What are kettlebell halos good for?
Lots of stuff. This includes making you stronger and more mobile, from your shoulders to your abs.
That’s why I do them 3-4 times a week. Sometimes more. They keep my shoulders and upper back strong and mobile better than any other exercise. I don’t think I’d be able to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and surf several days a week pain free – with a full range of motion – without them.
Adding kettlebell halos to your workouts will help you too. In this article you’ll learn 8 ways they can help you build and keep your body strong and healthy.
Before We Get Started – What Is A Kettlebell Halo?
Halos are a simple exercise. All you have to do is rotate a kettlebell 360 degrees around your head. The kettlebell is held by the vertical sections of the handle, often upside down so the base is facing up.
One rotation of the kettlebell around your head equals one repetition. You’ll do them in both directions to equally train your muscles. During this rotation you’ll hit your shoulder muscles from every angle.
Every muscle in your shoulders and upper back are stretched and strengthened. This includes your deltoids, traps, and rhomboids. Your abs and other core muscles are made stronger too. I’ll tell you how below.
Here’s a video from Joel De Rosario’s Instagram account of him doing halos with great technique.
The Benefits Of Kettlebell Halos
- Kettlebell Halos Improve Shoulder Mobility
Your shoulders are a multiaxial joint. This means they are able to move up, down and all around. In every direction possible. Your hips are too. Doing too much of one exercise like shoulder presses can limit your shoulders ability to move as they should.
Next thing you know, you’re one of those athletes that can’t raise your hand above your head.
Kettlebell halos can help you get your shoulder mobility back. By stretching the muscles of your shoulder and gently moving them through their entire range against the resistance of a kettlebell, halos keep your shoulders nice and mobile. If your shoulders are already tight they can help you get it back.
I’ve experienced this benefit myself. Doing jiu jitsu several days a week really tightened up my shoulders. I went from being able to press 70 pound kettlebells overhead for reps to not being able to do 1 rep with 25 pounds. 2-3 sets of halos a day helped me get my mobility back. My shoulders are now mobile, pain free and able to press more weight than ever.
“The kettlebell Halo is great for warming up the shoulders with lightweight but also great to create strength with a heavier weight and slow controlled movement.”Cavemantraining.com
- Your Shoulders And Upper Back Will Get Stronger
Exercises like overhead presses, push ups, rows and laterals are great shoulder exercises. The range of motion they’re done in allows you to use heavy weights and get strong.
While that’s great, one potential downside of them is that they don’t train every muscle equally. This can lead to imbalances in your strength, weakness, and even an injury.
Since halos are done with resistance throughout your shoulders entire range of motion they can help fix any imbalances caused by doing lots of presses and rows. So your shoulders can be even stronger. Sure, you can’t use super heavy weights. But that’s okay. You can use enough to make your shoulders stronger than if you only train them with pressing exercises.
- Halos Make Your Core Stronger Too
One of the functions of your core, which includes the abdominal muscles, is to resist rotation from external forces. An example is how you start to twist from your waist as you move your arms on a tiring run.
Halos are a great exercise for building the strength your core needs to prevent this rotation from happening. This is why I included them in my article ‘The Best Standing Kettlebell Exercises For Your Abs.’
How is this so? Think about it next time you do a kettlebell halo. When done properly, the only thing that is moving are your shoulders. Your head and upper body are otherwise still. To stay still, your core muscles – abs, lower back muscles, etc. – must be tight.
Over time, keeping your core tight like this while doing lots of halos will make your core super strong. You’ll notice this benefit when you are able to run, throw, and kick, and paddle farther, longer with good technique. I especially see the benefits when I’m rolling at jiu jitsu and doing intense hill runs. I’m able to better resist being twisted by my opponent and keep my technique in check when I’m getting tired during a sprint.
“The kettlebell halo simultaneously improves shoulder mobility, thoracic mobility, and core stability.”Jordan Syatt, Syatt Fitness
- Kettlebell Halos Build Muscle
Halos are a resistance exercise. Just like shoulder presses, laterals and bent over rows. Any exercise you do against enough resistance will trigger muscle growth.
Sure, you won’t be using the same weights as when you do kettlebell rows but if you’re using a moderate to heavy weight with good technique you’ll build muscle. Probably in areas that other exercises neglect.
Just make sure you use a weight that’s challenging to do 8-10 reps with good form. Once you can do 12 reps per side, increase the weight. This will ensure that you build muscle along with strength and mobility.
- Halos Are Great Way To Warm Up
Forget the static stretches and arm circles you did in gym class. Kettlebell halos are a better way to warm up your shoulders.
Since you’re moving through every possible angle against resistance, the ‘warm-up’ every muscle and make sure you’re ready for your workout.
When doing halos as a warm-up, use a lighter weight that you can do 15 reps with rather easily. Use this weight to do 2-3 sets of 10-12 rotations in each direction.
You can also do them post-workout to work out any post training stiffness and stay loose.
I find this to be especially helpful after I’ve done something that really stresses my shoulders like heavy military presses and kettlebell snatches.
- Everyone Can Learn How To Do Kettlebell Halos
Unlike the overhead press, windmills, snatches, and other exercises that build your shoulders, halos are very easy to learn.
Without lots of coaching.
All you need to learn is to keep your core tight, head up, and arms rotating the weight around your head. All it takes is 2-3 sets of focusing on this and you’ll have the technique perfected.
- Kettlebell Halos Are Infinitely Scalable
Once you’ve gotten the technique down and have built up your strength and mobility you can do halos from different positions and add them to other exercises for more of a challenge.
Here’re a few examples:
- Static split squats with a halo
- Doing halos while standing on one leg
- Doing a halo follows by overhead presses
- Kneeling in a lunge position
Give them a try and see how much stronger your shoulders and core are after a few weeks.
- Halos Can Relieve Back And Neck Pain
Mobile shoulders aren’t the only benefit you’ll get doing halos. Your upper back and neck, which are part of your thoracic spine will also benefit.
Sitting for long periods, especially when you’re staring at a computer phone can make your back and neck tight. So much so that it decreases your mobility and causes pain. You may have felt it before when you stand up after sitting and typing for long periods of time.
I know I do. Some days I work almost exclusively from my phone. Sitting with my shoulders rounded and head down tightens my shoulders and makes my neck hurt.
When I make the mistake of sitting this way I like to do a few sets of kettlebell halos. Afterward my pain is gone and my mobility returns.
How To Add Halos To Your Workout
When you do kettlebells, along with the weight you use and number of sets and reps varies based upon your own needs and goals.
Here’re a few guidelines for you.
- If you’re doing them as a warm-up. Do them before any other exercises. Choose a weight that you can do 10 halos in both directions for 2-3 sets.
- When you’re doing halos to build strength, muscle, and stability. In this case you should do your halos as the first upper body exercise of your workout. Use a weight that’s challenging to do 6-8 reps with good form. Doing 3-5 sets works best.
Now that you know all the benefits of kettlebell halos it’s time to give them a try for yourself. You should feel its benefits after the first set. Within a month of doing them consistently you’ll wonder why you didn’t start them sooner.