Kettlebell Swing Do’s and Don’ts

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This past weekend I taught a StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course at Iron Body Studios and someone asked me the question, “How far back into your hips should you sit when doing a kettlebell swing?”

My answer, “As far back as you possibly can, as your hip mobility will allow you, while still maintaining a neutral spine, as long as you don’t look like Jillian Michaels.”

Jillian Michaels Swing

There are so many things wrong with this picture, let me list the ways…

DON’T: The sneakers. Do not wear big cushioned running or cross training shoes with an elevated heel when doing kettlebell swings or training with kettlebells. It’s like trying to text with your iPhone while wearing a mitten.

DO: Wear minimalist shoes or go completely barefoot so that you can have the least amount of shoe between your feet and the ground, (ideally nothing if you go barefoot), so that you can tap into the sensory receptors at the bottom of your feet which in turn will reflexively grip the ground for feedback and a stronger base.

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DON’T: JM is swinging the kettlebell way below her knees; TOO LOW. You’ll notice from her body position on the back swing that this causes her to stop moving through her hips and to start moving through her back and to go into spinal flexion. i.e. She is not keeping a neutral spine through the movement pattern of her swing. In addition, as she goes through the motion of swinging the kettlebell low between her knees, this creates a big arc and a long lever on the back swing that produces unnecessary and extra force on the back.

This sort of pattern can also cause something I call a “drinking bird” swing. With this swing, you are not sitting back into your hips enough to load the glutes (your butt) so your hips are too high and your hamstrings and back do all the work.

Conversely, you also don’t want to cut your hip hinge short and not only hit yourself in the crotch with the kettlebell but also let your back do all the work.

DO: When you swing the kettlebell between your legs for the back swing, you should cut the arc short, swing the kettlebell above your knees, and high up on your inner thighs so that your forearms touch your inner thighs. This is related to the timing of the swing in that your hips are the last thing to move back on the back swing.

Your arms initiate the force on the kettlebell for the back swing, then as the kettlebell approaches your hips, you hinge back to get out of the way of the kettlebell. You essentially play chicken with your crotch. If you have chalk on your hands when doing a kettlebell swing, then you should also have chalk on your crotch. Yes, I know, it’s a lovely visual.

DON’T: As I mentioned previously, DO NOT go into spinal flexion and move through your back to do a kettlebell swing.

DO: Always move through your hips and keep your spine neutral.

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You want to sit back deep, and low into your hips to load your glutes so that your glutes do the work and so that you can generate the most power for the kettlebell swing. As demonstrated in the picture above, your body position should be shoulders positioned higher than your hips and hips positioned higher than your knees.

You’ll notice in all of pictures and the video of me doing a kettlebell swing that I sit far back and low into my hips and that my elbows do not pass my legs on the back swing. I keep my spine neutral and chest and eyes high (i.e. I look out on the floor in front of me, out to the “horizon” not down or between my legs) on the hinge and back swing of the kettlebell swing.

If you would like to learn more about the kettlebell swing and kettlebell basics, I will be teaching  another  StrongFirst  Kettlebell  User  Course  at Iron Body Studios on June 5, 2016.

This course is perfect for both coaches and fitness enthusiasts who are brand new to kettlebell training or need to brush up on kettlebell basics, OR  it is an excellent pre-requisite if you are preparing to attend your StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Certification.

I will  teach  the  fundamental  kettlebell  movements.

  • Deadlift
  • Two  Handed  Swing
  • Turkish  Get  Up
  • Military  Press
  • Single  Leg  Dead  lift

I  will  also  cover  diaphragmatic  breathing  as  it  relates  to  these  kettlebell  movements,  as  well  as  programming  and  two  key  principles  of  programming:

  1. Continuity  of  the  training  process
  2. Waving  the  loads

A  $250  scholarship  toward  the  SFG  Level  I  Kettlebell Certification is  awarded  to  those  who  attend  this  course  and  sign-up  within  90  days  for  any  SFG  Level  I.

You can register for this StrongFirst User Course HERE.

I hope to see you on June 5!

One Comment on “Kettlebell Swing Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Pingback: Sport- und Fitnessblogs am Sonntag, 8. Mai 2016

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