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Sharp, intense pain is a sure sign you need to scale back your kettlebell training.
Kettlebells may scream "hardcore" compared to the weight machines and shiny chrome dumbbells at your gym, but just because they're a tough, intense way of training doesn't mean they should be painful. While a little pain and discomfort is to be expected when training hard, you need to learn to differentiate between when your shoulders are sore from a good, challenging workout and when the issue may be more severe.
Get Down with DOMS
If you've ever felt muscle soreness kick in 12 to 24 hours after exercise, you've experienced the bane of every dedicated exerciser's existence - DOMS. This catchy acronym stands for delayed onset muscle soreness and is caused by a breakdown of muscle tissue. It is not, as is commonly thought, lactic acid build up in the muscles, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. DOMS is part and parcel of kettlebell training, especially when you introduce a new exercise or increase your workout intensity. Ice and massage can help relieve the symptoms, but you generally just have to grit your teeth and wait it out while the soreness subsides.
Stabilize your Shoulder
Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, with a large ball and relatively small socket. This is both a benefit and a curse, as it means your shoulder has a large range of motion, but also that it's unstable and prone to injury. Correctly performing kettlebell exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles and tendons is key to protecting your shoulder from soreness, notes chiropractic physician and kettlebell trainer Dr. Ron Tyszkowski. Well-performed overhead presses and snatches can greatly reduce your risk of shoulder injuries.
Avoid The Terrors of Poor Technique
Any exercise has the potential to cause damage and soreness to the muscle or joint you're working. Kettlebells may pose even more of a risk than dumbbells or machines, however. Due to the explosive nature of kettlebell training, it's easier to over-extend your shoulder when performing an overhead exercise. If you suddenly feel the onset of shoulder pain during your kettlebell workout, or your soreness lasts for longer than 72 hours, you may have caused damage to the joint, muscle, ligaments or tendons, so you should visit your health care provider. To prevent this from happening in the first place, have a session or two with a qualified kettlebell coach to get your technique perfect.
Swing Away Soreness
Shoulder, neck and back pain can affect anyone, whether you train or not. If you suffer from this constant soreness, fear not, for it's kettlebells to the rescue. According to the Human Performance Resource Center website, swinging a kettlebell can reduce your symptoms. In a Danish study, middle-aged women with shoulder, neck and back pain were told to perform regular kettlebell workouts, or regular general fitness workouts. The women who swung kettlebells reported an average decrease in shoulder pain by 46 percent.