“Kettlebells hurt my back” is something you will often hear from people who are self-taught, or receiving unqualified instruction from trainers who have not been properly trained in the use and instruction of kettlebells themselves. The improper or reckless use of any tool can be dangerous; it’s possible to injure yourself with any form of bodyweight exercise or even at dinner by using a fork improperly. The key to safe training is using the tool the way it was designed to be used plus using movements taught in a way that is biomechanically correct for the individual in question. For this reason not only are our instructors certified by Pavel Tsatsouline and teach techniques that have been researched and endorsed by the world’s leading Spine Biomechanist but we also use the Functional Movement Screen to screen for potential movement disfunction that must be addressed before engaging in intense exercise. Furthermore, one of the creators of the Functional Movement Screen for assessing movement quality and pre-eminent physical therapist Gray Cook is also a certified kettlebell instructor under Pavel Tsatsouline.
In our Kettlebell classes we teach Abdominal “Bracing” for superior spinal stability.
Misinterpreted research has lead to the popular recommendation today to “pull your navel in toward your spine.” “Bracing”, defined by Dr. McGill as symmetric stiffening of all the muscles surrounding the spine without hollowing or pushing out the abdominal wall, is a superior technique (see McGill’s book Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, 4th Ed., available from his website, www.backfitpro.com). Our combination of StrongFirst and Functional Movement Specialist Certified training teaches many innovative techniques to improve your spine bracing skill. Including but not limited to the the Turkish Getup, The Hardstyle Plank and the Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing.
In the Turkish Getup the client learns to stiffen the muscles of the torso to lock the ribcage down relative to the pelvis. This immobilizes the spine as the individual wedges themselves underneath a weight held overhead from the supine position, to standing then back to supine. When physiologist Bret Contreras took EMG measurements of over 50 exercises for the midsection and full body the Turkish getup was the ONLY exercise that had over 100% peak voluntary activation in all four core muscles tested.
It has been measured that the back and waist muscles of the best athletes do not generate power but stiffen up the spine and turn the torso into a “transmission” for passing force through the body. The plank teaches the essential skill of bracing to immobilize the spine and strengthens the midsection. In the majority of athletic movements, the spine does not AND should not move during the crucial moment when force is transmitted through the body from the feet to the hands in the case of a throw or punch, from the hips to the arms in the case of a golf swing or from the feet through the entire body in the case of a dunking a basketball. This “transmission” must be stiff in order to maximize the transfer of force and protect the back. The plank is the first step in teaching and testing this ability.
Bret Contreras also took EMG measurements to measure muscle activation of the StrongFirst Plank [Formerly known as the “RKC plank”] created by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dr. Michael Hartle and compared them with those of the traditional plank.
He discovered that the internal obliques fired twice as strong, the abs three times as strong, and the external obliques four times as strong as in the traditional plank. This is relevant because not only do we frequently use the RKC Plank but it’s exactly how we teach clients to swing a kettlebell safely so that they learn to reflexively brace their spine in a wide variety of powerful movements.
At Omaha Elite Kettlebell our StrongFirst certified instructors trained by Pavel Tsatsouline teach methods that have been reverse engineered from what the world’s best athletes do naturally – allowing them to stay safe and stay in the game while moving with power. In other words our method of kettlebell training is about teaching safety as an integral part of strength and performance, not separate from it.