Kettlebell training in clinical practice: a scoping review

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Background: A scoping review of scientific literature on the effects of kettlebell training. There are no authoritative guidelines or recommendations for using kettlebells within a primary care setting. Our review objectives were to identify the extent, range and nature of the available evidence, to report on the types of evidence currently available to inform clinical practice, to synthesise key concepts, and identify gaps in the research knowledge base.

Methods: Following the PRISMA-ScR Checklist, we conducted a search of 10 electronic databases from inception to 1 February 2019. There were no exclusions in searching for publications. A single reviewer screened the literature and abstracted data from relevant publications. Articles were grouped and charted by concepts and themes relevant to primary care, and narratively synthesised. Effect sizes from longitudinal studies were identified or calculated, and randomised controlled trials assessed for methodological quality.

Results: Eight hundred and twenty-nine records were identified to 1 February 2019. Four hundred and ninety-six were screened and 170 assessed for eligibility. Ninety-nine publications met the inclusion criteria. Effect sizes were typically trivial to small. One trial used a pragmatic hardstyle training program among healthy college-age participants. Two trials reported the effects of kettlebell training in clinical conditions. Thirty-three studies explicitly used 'hardstyle' techniques and 4 investigated kettlebell sport. Also included were 6 reviews, 22 clinical/expert opinions and 3 case reports of injury. Two reviewers independently evaluated studies using a modified Downs & Black checklist.

Conclusions: A small number of longitudinal studies, which are largely underpowered and of low methodological quality, provide the evidence-informed therapist with little guidance to inform the therapeutic prescription of kettlebells within primary care. Confidence in reported effects is low to very low. The strength of recommendation for kettlebell training improving measures of physical function is weak, based on the current body of literature. Further research on reported effects is warranted, with inclusion of clinical populations and investigations of musculoskeletal conditions common to primary care. There is a need for an externally valid, standardised approach to the training and testing of kettlebell interventions, which better informs the therapeutic use of kettlebells in primary care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages30
JournalSports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019


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