How to stay injury-free while training with kettlebells
Guest post by Cynthia Roulston
I’ve been involved in competitive sports most of my life. Sometimes warm ups were militantly prescribed to me, but most times I was left to prepare myself with very few guidelines. The pre- and post-workout routines of my youth didn't do much for me, as I recall having various injuries and periods of being overtrained. Now - years later and in my 40's - I have been injury-free with the best mobility and flexibility I have ever had. All it took was making a commitment to better preparation.
My current routine is inspired by sequences I have learned from Erwan LeCorre, Steve Maxwell, Jason Dolby, Agatsu Fitness (Sara Clare LaJeunesse and Shawn Mozen) and Deflying Fitness.
- General head to toe mobility searching for areas of tension
- Light myofascial release/foam roller on tight areas , making note where to spend more time later
- Wrist preparation (routine inspired by gymnast/yoga warmup for handstands)
- PVC work for shoulders, squats
- Indian clubs
- Ground work – various animal crawls
- Dance – laugh all you want, it helps me relax and smile AND warms me up at the same time
Energy conservation is incredibly important in Kettlebell Sport. The smallest adjustments across 10 minutes amount to a huge change. Creating relaxation during my kettlebell sets starts with my pre-workout routine. My pre-workout routine is dynamic mobility and diagnostic in nature as I look for areas of tension. I spend extra time on tense areas and work on relaxing, or make a mental note to go back and spend more time there after lifting. I don’t hide from tension and tightness but search and destroy!
- Anything from the pre-workout menu
- Flexibility routine
- Abdominal work – leg raises or hollow body rocks
- Adaptive bodywork
At the end of my workout, I go back to the areas I found during my warm up that require more attention. I also spend time working on my flexibility during post workout. After a Jerk training session, I love to incorporate gymnastics movements that oppose the Jerk movement, as a way of improving overall strength and increasing spine health. It’s like reverse selective tension where in the gymnastics moves I have to relax my kettle muscles and create tension in muscles I’ve become accustomed to relaxing. I’ve found it mentally and physically challenging (and rewarding!).
Admittedly this does take time. Both pre and post workout routines run from 30 to 45 minutes for me (and up to an hour during the summer). I’m sure some would argue these long routines are excessive and self-indulgent, but they work for me. I hit my numbers and complete timed sets more consistently when I am able to run through my complete routine. Although I am known for being meticulously dedicated to my routine, I do have times where I break from the same structure. I make a point to disrupt the routine a couple times throughout a cycle to mimic competition conditions.
Sometimes I do just my pre/post routines on non-lifting days as some gentle active recovery. Although I have many friends who are physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists – and I do use them for occasional tune-ups - I’m glad I don’t have to use them too frequently. Money saved on rehab is better spent on workout clothes and shoes!
Cynthia Roulston has a Master's degree in Nutritional Science and is an Agatsu Level 1 Mobility instructor. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Cynthia has worked as an elementary school teacher for 14 years. She has been competing in Kettlebell Sport for three years, with a focus on OALC and Jerk.