Why Kettlebells Hurt My Forearms? (Here’s 4 Reasons Why)
You have finally purchased a kettlebell and you are excited to give it a go, however you soon find out that your forearms hurt.
You want to improve your strength, endurance, conditioning and power, kettlebells tick all the boxes but…
This is what can happen with a lot of kettlebell “newbies”, as this type of equipment works differently to dumbbells.
Even though you are a “fitness veteran” you can’t understand why?
Let’s look at the reasons as to why this happens and look at ways of remedying this so you and your kettlebell can live happily ever after.
Why Kettlebells Hurt My Forearms?
Kettlebells hurt your forearms because you haven’t anticipated the force with the swing of the bell when it has been flipped or “racked” as its called onto your forearm. It takes practice to cushion them into position. If you haven’t been flipping it onto your forearm for one of the various exercises and it simply hurts from using, this would be down to the fact you have been gripping the bell harder than you normally would with a barbell or dumbbell. As the force from swinging a kettlebell makes it move differently to other pieces of equipment and the centre of mass on kettlebells is offset. This is down to the fact their centre of gravity is within the “bell” and not the handle (as is with a dumbbell). The thickness of the handle may also play a role, as they are smoother for swinging/flipping and they also have different handle thicknesses too.
1. You Are Not Used To Training With Them
This is a pretty obvious answer if you are haven’t trained with kettlebells before. As you know, kettlebells look different, feel different and let’s face it… are different to regular dumbbells.
They also work differently too, one of the first kettlebell exercises that you will learn is the “swing”. It’s an awesome exercise, strong and smooth, that works a lot of muscles on one movement.
However, apart from basic swings, the majority of kettlebell movements require a different grip to the swing. With a swing, you grip the bell by the middle of the handle (as you would hold a briefcase, as if anyone still uses these…my references are way off).
As you know with swings, the bell is never in contact with your forearm.
For moves that involve contact with your forearm such as overhead presses or kettlebell cleans and snatches, holding this way is going to hurt if you aren’t used to swinging kettlebells.
Always consider starting off light with kettlebells, for example – you may easily be able to handle, lets say a 8kg dumbbell, however, using an 8kg kettlebell will feel completely different…FACT!
Theres no shame in using the pink 6kg for a workout mate, at least you’ll be able to train the next day and won’t have injured yourself using a 20kg, just because “you can curl 20kg easy bro” with a dumbbell.
Go light or go home is the phrase right? Well it should be if you are new to using kettlebells.
2. Check Your Technique – Your Swinging The Bell Too Hard
You may be swinging the kettlebell too hard, this again is a natural thing to do when you first start swinging as they say. As we have mentioned above, the way the kettlebell moves is different to dumbbells.
This is because the balance of them is offset. When you are swinging a kettlebell the momentum shifts differently to a dumbbell, the bell wants to carry on going in the same direction.
As the balance isn’t central to it, you may be over compensating and swinging too hard, which means your having to pull the kettlebell back, doing this means you are gripping harder and in turn means you are working the forearms more to keep hold of the spherical beast!
You could also work on your timing, this will come with practice. Get used to the feel of the kettlebell and check those micro adjustments when performing any exercises.
Also try and keep the kettlebell close to you so it isn’t getting out of control, the more out of control it gets the more it may do some damage
Don’t try so hard and relax into the momentum of the swing (or any other exercise) loosen your grip slightly and let the swinging continue, just not as vigorously.
You shouldn’t look or feel like you’re trying to perform the “Haka”, you might then notice your forearms might not feel as tired and hurt.
3. Do You Have An Existing Issue?
This goes without saying, if you have any pre-existing injuries, it can do more harm than good to “break through” the pain barrier and be “well hard” to continue training.
With anything like this, always use some intelligence and let the problem heal, until you train again.
I have been there myself, when you feel something kinda “rip, pop or tear” but carry on because you don’t think its a big deal.
Then, wake the next day and find out your going to be out of action for months! This can be devastating and was for me.
This might sound ridiculous, but I literally played the Rocky 4 training montage music, when I was rehabbing back to fitness, to help spur me on (I’m super sad I know).
As the road to recovery can be more mentally draining and tough, than it is physically. So always be mindful of any knocks you may be carrying.
Always seek the advice of a doctor or sport massage therapist to help you with your issue.
4. Check Your Grip
changing and adjusting your grip on the handle of the kettlebell can have a big impact on your workout and indeed your forearms and wrist.
The worst thing anyone can do, but will happen is to grip the handle as if you were milking a concrete cow! This will put extra stress on your forearm and wrist.
The best course of action is to loosen your grip slightly, so the kettlebell can shift with little resistance and when the kettlebell flips over onto your forearm, it won’t bash it so hard and your forearm won’t be as tense, which means you will be able to handle it smoother.
This will of course take time and a little trial to perfect the movement, but you’ll notice it will get easier in time, even today from time to time I still mis-judge the kettlebell (mainly when rushing) and it can bash my forearm.
This is a good wake up call to remind me to “do it right” all the time.
You can also change the position of your grip, by holding onto the curved part of the bell, what this will do is not have the whole weight of the kettlebell fall on your arm.
With it being off centre the kettlebell will lay differently on your arm and won’t lay completely over it… it will lay to the side and give your poor forearm a rest.
The amount of reps you do when first training with these can over work your forearms, always think twice about the Volume of reps you are doing in a session.
As previously mentioned, its good practice to start off light with such a ballistic piece of kit, to not over do it.
How Can You Reduce This?
Things you can do to help this is to use a lighter kettlebell until you get used to the movement, this will allow you to practice the motion of racking the bell without the worry of it battering you’re forearm.
It will also help with your grip as you won’t be holding on so hard with the weight being as heavy.
There are also “arm shields” that you can buy, these are pads that you pull onto your forearms to protect them. These are used in competition and by CrossFitters too.
They work well and do the job, however if you didn’t want to look like one of He-Man’s sidekicks while you train (I know I would), I have in the past used a standard 80’s style sweat band pulled up my wrist to help cushion the blow of the bell. Kinda like the ones tennis and basketball players use.
Give these a go, they will definitely help you gain confidence and get used to cushioning the kettlebell on your forearm.
RELATED – ALL OF MY WORKOUTS HERE
If you have a kettlebell and your forearms hurt from using them, it would in most cases be down to the fact you are new to using them and are not yet used to the way they move and the way you should move when training with them.
If you loosen that grip a little, check your posture and use a lighter weight you will be on the right path to reducing the problem.
Don’t do too many reps if you are new to this type of ballistic training, pad up those forearms if you need to and get back out there.
After a few sessions you’ll get the hang of it and will be snatching your way to the kettlebell hall of fame (if there was one).
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Till next time, all the best…
Lee – Sport CBDs