If you’ve been to a bootcamp or PT session over the past few years you’re probably no stranger to the humble kettlebell.
Whether you use them as convenient weights with handles in your workouts or for pressing tofu (true story), the ACTUAL key kettlebell move is the swing.
Working your whole body in one flowing movement, the kettlebell swing is one move that you should definitely introduce into your workout routine.
And while it may look easy, don’t be fooled! Form and technique are everything, not only to ensure max results but also to avoid injury.
We spoke to Canada’s Kettlebell Queen to get the rundown on how to master the kettlebell swing…
No pressure—but the swing is a rite of passage in the kettlebell world. To get all of the unique biomechanical benefits of kettlebell, this motion must be executed correctly. This is the foundation exercise to all of the ballistic motions you performing with a kettlebell.
In our movement patterns, we should all incorporate push, pull, squat, hinge, and locomotion.
The swing is beloved for its hinge. But why is that so important?
Well, most people have tremendous difficulty with the hinge, because they spend most of the day sitting. The inability to hinge is linked to our culture of sitting, the reason many of us suffer back and knee pain or weakness.
Struggling to hinge means not being able to properly engage and activate the posterior chain of the body, particularly the glutes. These are the same muscles that help you run and protect you from back weakness. Instead, modern people and even some athletes are unintentionally using their knees and lower backs to do all the work their butt muscles are supposed to do. This leads to overuse and misuse of other areas of the body. This leads to knee pain and eventual knee or ankle injury, as well as back pain, which can then lead to shoulder and neck injury.
Here’s how to execute the perfect Double-Handed Kettlebell Swing, step by step:
With both hands, pick up the kettlebell by the handle and sit back in a hinge, bending more deeply at the hips then at the knees and your back straight.
From the hinged position, swing the kettlebell back and behind your knees.
Swing the kettlebell up to shoulder level with your arms straight as you thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back into the standing position.
Make sure your butt muscles are engaged by squeezing your glutes together tightly.
Do not raise the kettlebell with your arms. Your arms and the kettlebell should feel weightless through the entire motion as it’s using momentum to move. Don’t try to ‘muscle it up’.
At the top of the swing, remember to keep your arms straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell no higher than chest level as you rise to a standing position.
Do not bend back at the top of the motion.
- The first thing to understand with kettlebells is that you must link your body together into one strong chain of action. This principle ensures that you will not be placing any stress of pressure on any one joint or muscle. Additionally, it will secure the total-body principles on which kettlebells are built. Link your body by applying proper form, checking your alignment and center of gravity, and executing each move with a flow of motion.
- Stay rooted into the ground. Never explode out with the kettle bell, don’t let your heels or toes go off balance or off the ground. In swinging motions especially, keep yourself rooted and remember to use and engage the glutes.
- In your swing, do not squat! Generate power with your hips by pushing your hips back toward the wall behind you (not by squatting to the floor) and then snapping your hips forward.
- Do not hyperextend or bend your back into a backward bend. Your glutes must squeeze together before you can even attempt a backward bend.
- Aim to squeeze your glutes before the kettlebell reaches face level—as it does, pop the hip forward and consciously let the kettlebell fall back behind the knees.
- At the hinge, the kettlebell falls above and behind the knees. At the standing position, it comes up to face level and no higher.
- Speed comes from making sure your force the kettlebell down, not letting gravity do all the work.
Swing do’s and don’t’s
- Don’t squat! If you squat during this motion, it will not be a posterior chain motion, therefore you won’t be focusing on the glutes and hamstrings—the very area this motion was created for! Remember—a squat is a squat and a hinge is a hinge!
- Don’t lift the kettlebell with your arms! You can easily hurt yourself, plus this is not a lift or an arm exercise. The kettlebell should feel weightless in your arms the entire time.
- Don’t keep your legs straight. The hinge required for a kettlebell swing has a mild bend at the knee, and the hip—it’s not a full extension.
- Don’t backward bend. Remember that your butt muscles are supposed to stop the motion of the bell at the top. If you let the kettlebell go past your shoulders and you do not engage the glutes, you risk hurting your back instead of strengthening your back, core, and butt muscles. So make sure to stop at shoulder level, and keep your glutes activated and protecting the back. Your butt muscles should not allow a backward bend.
All of your swinging motions will come from this form, so practice this and try to execute each step as instructed above. If you are not following the protocol above, you are not doing a kettlebell swing, and you are not getting the benefit. So no squatting or arm lifts—use your hinge and the power generated by your hips as well as the stability of your core—nothing else!
How do you use kettlebells in your workouts?
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