The kettlebell halo is an exercise that seems easy to execute on the surface, until you actually give it a go with proper form maintained.
Anything less than perfect form can result in you not reaping the benefits and the exercise not placing any real strain on your muscles. The kettlebell halo exercise was described by Men’s Health Fitness Director B.J. Gaddour as “the angle of death” and for good reason, it simultaneously smashes your core, shoulders and biceps all in one!
In this article, we will show you:
- how to do the halo kettlebell with perfect from
- Common mistakes to avoid
- The benefits of the kettlebell halo
- How to apply it to your workout
- Variations of the Kettlebell halo
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Now let’s jump straight into how to do the kettlebell halo...
How to do the Kettlebell Halo Exercise
Exercise Level: Intermediate
Setup: With the kettlebell halo exercise, you will need a kettlebell! Start with a light weight that you feel comfortable with as form is critical to getting the real benefit:
- Grip the handle by the horns, lifting it to the front of your body at chest level.
- beginning with good posture in a standing position and your head up and facing forward
- Relax your shoulders and position over the hips. Keep knees forward, but soft; abstain from locking or stiffening knees as well.
- In front of the body, grasp the kettlebell, clutch the horns (vertical sides of the handle.) Facing down the handles, hold the bottom of the kettlebell up.
- Circling right, carry the kettlebell near the right side of your head as close as you safely can, past your shoulder.
- Let the kettlebell drop low behind the neck. Loop left, bringing the kettlebell towards the left side of your head back to the starting point to finish—you want almost to mess it up when you come back around.
- The trunk of your body needs to be stationary, upright and your core tight whilst keeping your knees soft. Try to keep you head still facing forward by not dropping your chin into your chest when the kettlebell is behind your neck.
- After completing a rotation, go in the opposite direction. Start rotating left, and finish by revolving back to the preliminary position. You can keep circling in the same motion and complete your repetitions that way and then switch sides, the choice is up to you.
Image Credit: www.jensinkler.com
You can harness multiple grips when attempting the kettlebell halo. You can grip it by body of the kettlebell, upside down and by the horns, but one thing must be sustained, that the kettlebell completes a 180-degree rotation for perfect form.
Kettlebell Halo: Muscles Worked:
Prime Mover: Shoulders (deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius)
Secondary muscles: forearms, abdominal muscles, triceps
Muscular Endurance (Muscle Tone): 12-20 Reps - Pick weight as appropriate
Hypertrophy (Muscle Gain): 8-12 Reps – Pick weight as appropriate
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
Over circling: Keep the route of the kettlebell reasonably close to the body. Don’t make huge circles around the head. The forearm should slightly glide the top of your hair as you move through the exercise. When the kettlebell is directly behind you, it should be straightforwardly behind your neck or a little lower. If it is right behind your head, it’s too high.
Poor Posture: If your waist is bending to make larger loops, or if you’re bowing your back to bring the kettlebell behind your neck, then your stance isn’t stable enough. By rooting your feet hip-distance apart, relax the knees, keeping your torso tense before you begin by following the core uninterrupted throughout the movement to achieve that new core permanence.
Holding your Breath: Remember to breathe normally; it is usual for an individual to hold their breath during the execution of an over the head exercise.
Speed: Many gym goers who first attempt the kettlebell halo exercise, rush this movement which can cause the rotation to shift towards the back and take the emphasis off the shoulder muscles. Like virtually all exercises that engage the core, you need to take your time and focus on keeping your core tight.
Kettlebell Halo Benefits & How to apply to your workouts:
As the kettlebell halo utilises multiple muscle groups and through different dimensions of motion, it can be harnessed in a variety of ways:
warm-up exercise before a shoulder workout: Enhances Range of Motion & Synovial Fluid at the Joint
One of the major benefits of the kettlebell halo is that it increases shoulder mobility and can be used to increase blood flow, synovial fluid at the joint and range of motion. Many seasoned trainers utilise it as a warm-up exercise to get the shoulders pumped and muscle fibres activated before encompassing a tough shoulder workout.
rehabilitation or pre-rehabilitation Programme: Improves Mobility in the Spine and Shoulders
Many injury rehabilitation practitioners utilise the kettlebell halo within their programmes and adhere to its effectiveness of improving mobility for both the spine and at the shoulder joint. Long-term kettlebell halo benefits (when performed over a sustained period) include; strengthening the joints and make them more tolerant to pressure and robust, which can make everyday tasks easier to perform such as twisting and lifting, as well benefiting other weight bound exercises.
Kettlebell Shoulder Halo Benefits: Improves your Core Stability
As the kettlebell halo is a dynamic, functional-based movement it will naturally play a role in developing your core muscles. It more specifically helps with reflexive stability, which is the underpinning to core strength. This is what helps you stay balanced and upright and when met by resistance or force from another person or object, which is why these types of exercises are used a lot by in strength and conditioning coaches for athletes that play contact sports.
