The best exercise for a strong back without the gym
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Through the COVID 19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 many people discovered that they didn’t like the gym, but they really do enjoy exercising. Others discovered the Park Run or the Push Up Challenge. But during this winter, less and less are willing to brave the cold and perform their pull-ups or run that 5K.
Enter the Kettlebell.
Cast in iron and designed for strength, this ball with a handle has been the secret weapon for Eastern European athletes and military as early as the 1700’s.
The kettlebell is a great at-home, or at-office exercise tool, allowing for easy access to multiple exercises that help to stabilise the spine and the nervous system. The swing can be done as a cardio workout, or core strengthening exercise. Imagine, no waiting for the particular piece of equipment, not having to wipe someone else’s sweat off a machine and no monthly fees. That is the kettlebell.
The first movement to learn with the kettlebell is the two-handed swing. It is a hip-hinge that is powerful and requires solid coordination from the feet to the head (1). The hip hinge itself is a crucial movement for almost every lower-body exercise. It involves flexion and extension from the hips (1, 2) and also a posterior shift in weight. This movement is not associated with squatting, but rather deadlifting. Put in simple terms:
Hip hinge = mostly hip bend, very little knee bend
Squat = full hip AND knee bend
This image shows the muscle groups stimulated during Kettlebell swings
The kettlebell swing provides this mechanical movement pattern amongst many other benefits. It's a great posterior chain activator (glute muscle activation, hamstring, and upper back muscles). Along with core bracing and cardiovascular work (1, 2, 3). All these things help prevent low back injuries and maintain a strong skeletal structure - in general, support the nervous system housing that is the spine (1, 2).
When done correctly and regularly, the swing will start to build muscle strength on your back and glutes and have the effect of burning calories (1, 2, 3) at an incredibly efficient rate.. and all from the comfort of your lounge room.
Along with strengthening the lower-back, core and glutes, the kettlebell swing has been utilised to great effect in rehabilitating knee injuries. A lack of glute function is linked to causes in mechanical knee pain (3). Decreased glute function can lead to over activity of the internal rotators of the hip and the adductors, leading to medial force through the knee joint (3). When the swing is done correctly, it activates the external rotators of the hip, aligning the femur and tibia into its most optimal position (1, 3). When done regularly, the two-handed swing will strengthen these muscles, keeping our knees, along with our lower back and core, strong.
Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine; instead he will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, nutrition and the cause and prevention of disease.”
Regular practice of the kettlebell swing strengthens the back and core, enhances cardiovascular health, and supports the spine. This helps protect your body’s nervous system, improve structure and your overall health.
Keep active, keep training and don't give up!
Dr. Adam Camerlengo.
Spinal Solution, Crows Nest NSW
Effects of Kettlebell Training on Postural Coordination and Jump Performance. A Randomized Controlled Trial (https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/FullText/2013/05000/Effects_of_Kettlebell_Training_on_Postural.5.aspx)
Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms-Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads (https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2012/01000/Kettlebell_Swing,Snatch,_and_Bottoms_Up_Carry.3.aspx)
Kettlebells for Knee Pain (https://physicaltherapyweb.com/kettlebells-knee-pain/)