Kettlebell Training: Bringing Sexy BACK

I’m going to be honest with you…

I don’t get the guys wearing skinny jeans look.

I’m not down with the baggy cardigan, no tan, pot belly & toothpick arms thing either.

Maybe I’m old (I’ll be 35 in 4 months, I’ve been married for 11 years and I’ve got 5 kids) … but when did the “pear-shape” become sexy?

I had a conversation with my wife about what she finds sexy and she said, ”When I hug you when your shirt is off (ahem) and I feel that separation along the middle of your back.

That’s sexy.

That’s when you know a man is more than just about ‘the show’.

That’s when you know he can ‘walk the walk’.”

I love my wife.

A back created by kettlebells

What I’m finding more and more with the people that I work with and the ones that seek advice from me is that both men and women really want a strong and defined back. Having that v-shape and a visible separation where you can see your erectors, rhomboids and lower traps is a true sign that someone is both “show and go”.

The beauty about training your posterior chain – the back of your body – is that not only will you look good, but nothing could be better, from a training standpoint, for your health either.

With back pain plaguing society right now and people being unable to move or function, proper training for the back of your body has become essential for anybody looking to stay healthy and look good at the same time.

A recent study in the Scandanavian Journal of Work Environment Health entitled “Kettlebell training for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health” found that training a control group that complained of chronic back and shoulder pain with various “ballistic full-body kettlebell exercise 3 times per week for 8 weeks” resulted in a significant decrease in low back, neck & shoulder pain and increase in strength in trunk extensors – mainly the glutes & erectors.

What amazes me about that study and from what I see in the real world is that ballistic training – with a kettlebell, no less – resulted in less pain in a population that was experiencing pain.

Kettlebells have been associated with a false myth that using them would be detrimental to your low back, but as the study showed above – not to mention numerous experiences with kettlebell instructors and their clients – it is the exact opposite.

The general rule of thumb among the common fitness and rehab folk regarding exercisers who have back pain was always to avoid any explosive movements and just hit the treadmill (horrible advice).

Proper kettlebell training technique for the swing and snatch train your back (and the rest of your body) the way it was meant to be trained.  By keeping your back stable and using your entire body as a network of muscles and not isolating muscles with useless, non-functional exercises.

But before you go out there and pick up an olympic bar and start cleaning it, we need to look at what kind of exercises are beneficial to you developing an athletic back that will both make heads turn and help you to dunk a basketball.

When it comes to training – the posterior chain especially – I have a bias towards kettlebells.

Like I said above, I’m married, I’ve got kids, I’ve got 2 businesses to run and I’m busier that most guys you would know. That said, I’m still a trainer and coach and I still need to look like I know what I’m doing.

Training with kettlebells has given me the ability to get a crapload of work done in a little amount of time.

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The 2 most foundational kettlebell exercises – the 2-Arm Swing and the 1-arm snatch – are the basis for any good training program for me and my clients and for anyone who wants to see serious results in the least amount of time while using MINIMAL EQUIPMENT.

Both are ballistic exercises meaning that there is some sort of explosive/power training element to them.

Both are very functional (I hate the over-played word) in nature in that they involve an explosive hip extension (the primary movement involved in jumping and getting off the toilet).

Both train your core like its meant to be trained – as a stabilizer to your trunk and low back.

If you partake in a workout with either exercise – the snatch or swing – you know you’ve worked your full body. And if you don’t feel the effects immediately, take note of how you’ll feel the day after.

Sample Workout

To really understand the effect of the snatch and swing that I’m talking about AND to build a back that will both do work and be big enough that you could drape a white cloth over and watch a movie on, give this workout a try on your usual “back day”.

A Perfect KB Session That Works Your Posterior Chain

1) KB Snatch (4 x 5) x 3
-Perform 6 reps x 5 sets of snatches switching hands every 5 reps. So you are doing a total of 30 snatches per set. Your snatch should look fluid and athletic, not robotic like you’re trying to muscle through it.

2a) Chin-ups (3 x AMRAP-1)
-Perform as many reps of possible leaving 2 “in the tank”, don’t rest and then move immediately to…

2b) KB 1-Arm Bottoms Up Military Presses (3 x 5-8)
-Unlike traditional military presses, bottoms up presses really challenge the integrity and stability of all your shoulder muscle and your lats. Hold a kettlebell by it’s handle with the bottom of the bell up (so it’s upside down). Control the movement all the way through the range of motion.

3) 2-Arm KB Swings x 100 in as few sets as possible
-Find a kettlebell of a challenging weight and get ready to swing. If you’re a guy who’s been working out for longer than 5 years, then you should be able to handle a 24kg to a 32kg. Make sure to hinge at your hips and minimally bend your knees. The power for your swing comes from an explosive hip extension.

That workout should take you no longer than 35 minutes and you’ll be smoked. After a few weeks you should notice that your traps are a little thicker, that you’re standing a little more erect and a significant increase in mobility in your thoracic spine.

All of this by adding 2 seemingly simple movements using a minimalist piece of equipment like a kettlebell.

Chris Lopez, RKC

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