Finisher at the end of a workout
Equally, the halo kettlebell exercise can be used as a “finisher” to really exhaust the shoulder muscles, creating severe oxygen debt and target more slower twitch muscle fibres for definition. Some trainers use them in a drop set to format to achieve this, by starting with a heavy kettlebell, then going to failure and then reducing the weight to finish and again going to failure.
Use as part of Super Sets
As the kettlebell halo exercise is very functional, it works well as a part of a super set with more other mobility exercises, such as the reverse fly or after you have completed more traditional muscle building exercise like the military press.
See shortly, how you can also combine this exercise with other exercises to make the exercise more challenging….
Safety Tips & Precautions
Like all exercises there is elements of risk when executing this movement, but with the kettlebell halo that cab be particularly prudent as you’re rotating a heavy object above your head. Follow this guidance below before attempting this movement:
Concentration: As you're controlling a heavy object close to your head, you must stay focused. This can be more challenging than it first seems when you're new to the exercise as your simultaneously trying to engage your core, remembering to breathe and manoeuvring a large object around your circumference in an unnatural position. If you do not take care, you could end up hitting your temple or top of your spine with the kettlebell, which needless to say....hurts!
Lower Back Pain Sufferers: If you suffer from lower pain issues or have a weak lower back, proceed with cautious with this exercise. Limited mobility in the lower back region may cause discomfort and prevent you from completing the kettlebell halo with proper form. Always consult a qualified professional if you any doubts before commencing this exercise.
- Pregnant Women: If you’re heavily pregnant and going in or about to go into your third trimester, this exercise may be difficult to execute due to the shift in your centre of gravity to the front of your body. Again, be sensible and consult a certified practitioner before introducing into your workout routine.
Changing the Implement: Plate, Dumbbell & Medicine Ball Halo
The halo movement can be replicated utilising different apparatus which can place slightly different emphasis on the muscles than using a kettlebell.
- Start in the same position as with the kettlebell halo, but with a plate in your hands instead.
- Grip the plate evenly on either side and hold it out directly in front of your body
- The plate moves in the same format as the kettlebell halo and considers the same form as with the kettlebell, move the plate around your head, maintaining your posture and repeat the circles in the opposite direction.
- The dumbbell halo allows you to get slightly tighter circles to the body due to the shape of the dumbbell.
- Get into the same starting position as the kettlebell halo and grip the dumbbell in the middle of the handle and hold it out in front of your body.
- Move the dumbbell in the same fashion as with the plate or kettlebell maintaining your form throughout.
Medicine Ball Halo:
- The principle is always the same with the shoulder halo exercise, just circling a different object with a slightly different shape and feel.
- Get into the correct starting position as with all the other implements and hold the medicine ball out in front of your body at roughly chest level.
- Circle to the over one shoulder, keeping the medicine ball as close to your head as possible, core tight, fixed and head up.
- Let the medicine ball extend down your neck before bringing it round as low as you can over your other shoulder. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.
You can also try this movement utilising resistance bands or even household items if you struggle to find time to get to the gym like a gallon of water or small sack of potatoes.
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Kettlebell Halo: Progression
We have labelled this exercise as “intermediate” as there are progressive exercises like mace bell and Indian club swings that you can consider moving onto once you have mastered this exercise.
These exercises have less control due to the weight being unevenly distributed further away from the centre of gravity of your body, which is why the kettlebell halo exercise is a good starting point and provides a good foundation for more complex movements.
Combine the Kettlebell Halo with Other Exercises for a Challenging All Body Workout
The beauty of the halo kettlebell exercise that you can incorporate it with other exercises to create a challenging all body workout. See here a couple of examples of how you can combine the kettlebell halo with other exercises:
Kettlebell Squat Halo
With the kettlebell squat halo, you start in the same position as the “standard” kettlebell halo but instead go down into a goblet squat maintaining you head facing forward and core tight. You can then either perform the halo whilst holding the deep squat and then repeat or you can push back to the starting position and perform the halo from an upright position.Kettlebell Lunge Halo
The kettlebell lunge halo works in the exact same manner as the kettlebell squat halo. You start from the normal upright position and then lunge back, again keeping that core tight, head facing forward and then you can either perform the halo whilst holding the lunge or push back to the top of the moment and perform the halo then.
Like the kettlebell halo? Why not give these exercises a try?
The kettlebell halo exercise is a go to as a warmup drill for an intense shoulder workout, part of a rehabilitation programme to improve mobility or as a finisher after a workout. Give it a go yourself!
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Written by Professional S & C Coaches