In recents years, the kettlebell swing has come to great popularity being touted as the solution to all of your strength, conditioning, and body composition woes. Although the benefits are sometimes exaggerated, it is still a phemonemal exercise that provides numerous benefits and is deserving of a spot somewhere in your training regimen provided you can perform them safely and effectively.
The kettlebell swing is excellent for developing the posterior chain (the muscles on the back side of the body,) developing explosiveness, as well as developing a solid base level of conditioning. The swing is movement that should be done using submaximal weight and is best performed for high reps anywhere from 10 to 50 and more. It’s also great to use in timed sets or circuits and has an immense training effect on the cardiovascular system.
Unfortunately, due to the immense popularity of this exercise (everybody and their grandmother’s want to do the swing) it’s often done incorrectly. The movement operates as a pendulum that requires a fine balance between tension and relaxation of the muscles to get proper momentum. The following are examples of important details that people neglect when performing kettlebell swings and that hinder progression toward other kettlebell movements such as cleans and snatches.
The kettlebell swing commences with a powerful hike back between the legs. A lot of people start the swing by deadlifting and trying to groove the pattern in midair. However the best way to start the swing is by placing it roughly two feet infront of you and then powerfully hiking it back between your legs, like football player hiking a ball to their teammate. This allows the pendulum movement of the swing to start with the downswing allowing the arms to stay relaxed during the movement.
Another crucial part to successfully swinging a kettlbell is keeping a soft grip. This means that you want to gently hook your hands around the handle of the bell. This will prevent severe callouses and overuse of the arms during the swing which is important as the swing is launched by the hips while the arms are acting as a tether not a prime mover.
If your arms tend to get tired while doing the kettlebell swing, try a few sets of towel swings, this will teach you to launch the kettlebell with your hips. To perform the towel swing, loop a towel around the handle of the kettlebell and hold on to the ends of the towel – perform the swing as usual.
The kettlebell swing is a hip dominant movement, meaning the glutes provide the force required to start the upswing. When you come to the end of the downswing you want to squeeze the glutes as hard as possible while pushing the feet into the floor, this will let the bell float back up and allow the pendulum motion to continue.
While peaking at the top of the swing and hitting the lockout, a lot of people will forget to engage their abs and shift in to letting their ribs float up which will displace tension into the lower back (which can lead to pain and injury.) The top of the kettlebell swing should look like a standing plank without excessive arching in the lower back – the abs and glutes should both feel tense.
ATTACK YOUR FLY
Another common mistake many people make (from gym goers to top coaches) is allowing the kettlebell to dip below the knees. This kills the power being generated from the glutes and will result in using the arms and lower back to muscle the kettlebell up leading to inefficiency. The closer the kettlebell is to the muscle launching the movement, the easier it will be to perform the exercise.
As we know, the kettlebell is launched by the glutes, so to keep the kettlebell close to the glutes when it is most proximal to the body imagine you are wearing jeans and aim your hands for your zipper on the downswing. At the end of the movement your chest should be close to parallel with the floor and the kettlebell should be behind you between your legs.
Last but not least, after you’ve completed a beautiful set of kettlebell swings you want to park the kettlebell. Parking the kettlebell and finishing your set properly will prevent you from trying to figure any new and inventive ways to injure yourself while trying to figure out how to stop the swing. All you have to do after the last downswing is keep your chest low and just allow the bell to come forward and down from your hips which will park it gently on the floor.
Put all that together and you should end up with a refined set of kettlebell swings that looks something like this.
Happy Kettlebell Swinging! 😀
Did this help you? Did you hate it? Would you like some Drake to go with those swings?