Recently, I watched the movie Meru which follows a group of climbers who attempt to reach the summit of the namesake mountain located in the Himalayas. It’s a visual dazzler but also a well-crafted documentary that goes in-depth as to why these men risk their lives for such a feat. I’m usually not one for documentaries but this one captivated me from the beginning. So much so that I watched the director’s critically-acclaimed successor, Free Solo, not even a week later.
Meru, which debuted in 2015, features its fair share of setbacks. None quite so agonizing as the first attempt which failed due to various circumstances. However, one of the climbers, Renan Ozturk, had his own personal setback in the form of a devastating and almost fatal accident. His injuries were the result of a skiing mishap which left him with a cranial fracture and broken vertebrae. This is a life-changing event for most people, but with a 2nd attempt of ascending Meru scheduled 5 months after the accident, it became a battle of will to recover in time and join the rest of the climbing team.
Now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with kettlebells. Well, in one particular scene we’re shown Renan in physical therapy doing some kettlebell goblet squats. That made me think of this story about a cyclist who did kettlebell swings to rehab from an injury. There’s a lot of supporting evidence that suggests kettlebell rehab and therapy can tremendously help in the recovery process of serious injuries. With that in mind, I’ve scoured the internet to discuss some of the more popular exercises that help with particular injuries.
Kettlebell Rehab For Lower Back Pain
In a bit of irony, if you search for kettlebell lower back pain, the results are not that favorable for using the kettlebell. There is a lot of discussion on back pain caused by kettlebell exercises due to improper technique. It’s unfair really, as such pain comes from mistakes made and not from the nature of the exercises. However, when doing these exercises correctly, it can actually help alleviate lower back pain and strengthen the back in general.
So what’s the secret? There’s a lot of technical jargon but it basically boils down to the mechanics and natural movements that kettlebell exercises mimic. In the case of lower back pain, the kettlebell swing with its off-center of gravity “consistently reinforces proper spine mechanics” as said by Dr. Ben Fung. Dr. Fung, who wrote a thesis on kettlebell exercises has helped many patients with recovering from injuries by doing such exercises. There is an excellent article here written by the doctor which goes into great detail as to why these exercises are so beneficial.
In a brief testimonial, one of Dr. Fung’s former patients describes his kettlebell rehab recovery. It’s several years old but is still impressive to hear about these results. According to the doctor, kettlebell exercises were exclusively prescribed to aide in the recovery of this patient’s injuries.
Kettlebell Rehab For Shoulders and Rotator Cuffs
Shoulder injuries and pain can also result from bad exercising form and posture. Although, it can also occur due to accidents and even everyday activities. Think about how often we lift heavy objects. Improper load balance can lead to something called shoulder impingement. This is where pain and movement restriction is present in the rotator cuff tendons. Injuries like these frequently occur with repetitive motions involving the arms and shoulders.
To help further understand how kettlebell exercises can help rehabilitate your shoulders, I’ll refer once again to a doctor. This time, a chiropractic physician by the name of Dr. Jason Williams DC. He currently practices at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. In a post from last year, he mentions several kettlebell exercises that provide exceptional benefits for recovering from a shoulder injury.
There’s the halo which has you rotate the kettlebell around your head with your elbows bent. The high windmill which requires you to bend at the hips while holding the kettlebell high in the air with one arm and using the other arm to touch your toes. Finally, there’s the turkish get-up. An exercise that everyone loves to hate due to its difficulty but highly rewarding benefits. Instead of explaining it, just check out the video below!
Kettlebell Rehab For Knee Pain
Sore knees make life difficult. We rely so much on moving around that any pain in the knees will severely hamper daily activities. If you’re experiencing heightened knee pain while exercising or performing certain tasks, you’ll want to carefully evaluate the cause. Try to avoid sudden movements that involve jerks and stops. Of course, if the pain is extreme you should absolutely consult a doctor. For pain that is more of the dull ache variety, there is one kettlebell exercise that can help substantially.
The kettlebell squat swing is one of the popular variants of the kettlebell swing. Unlike the hip hinge swing which has you bend at the hips when swinging, the squat swing focuses heavily on the knees. It’s the 2nd of 8 exercises listed to help with knee pain that self.com posted. With over 9 million unique monthly visitors, Self knows their stuff.
Just so we’re clear, it’s more of a half squat at the lowest point. The kettlebell shouldn’t be scraping the floor. If you’re curious about the difference between the hip hinge and squat style swing check out my recent post on the topic. For good measure, I’ll finish up by including the last video from that post below. The side-by-side comparison as shown by kettlebell trainer Taco Fleur is flawlessly executed and helps distinguish these two similar but different styles.