Russian kettlebell exercises are a great way to strengthen and condition your pelvic stabilizers, promoting a strong back that is less prone to movement-caused injury.
The pelvic stabilizers consist of all the muscles connected to the pelvis working in synergy to enable you to lift, push and carry (perform work). They include:
- Erector spinae group (quadratus lumborum, multifidi, rotatores, iliocostalis)
- Abdominals (rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse)
- Gluteal muscles
- Quadriceps muscles
- Hip rotator muscles
In this video, I demonstrate the proper form for doing these exercises:
Think of your pelvis as a powerful hinge; a “bio-mechanical hub” that connects your torso to your legs. The pelvis’ engineering enables you to stand upright and bear a load by serving as an anchor/ attachment point (resistance-counter force) for the muscles performing the work. It is truly a biological marvel and should be targeted for exercise so that one can meet the physical demands of life more easily.
Examples of common activities that heavily rely on pelvic stabilizers:
- Standing up from a seated position; sitting from a standing position
- Bending down and lifting something from the ground
- Putting your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin of an airplane
- Lifting up a child
- Throwing a football
- Jumping across a puddle
The exercises involve moving a kettlebell, which resembles a cannon ball with a large hand grip, by using the power generated from pelvic thrusting. The repeated thrusts are created by alternating antagonist-agonist* function of the pelvic stabilizers.
*Muscles work in pairs. The muscle that is undergoing a concentric contraction (getting shorter as it contracts) is called the agonist while its counterpart, referred to as the antagonist offers stabilization and measured control of the movement. Muscles switch from being agonist to antagonist and vice versa, depending on the movement. Examples: biceps-triceps, quadriceps-hamstrings.
Although it looks like the arms are involved due to their obvious swinging motion, they are actually not being exercised. The arms serve to connect the weight to the pelvis structure, like a piece of rope. The kettlebell “drags” your arms with it and moves via inertia after being propelled by the rhythmic pelvic thrusts.
Initiate the thrust with your leg muscles, driving power through your feet and channeling it into your pelvis and core to swing the weight forward. Do not use your arm muscles to swing the weight, and try to keep your lower back straight. The worst thing you can do is put too much load on your lower back muscles in the flexion position– this can cause a severe back injury, so avoid doing this.
The benefit of developing your pelvic stabilizer muscles’ strength and coordination is that it will be much easier to move your body; to make it do work. Going up stairs, getting out of and into your car seat, and lifting and carrying heavy things will be much easier. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Kettlebell exercises burn up a lot of calories, so they are also good for weight loss.
Remember to use good form and start out with a light weight, working your way up as you develop muscle strength and coordination. Kettlebells can be as light as 2 pounds and as heavy as 50 pounds. The one I am using in the video is a solid 40 pounds.