Kettlebells aren’t exactly the easiest piece of equipment to use.
Trainer Betina Gozo says she sees people making kettlebell mistakes all the time. “I definitely see it with the holding of the kettlebell. It’s important to keep the wrists stacked properly so that you aren’t adding more stress.”
And that’s a shame, since there are so many great strength moves you can do using this versatile piece of equipment.
To help you master the ‘bell, Gozo demos the top five mistakes she sees people make in the video above, as well as exactly how to tweak your form to make sure you’re performing each move on point. This is key to getting a better workout (you’ll activate the right muscles and work them harder) and avoiding injury.
“If you can’t get a trainer to check your form, I would definitely recommend videotaping yourself so that you can check it,” says Gozo. Watch and learn, and then pick up a kettlebell next time you hit the gym to try the moves for yourself. Here, the most common mistakes—and fixes:
1. Holding The Kettlebell Wrong
Mistake: Learning how to hold the kettlebell properly is the first step in any move, and Gozo says this mistake is very common. Many kettlebell moves involve “racking” the weight, or holding it at your shoulder with one hand, while your elbow is bent. Often she sees people hugging the kettlebell too close to their chest, or holding it too far out from the body.
Fix: To correctly rack the weight, stand tall with tight abs, keeping your elbow close to your body, and your forearm in line with your upper arm. The kettlebell should rest against the outside of your forearm. Make sure not to let your wrist drop back. “A lot of women complain about the way the kettlebell sits on the forearm, but you’ll build tolerance to it,” says Gozo.
2. Picking It Up Incorrectly
Mistake: Kettlebell swings seem easy enough, but a common issue Gozo sees with this move is that people don’t pick the weight up correctly. The kettlebell is all about momentum, and to start a swing move, you can’t grab it from directly below you, in between your legs—that forces you to thrust from a standing straight-up position to get the weight swinging.
Fix: Instead, place the weight about a foot in front of you, then hike it back and thrust it forward. When you’re done, bring it back to the starting position a foot in front of you. This little tweak allows you to drive more power through your hips, to get more out of the exercise.
3. Swinging The Kettlebell Too Aggressively
Mistake: Another issue with kettlebell swings is how low many people take the weight. It might seem like a good idea to have a bigger range of motion when you’re performing this exercise, but it’s actually best to control the movement. Gozo says she see people swinging the kettlebell so far back between their legs that their wrists are touching the lower part of their thighs, which means they’re likely rounding their backs and leaning too far into the move.
Fix: It’s important to only hinge at the hips and keep the back straight. The wrists should only touch the upper part of your thighs, then you should drive the weight up and forward by thrusting your hips.
4. Leaning Back Too Far
Mistake: Alternately, some people lean too far back when they do kettlebell swings, which can also hurt the back muscles and spine. If, on the upswing, you’re leaning back past a regular standing position, that means you’re probably not using your core and glutes to stabilize your body and control the swing.
Fix: Instead of bending at the top, suck in your abs and flex your glutes (like you would in plank position) to hold your body steady and protect your back.
5. Tilting Your Shoulders
Mistake: When it comes to single-arm kettlebell swings, Gozo says she often sees people letting their weighted shoulder tilt too far forward.
Fix: Ideally, even though only one arm has a weight, the shoulders should stay parallel throughout the swing. If you need to, move the opposite arm with the arm holding the weight to make sure your back doesn’t round, and your shoulders stay in line and face forward.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com