The local Syracuse newspaper occasionally has brief fitness articles. I was pleased to see one about kettlebells recently written by a certified trainer, but I was concerned about one part of the article and wrote a letter to the editor, and they published it in the online version of the paper! Here’s what I wrote:
Your recent article about fitness training with kettlebells was well-written, and I’m sure the individual featured is a great trainer. I’m an NSCA-certified personal trainer (National Strength and Conditioning Assocation), and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using kettlebells for over a year. Thank you for printing fitness articles – anything that helps counter the poor U.S. average fitness level is welcome!
I have one concern: She recommends doing snatches. This is an excellent, productive exercise, and the description is good. However, it requires more skill than other exercises, and the stakes are high, because shoulder injuries are common, and are often a serious problem that doesn’t heal easily.
Fitness articles in the paper generally are targeted to beginners. Therefore, I would not put the snatch in this type of article. Even if you added language like “be sure to use a very light weight at first,” or “only try this with the help of an experienced trainer,” your more enterprising readers may ignore that. Before you know it, blown shoulders proliferate, and our therapist and surgeon friends will need to go to work.
Funny name aside, snatches are a great exercise, and I occasionally include them in my routines. There are actually 2 popular ways of doing them – one that’s similar to a barbell snatch, and one that’s more like a straight-armed swing, which requires a good deal of skill to execute without slamming the kettlebell onto the wrist and forearm area at the top of the movement, apart from possibly destroying lighting fixtures nearby. 🙂
For a beginner, apart from using a very light weight to start with, for the shoulder it would be safer to try push presses at first, and then possibly a clean and push press, and finally a clean and press after attaining some skill. Notice how I’m not going into much detail about that. 🙂 Instead of relying on a verbal description, it’s really better to have someone show you, or at least have a video demonstration of it. An excellent source of kettlebell training material for beginning lifters (and also for the very advanced) is Mike Mahler’s Agressive Strength.
Snatches are great – they’re just not for beginners. You’ve been warned!