August “Scary” Equipment Series – Kettlebell
Gee if I had a nickle for every time someone asked me how to work their abs! Fortunately, I always have an answer and in this case it involves our featured piece of “scary” equipment for the month. If you’ve read our first post this month, introducing the kettlebell, you would have read that these hunks of metal were used as counter weights to measure out dried goods before being loaded onto Russian ships. During down time the loaders would swing them around by their handles and thus kettlebell exercises were born.
Back to the abs though.
Many people want to work out their abs so they can show them off at the beach but some realize that there are more important reasons to workout the center of their core muscles: balance, stability, posture and injury prevention (Erin talks all about this in detail in Issue Five). The key to injury prevention is to evenly strengthen the abdominal muscles and muscles of the low back. Weak abdominal muscles lead to poor posture, lack of balance and stability and end up in injury. Weak obliques account for a majority of low back pain.
So whether you are looking to show off those abs, improve balance and posture, reduce injuries or all of the above try the following exercise to strengthen the obliques and muscles of the low back.
Kettlebell Oblique Swing
This exercise might be as simple as it sounds. Pick up a kettlebell and swing it from side to side. However to make this exercise more effective and protective there are few things to consider.
1. You want to draw your belly button in towards your spine while performing this exercise. This is known as the drawn in maneuver and will not only engage your transverse abdominis throughout the swing, it will protect your low back from injury. Your transverse abdominis is what provides your body with balance and stability and is the sheet of muscle below your visible rectus abdominis.
2. Keep the kettlebell below chest height. This ensures that you are using more of your abdominal muscles and less of your shoulders.
With those two tips in mind, swing away! Beginners keep your feet planted (shown) and for those looking for more power can pivot the back foot.
Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each side.
Low Back Extension
It is important to provide balance on both sides of the body from left to right to avoid injury to knees, shoulders, hips, etc. It is also important to provide balance on both sides of the spine to avoid injury to your back. Anytime you are building your abdominal wall you want to work on building your low back muscles as well. You can use the kettlebell to do so.
1. Begin with a kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Position your feet below your hips with toes pointed straight out and a very slight bend in your knees.
2. With a straight back and no additional movement in your knees bend forward at the hips and pick up the kettlebell handle with an overhand grip.
3. Stand straight up, hinging from your hips without locking your knees.
4. Bend back towards the ground without letting the kettlebell touch the ground. You should feel this in your low back and not your hamstrings. If you feel the exercise in your hamstrings you may be changing your knee angle. Keep that angle constant!
Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps.