral and eliminate that flexion because it increases the risk of irritation, injury or even worse injury.

The other thing I like about the hinge is you are building strength and endurance throughout different ranges of motion of the body.

So with the hinge you are building hip strength through various ranges of motion, you are not isolating a specific range and then you are also building core strength through different ranges of motion. And probably the most important thing is the endurance side of things.

I find a lot of people who look at other exercise programs they don’t do enough hip hinging exercises and the kettlebells are a great one. They don’t work on building that strength throughout the whole range of motion and then building core strength and endurance throughout the whole range of motion. Yes, you might be great at doing the plank and doing the plank for five minutes but then as you start adding hip flexion into it the activation of the core totally changes.

Chris Lopez: It’s good.

And Jeff another thing that I wanted to say was that you really would want to make sure you have an excellent T-Spine or Thoracic Spine stability as well.

If you go by a joint by joint approach which I and Rick talked about in an interview before, your joints will alternate. Usually they alternate from joints of stability to joints of mobility and with your spine fused in your lumbar area now, you have lost a lot of mobility so you got to make sure that you’ve got almost excessive mobility in that upper back area.

Rick Kaselj: Yeah, I think excess may not be the word but you are looking at trying to get as much thoracic movement as you can throughout that thoracic spine. Some people might have greater movement or mobility more in the lower thoracic spine and less in the upper thoracic spine so trying to build that movement in the thoracic spine but also balancing it without going crazy with it. Meaning, you are doing a hundred repetition of thoracic mobility a day and then you start getting into the overused side of things. It could be harmful as opposed to beneficial. It’s that balance that people need to find.

Rick Kaselj, MS.

Low Back Pain Solved