Kettlebell Swings are an incredible exercise. They build explosive power in the hips, strength in the entire posterior chain and full-body endurance.
But here's the problem—Kettlebell Swings can be a bit tricky to perfect if you don't have much experience with them and/or don't have a coach or experienced training partner to teach you and examine your form.
Let's look at a proficient Kettlebell Swing:
That's what a good Kettlebell Swing looks like in motion. It looks simple and intuitive, but there are a few things people often botch. Namely, squatting the weight instead of swinging it, and overextending at the top of the movement.
Let's look at two drills that can quickly address these issues and clean up your Kettlebell Swing to produce better results.
The Mistake: Squatting the Weight
When you first learn to swing, you may find yourself wanting to "squat" the weight instead of strictly hinging at the hip. This is incorrect and significantly alters the effects of the exercise. Think hinge, not squat.
The Fix: Goat Belly Hinges
Why is it called a Goat Belly Hinge? I have no idea, but what I do know is that it works very well.
Take a lighter kettlebell and place the bottom of the bell on your belly button with hands on the sides of the handle or "horns." Assume the same stance as the swing and bend the knees slightly. Initiate the hinge by pushing the bottom of the bell into the belly button and drive the hips back until you feel a big stretch in the hamstrings. Reverse the motion and repeat.
The Mistake: Overextending at the Top
The second most common mistake when learning the Kettlebell Swing is overextending at the top of the motion and arching back hard. This is bad. This places excessive force on the lumbar spine (the lower back) by throwing it into hyperextension. The result is a movement that can increase pain and decrease performance, instead of vice versa.
The Fix: Partner Swing Drill
You will need a friend for this one, so grab a buddy or coach to help you out.
Have your partner stand next to and slightly behind you, positioning themselves within arm's reach. Stand up tall and instruct them to gently place their hand on your upper back and keep it in the same exact spot for the entire set.
Next, get into your setup and start swinging. When you lock out your knees and hips and are at the top of the swing, you should feel your partner's hand on your upper back, but you should not slam into their hand or move their hand backwards. Their hand is simply there to help you learn where the top of the movement should be. Reverse the motion and repeat.
Give these two drills a shot and you will be swinging like a champ in no time!
When you put it all together, your Kettlebell Swing should look like that first video. When written out, here's what's behind a good Kettlebell Swing:
- Set the bell out in front of you and set up with feet about shoulder width or slightly wider.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge by pushing your hips back until you can comfortably reach the bell out in front.
- Place your hands on the top of the handle so the bottom of the bell on the farthest side away from you lifts slightly off the ground.
- Initiate the swing by "hiking" the bell back toward your body, like a snap in American football, and let momentum carry it high and tight between your legs.
- Once the bell is "hiked" between the legs, it's time to reverse the motion by explosively driving the hips forward.
- Your hips and knees should lock out simultaneously when the bell reaches about sternum height; there is no reason to go higher. At the point of lockout of the knees and hips, standing completely upright, you should experience almost a floating, weightless sensation of the bell at the top.
- Reverse the motion by hinging and letting the momentum of the bell carry it back, high and tight between the legs while maintaining a flat back.
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