If you’re anything like me, when I first set eyes on a kettlebell I thought, “that might just hurt me.” But I soon realized it’s not the tool but user error that leads to injury. It was not love at first sight. I questioned “why a kettlebell” instead of a hand weight or a machine? How do I lift “the ball” up to my chest without knocking out my front teeth? If I’m catching it on the back of my forearm, will I break my wrist? Valid questions coming from a place of fear and the unknown. Sure enough taking the time to learn good form has made all the difference. No broken teeth or bones here.

Why I love kettlebells

Its versatile, snatches are doable at the beach.

 

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Evening #snatches to the #sunset fire island style. #exercise #strength #strongfirst #SFG

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They travel beautifully. Training swings here in Brazil. That’s right! I dragged two 14 kilo bells (ahem, 60 pounds) down to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014.

 

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#swings #cleans #press #sfg #hardstyle #worldcup #brazil2014 Training on vacation

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Grip strength and shoulder stability go hand in hand. There’s a direct correlation of grip strength  to how well you stabilize your shoulders and vice versa which helps with good posture. In fact, grip strength is a potential predictor of how well you age.

The offset weight with the bell on one side of the wrist makes for great maneuverability through functional ranges and helps “pack the shoulder.” The perfect example of this is Maggie Rintala in the czech get up. I train this movement flow every other day.

As you come to fall in love with the kettlebell you soon realize that you can’t live without it. You start to request doubles off all sized weights at your local gym. Your home gym looks like a minefield of kettlebells and you soon get rid of your indoor bike and treadmill.

How to get stronger using kettlebells

Want to make an exercise more challenging without necessarily adding more weight? Maybe you have limited weights in your home gym and you want to work with what you have. Here’s how to start to push your potential and strength capacity without having to spend your whole paycheck on heavier bells.

1. Slow Mo reps

Ever find yourself bouncing at the bottom of your squat instead of the slow controlled drive up to stand? Instead of banging out 3 sets of 10 bouncy reps, try a 4 count down into the squat and a true 4 count up to stand from the bottom of the squat. Oooh, baby, feel that burn after a couple of reps. Also applies to a great push up. Slow mo lower 4 seconds down to tap your chest onto a yoga block and 4 counts back up to the top of your plank.

2. Constant tension

The elite athletes build tension super fast and find a relaxed state equally as fast. Building tension is the name of the game when it comes to getting strong. Any “energy leaks” in the body are a potential for injury. A weak core and flared lower ribs can lead to low back pain. An unstable, hyper mobile shoulder that wings off the ribs can lead to neck pain. When you train constant tension through a lift, you fatigue the muscles faster without necessarily increasing load.

3. Focus on the eccentric

What the heck is the eccentric phase? Its loading the muscle as the muscle lengthens. For example, the eccentric phase of the deadlift would be as your lower the weight back down to the floor. The hamstrings are lengthening in this part of the lift as they are loaded, contracting and getting long.   

4. Add a pause

If you think a pause is a rest break, think again. Try a pause at the bottom of your push up, bottom of a lunge or in the hole of your squat. Make sure you have a good brace in your core and you are stacked ribs over pelvis. Sometimes form can fatigue and fall apart with the pause, don’t make this junior mistake.

5. Add a rep

Three sets of the same number of reps like 3 sets of 10 feels monotonous. Try laddering your reps. The first set can be your warm up for your joints and muscles. By the last set, your last rep should feel really hard to pull. This is how you know you’ve picked the proper kettlebell size. A ladder would look like 3/4/5/6. Lift 3 reps then take a break. The lift 4 reps then 5 and so on.

6. Less rest break

For ladies with Hashimoto’s, this is a tricky one because less rest can burn us out. I suggest this only for those who have had a solid strength training program for 3 month or longer. This is an example of where less rest breaks would come into my programming. Notice a circuit added to the 3rd and 4th week to start to push capacity. This was programed by a dear friend and trainer extraordinaire Matt Semrick. 

Week One:

  • A: Heavy: Lower Body: 3 to 5 Reps, Upper Body: 5 to 8 Reps: 3-4 Rounds
  • B: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 Reps: 2-3 Rounds
  • A: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 Reps: 2-3 Rounds

Week Two:

  • B: Heavy: Lower Body: 3 to 5 Reps, Upper Body: 5 to 8 Reps: 3-4 Rounds
  • A: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 (12) Reps: 3 Rounds
  • B: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 (12) Reps: 3 Rounds

Week Three:

  • A: Heavy: Lower Body: 3 to 5 Reps, Upper Body: 5 to 8 Reps: 4 Rounds
  • B: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 (12): 3 Rounds
  • A: Circuit: All four drills are done as a 4 exercise circuit using Heavy Day weight and reps for 3 to 4 rounds.

Week Four:

  • B: Heavy: Lower Body: 3 to 5 Reps, Upper Body: 5 to 8 Reps: 4 Rounds
  • A: Moderate: Lower Body: 5 to 8 Reps, Upper Body: 8 to 10 (12) Reps: 3 Rounds
  • B: Circuit: All four drills are done as a 4 exercise circuit using Heavy Day weight and reps for 3 to 4 rounds.

Are you ready to get training? Remember with Hashimoto’s there are three things we know. We knew that women with Hashimoto’s have a harder time maintaining our muscle, we know the quality of our muscle tissue is not ideal, and we have slower tendon turnover and therefore a longer time recovering.

How do we take these factors into account while weight lifting so we don’t injure ourselves or burn ourselves out? Lift a heavier weight than you probably think, fewer reps ie not 3 sets of 10 reps, and longer rest periods. Once you have the form dialed in, use the above strategies to push your capacity without burning out.

Want the program I use for the first two weeks of working out with my ladies with Hashimoto’s in the Thyroid Strong Program? (opt-in)

In Good Health,

Dr Emily Kiberd

Learn the 3 things NOT TO DO in your workout if you have Hashimoto's and WHAT TO DO instead!

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