How To Assess and Recover From Back Pain From Kettlebell Swing

Although kettlebell swings are common place around all styles of gyms, that by no means makes them a simple exercise. Many people struggle with technique on kettlebell swings and this can often lead to pain. In this article we will discuss the potential causes of this pain and how you can prevent it in the future.

4 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
22/08/23
Last updated
20/02/24

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In This Resource
  • What Is A Kettlebell Swing?
  • Differentiating Between Pain and DOMS Post Kettlebell Swings
  • Location of Pain / DOMS is Important
  • Finding The Cause of The Pain from Kettlebell Swings
  • How To Learn Proper Technique for A Kettlebell Swing
  • Build A Strong Lower Back and Pulling Strength
  • Making An Arch in the Lower Back Is Key To Kettlebell Swing Success
  • My Technique is Correct, But I Still Get Pain?
  • Sample Circuit for Lower Back Movement

What Is A Kettlebell Swing?

Differentiating Between Pain and DOMS Post Kettlebell Swings

DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, often occurs post weight training as a result of the load placed upon the body. It can be very uncomfortable, yet it is by no means a sign of injury or a problem. Usually it will be finished 72 hours post exercise. This needs to be differentiated from pain, especially pain in the spinal cord which can be a sign of a more serious injury.

Location of Pain / DOMS is Important

The location of the pain and DOMS plays an important role in finding the problem, when the kettlebell swing is performed correctly it is normal for it to create DOMS or soreness in the hamstrings or the muscles supporting the spinal cord (erector-spinea). However it is not normal for kettlebell swings to create soreness or pain specifically in the lower back. This is usually a sign of using poor technique.

Finding The Cause of The Pain from Kettlebell Swings

The most likely cause of pain is that you have used poor technique while performing kettlebell swings, this can be especially true if your doing them in a HIIT workout and have never fully acquired the skill required to perform them with proficiency or under fatigue.

The fault with the kettlebell swing that is seen all to often is the rounding of the back. Having a rounded back can put a lot of pressure on the spine and create a lot of pain.

How To Learn Proper Technique for A Kettlebell Swing

Learning to hinge is one of the most challenging parts of getting into any form of full body resistance training, making kettlebell swings technically difficult as the hinge movement is the base of the kettlebell swing made even more difficult due to its dynamic nature.

Build A Strong Lower Back and Pulling Strength

Using the kettlebell for other purposes like pulling and hinging to grow the muscles of the back will help you build a strong and capable body that will be able to deal with the intensity of kettlebell swings. This style of strength training should be done before using more dynamic aggressive techniques like kettlebell swings.

Making An Arch in the Lower Back Is Key To Kettlebell Swing Success

We can see in the video above of the kettlebell swing that when the lower back is arched the erector-spinea can take the load as well as the hamstrings and glute muscles. The inverse occurs with a rounded spine, when all the pressure is placed onto the lower back.

My Technique is Correct, But I Still Get Pain?

Previous Injury

If you have previously suffered an injury in the lower back, this style of dynamic movement may be too challenging for the moment and still create pain. The kettlebell swings involves a high level of eccentric loading at speed, making it very difficult for people who have had spine injuries in the past.

Inappropriate Volume or Intensity

When technique is good and there is no previous injury history, the most likely culprit for pain is either too much volume (sets and reps) or too much intensity (too much weight). Both of these two variables can cause pain to anyone with excellent technique when they are in excess.

Sample Circuit for Lower Back Movement

Complete 3 rounds

1. Prisoner Spinal Wave

Complete 6 repetitions

2. Tall Kneeling Thoracic Spine Joint Rotations

Complete 5 repetitions

3. Adductor Stretch with Extension-Rotation

Complete 8 repetitions

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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein

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