Electromyographical Comparison of Muscle Activation Patterns Across Three Commonly Performed Kettlebell Exercises

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Lyons, BC, Mayo, JJ, Tucker, WS, Wax, B, and Hendrix, RC. Electromyographical comparison of muscle activation patterns across 3 commonly performed kettlebell exercises. J Strength Cond Res 31(9): 2363–2370, 2017—The purpose of this study was to compare the muscle activation patterns of 3 different kettlebell (KB) exercises using electromyography (EMG). Fourteen resistance-trained subjects completed a 1-arm swing (Swing), 1-arm swing style snatch (Snatch), and a 1-arm clean (Clean) using a self-selected 8 to 10 repetition maximum load for each exercise. Trial sessions consisted of subjects performing 5 repetitions of each KB exercise. Mean EMG was used to assess the muscle activation of the biceps brachii, anterior deltoid, posterior deltoid, erector spinae (ES), vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris, contralateral external oblique (EO), and gluteus maximus during each lift using surface electrodes. The mean EMG was normalized using maximal voluntary contractions obtained from manual muscle testing. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference in the muscle activation patterns of the ES (Swing > Snatch), EO (Snatch, Clean > Swing), and VL (Swing > Clean) across the 3 KB exercises. We conclude that although the KB Swing, Snatch, and Clean are total body exercises, they place different demands on the ES, contralateral EO, and the VL. Therefore, KBs represent an authentic alternative for lifters, and the Swing, Snatch, and Clean are not redundant exercises.

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