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Kettlebumps and how to deal with them

Have you ever suffered from those pesky lumps on your forearm?

If you train for kettlebell sport, I’d say you have.

Fionbarr Toolan of Virtu Fitness in Belfast has and psoted about them recently on his facebook:

Which if you read the comments, you’ll see responses from a whole host of kettlebell sports athletes including some of my own.

One comment comes from friend of WG-Fit, bodyworker and martial artist Mr Phil Greenfield. Phil tends to think before he speaks and has a huge body of experience to draw on since qualifying as a Chiropractor shortly after the Dinosaurs died out. Here’s his take on the cause of the bumps:

“One thing worth flagging up is that these ‘bumps’ are located at the site of the origin of a muscle set that is highly developed in KBS athletes – namely the thumb extensor group.

As the bell travels through its arcs, even though the grip is light and loose and the thumb flexor muscles are not doing much work, it’s the eccentric muscular contraction of the extensors that keep the thumb in its position and disallow the bell to slip from the grip. They effectively ‘brake’ the thumb movement and keep the bell from wandering out of the hand.

So over the years, these muscles will potentially become very prominent in a lifter’s forearm, whereas in the average non-lifting Joe these muscles are slickly tucked away amongst the other wrist extensors.

Added to this, the brain’s response to constant and repetitive impact to the skin by a heavy weight from the outside… oedema. AKA ‘swelling’ of the tissues under the skin. It’s like a ‘soft armouring’ to prevent damage to muscle or tendon, and will probably vary dependent upon the lifter’s style, and in some the skin might also react by reddening or hardening.

So it’s an intelligent response by the brain to a potential ‘threat’ to a mahoosively crucial set of structures that operate one of our most important assets… the human thumb.

And as I commented to Jamie as she was attempting to obliterate her ‘kettlebump’ by smashing it with a foam roller, this thing is actually a ‘feature’ rather than a problem.

And what it will respond to most favourably should it become sore or inflamed, is gentle massage to the skin rather than anything heavier, combined with daily elbow, wrist and thumb/finger spiral mobilisations; a must for the long-term health of any GS athlete’s hands.”

Food for thought indeed.

From my experience, the bumps themselves are nothing to worry about, much like the callouses you will also develop. The only time you need worry is if they become a problem. And unlike a callous, you can’t just cut of or file down a Kettlebump.

Don’t try!!

Like callouses, they are a specific adaptation to the unique loads Kettlebell Sports athletes subject themselves to. Especially in the Jerk and Long Cycle events where the bell is resting on the arm for extended periods.

Should they become painful, it’s usually a nervy pain that is nigh impossible to train through, so again, don’t try. The pain usually coincides with either a an increase in volume or load. Often both.

If you feel the early onset of the pain, or you wish to prevent it as you are planning to increase EITHER volume or intensity (DO NOT INCREASE BOTH TOGETHER!) then watch this video:

If the pain persists, you need to stop the Kettlebell Lifts for a time.

And I mean an absolute stop.

Don’t worry, that means you have ample opportunity to work on all the other stuff a kettlebell lifter needs to be good at aside from lifting technique. That might be absolute strength, it might be cardio vascular efficiency, it might be mobility, it’s very likely going to be rehab for that injury you’ve been ignoring…..

Anyhow, if you’ve experienced Kettlebumps, particulary painful ones, let me know and let me know your strategies for dealing with them.

Drop a comment below with your experiences or your questions


Dave Hedges

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