Today even John is talking about kettlebells, so I rub my hands gleefully, and sense a blog post coming on…
When I first got into kettlebells three years ago, I didn’t really understand what a beast inside me I might possibly be unleashing, what an enthusiasm might be growing nationally for the sport, and how a good personal trainer can learn the techniques to bring to their clients a whole new series of exercises for strength and conditioning, as well as weight loss. Now I am an advanced kettlebell instructor, have just set up Ipswich Kettlebells, along with James Skinner, and have trained consistently with them through one serious health setback after another. The result is that I now swing 56kg for reps and press 40kg overhead. My clients, many of them also stroke survivors, are surging ahead too.

David, a stroke survivor in his late 60s, started kettlebell training last month. His weak side is still noticeably affected, and he can’t lock out at the elbows or knees. The fact that the limitation is on both sides made me want to assess his general mobility. I was interested to see what he could achieve with the bells, but first of all he had to be safe. The first few sessions with him were all about getting him to fold at the hips and thrust hips out, in order to replicate the motion needed for a safe swing that won’t compromise his lower back. He tends to lack internal rotation at the hip which limits his ability to walk any distance. He really struggles at swing phase, making for an awkward and uncomfortable compromise at the hips. His knees are beginning to feel the strain too. I helped him to free up the movement at the hips, using ADS (Assisted Dynamic Sequencing and Stretch), something I first learnt to do on the Diploma in Functional Performance. I wanted to try and improve his ROM at the elbow and scapula as well, so I used tool assisted massage. Within minutes we saw more arm extension, and while we didn’t achieve lock-out in that first session, we got pretty close! I started with him in a static position, then got him to start from a split stance, and twist round, holding a broomstick horizontally. By adding in a pivot at the foot I got more motion at the thoracic and then got his scapula moving by changing the broomstick hold to an overhead dumbbell hold. I moved round to the scapula to assist the sequencing.

Now it was time to get back to the kettlebells! With improved mobility at the hips, David could now manage a safe swing, and he was enjoying the increased sensation across the deltoids, so I decided to build on that. We came right down in the weights, and he learnt to press, and then clean the bells. He was ecstatic. Within two sessions he had learnt half a dozen exercises he could safely practise in the gym or at home. The next time I saw him we started working on further kettlebell moves, such as the single leg deadlift, and the suitcase deadlift, which are ideal for stroke survivors and brain trauma clients as they work on balance and use cross body training, thinking of the body like an X, and requiring a pairing up of opposite arm to leg. It’s a tricky movement pattern to re-instate, but really assists in retrieving gait. I hadn’t forgotten about his knees, and was all set to assess and solve, but the improvement at his freed-up hips seems to have alleviated the knee issue, and he has developed a mean kettlebell swing in the process! I am pleased for him as he’d like to get back to a normal active life, but this achievement has brought him a new sporting interest and new goals on top of that.