Kettlebell shoulder flow

Here are some exercises that can be done for the shoulder. If you aren’t comfortable with the kettlebell these exercises might not be for you.

  1. Side lying corkscrew
  2. Kettlebell Arm Bar
  3. Side lying shoulder “circles”
  4. Floor press
  5. Crooked arm bar
  6. Dynamic shoulder stability from floor press

I have been playing around with this flow.  Here are some tweaks I have tried.

  1. Supine – serratus punch
  2. Supine corkscrew
  3. Floor press
  4. Side lying corkscrew
  5. Side lying shoulder “circles”
  6. Scapular protraction/retraction – this is a little tough to do
  7. Kettlebell arm bar
  8. Crooked arm bar
  9. Dynamic shoulder stability from floor press

Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Armbar

In the past I have talked about improving the scapular stabilizers of the shoulder to aid in treating those with shoulder injuries (Bicipital tendonopathy, rotator cuff tendonitis/tendonopathy, shoulder impingements).  Our shoulder’s primary responsibility is to be a mobile joint while the scapulo-thoracic “joint” is supposed to be stable.  The mobility and function of our shoulder joint improves when the scapula is stable.

This is like building a house on marsh land versus a house which is built on rock.  The house that has a poor base of support will result in the house shifting (scapular stability) and result in doors not closing properly (the shoulder moving poorly).  One way of discovering if you have poor scapular stability is by performing a pushup and watching what the shoulder blades do. If they wing out away from the body then there is poor stability.

Here is one exercise I have been starting to recommend some of my patients, especially those who enjoy training for Crossfit, called the arm bar.  What I like about this exercise is that it requires the scapula to be stable as the shoulder has to be strong as it moves into different angles of horizontal adduction/abduction.

Making sure you are able to squeeze the shoulder blades fully ensures that there are no scapular movement restrictions which may affect the stability of the scapulae.  I often find myself using Active Release Techniques on the serratus anterior muscles and pectoralis minor muscles to improve this mobility.

If you use a kettlebell and place it in the bottoms up position this results in you needing to grip the kettlebell more.  From what I have been reading from different sources increasing grip results in an increase in activity of the scapular stabilizers.  Note: I need to find out if this is research based.

Give this exercise a try and tell me what you think?

Dr Notley
Treating sports injuries and spinal injuries as an Athletic Therapist/Chiropractor since 2000

Protect the Spine: The Kettlebell Carry

If you have read this blog before, I have expressed my personal interest in using the Kettlebell as an exercise tool and for back conditioning.  Sadly, finding research on this piece of equipment is few and far between. I got lucky recently when I found a research paper by Dr Stuart McGill (One of the leading researchers in spinal biomechanics) .  The paper is titled, “Kettlebell swing, snatch and bottoms-up carry: Back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads”.

The part of the research paper, that I want to talk about today, compares the core musculature activity while performing the kettlebell carry in the rack position and the kettlebell in a bottoms up position. Both of these carry positions were compared to the muscular activation of the core during normal walking.

Kettlebell Rack Position Carry

Kettlebell Bottoms Up Carry


The Findings

Dr McGill discovered that muscular activations of the core were significantly greater with the bottoms up carry.  In addition to this, the joint compression and shear forces to the spine were greater with the bottoms up carry as well.It is believed that the increase in muscular activation is due to an increase in core stiffness as a result of an increase in required grip strength.  To keep the kettlebell vertical requires more grip strength than to keep it in the rack position. I’ve tried this position and it can be very difficult to hold.
My Thoughts

It is interesting to note that there is a difference in core activity even though the weight is the same.  What does this mean for you to help you take care of your back?If you are in the process of rehabilitating your lower back then this would be a challenging, fun, way to progress your conditioning of the core musculature without increasing the weight load.For those who have back pain, which is influenced by the amount load on the spine, you may need to look at how you hold objects in your hand. Holding objects in various positions or holding different sized objects that increase the need for grip strength, while walking, will affect the muscular activity of the core as well as the load on the spine.I hope you found this interesting.