The kettlebell halo is a core training staple that can help to bulletproof your shoulders, but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this movement, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it’s such a simple, essential exercise that should serve as one of the centerpieces of your training plan. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the halo’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before you grab a kettlebell and put it into orbit around your head, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Your positioning and posture are essential to recruiting the right muscles to keep your delicate shoulder joints mobile, safe, and healthy—so let’s break down everything you need to know.
Eb says: No matter the stance you use for halos, whether kneeling, or standing, or half-kneeling, focus intently on keeping your abs tight so your ribcage stays tight to the body. This is the undisputed key to the halo.
Once you begin to rotate the weight, your ribs will begin to flare. It’s on you to manage and oppose that ribcage flare. The way you do that is about intention: As you begin to rotate the weight, continually check in with your abs. Every few seconds, ask yourself ‘Are you ribs still tight?'” Keep asking this question, over and over again, as you rotate the weight.
Take Your Time
Eb says: Don’t rush through the halo. Doing so will lead you to move through your midback instead of rotating and getting all the value out of the move for shoulder mobility.
Take your time and rotate it slowly, constantly disciplining yourself to keep your abs tight and squeeze your shoulder blades as the weight progresses around. Rushing the move limits its overall usefulness.
Eb says: Keep the weight as close to your head as possible. The tighter you make the halo around your head, the more your challenging your overhead shoulder mobility. You’re also forcing your shoulder muscles to operate with more control this way (you don’t want to hit your head, after all).
This doesn’t mean working through a range of motion that your shoulder doesn’t have though. The halo should never cause your shoulder pain. If it ever does, either stop doing halos for a bit, or widen the circle just slightly to accommodate for your own range of motion.
Switch Up Your Implements
Eb says: The beauty of the halo is that it has multiple uses and can be done with multiple implements. That includes other things in your gym, like dumbbells, maces, clubs, and medballs. It also includes things you may have around your house, like unopened gallon jugs of water.
Whether with heavy or light weight, you’ll be honing shoulder mobility, and we can always train our abs to aid in ribcage containment. The halo does a spectacular job of that, no matter the implement you’re using.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.