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Why the Kettlebell Swing is the Solution for Low Back Pain

Why the Kettlebell Swing is the Solution for Low Back Pain

Written by
March 13, 2015
Updated March 13, 2023

Onnit 24kg BannerIt’s my intention for this article to help reduce the likelihood of back pain and for those currently experiencing back pain to find relief by trying this training method. Most of us at some point will experience back pain of a varying degree, from mild discomfort to disabling pain that could see us taking time off from work and play.

Statistically, back pain has a tendency to go into and come out of remission and though the symptoms can be relieved, often the problem remains unless we get to the cause. Muscular imbalance and a misfiring recruitment pattern of the posterior chain muscles are common prerequisites of low back pain, often as a result of bad posture from imbalanced or lack of muscular tone.

“Too much sitting can result in “lower cross syndrome” which is marked by weak gluteal muscles and tight iliopsoas muscles. This imbalance can put too much stress on the back, resulting in back pain.”

— Czech neurologist Vladimir Janda

Fortunately, time, energy and resources for rehab and prevention can be optimised by utilising Kettlebell Swings as a practical solution when compared to other expensive, lengthy, and sometimes invasive methods of treatment for low back issues.

“We are advised to get up, stretch, and walk around to counter the excess sitting while at work. While this is sound advice, my years as a neurosurgeon—and back pain sufferer—have shown me there is a better alternative. Keeping a kettlebell under your desk and performing Kettlebell Swings for one minute each hour may alleviate your back pain and trim your waistline” – Dr Patrick Roth, Neurosurgeon practicing in New Jersey

Problem: Low Back Pain

There’s a correlation between those with small gluteal muscles and those that suffer back-pain. If your glutes are weak, or ‘unactivated’ when lifting or extending your hip, your lower back is going to compensate for the larger, more powerful gluteal muscles.

Solution: The Kettlebell Swing

Hip hinging, the primary movement for the Kettlebell Swing reinforces neutral spine, a position where the spine is in its correct anatomical position. By utilising the power of the hips throughout the range of motion of the hip hinge in place of the lower back, incorrect firing patterns in the recruitment of muscle from the posterior chain can be corrected.

“Learning to hip hinge is paramount for both injury prevention and optimal performance”

– Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics

The movement preparation for the Kettlebell Swing, is in fact, the hip hinge. By educating your muscles how to hip hinge correctly before practicing the Kettlebell Swing will fire up your CNS to perform the exercise optimally and shorten time in getting results.

Hinge to Prepare for the Kettlebell Swing

Begin in correct posture by taking a pipe or dowel and placing it along your spine making sure the three points of contact, the tailbone, upper back and back of your head are touching the pipe/dowel. If you don’t have a pipe or dowel, achieve neutral spine by making points of contact while standing back against a wall, tuck your chin to lengthen your cervical spine all the way to the top, making contact with the back of your head against the wall.

Begin the movement (away from a wall) by softening your knees and pushing your hips backward like you’re trying to press your butt against on a wall behind you (without contact). Aim to not bend much at your knees and return to start position by driving through your heels and activating your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips.

By adding Kettlebell Swings to your training regimen and perfecting your hip hinge movement you’ll correct imbalance of your posterior chain muscles and ‘misfiring’ recruitment patterns, while opening up the hips by stretching the tight iliopsoas muscles which are the antagonist muscle of the hinge movement. This will do much to relieve the symptoms and correct the cause of low back pain.

“One small kettlebell hidden under a desk in the office can provide time-effective back and hamstring strengthening, along with hip-flexor stretching”

— Dr. Patrick Roth, author of “The End of Back Pain”

Matt Reynolds is Onnit
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