Kettlebells have had a meteoric rise to fame over the last few years. It seems like everyone wants to learn how to train with kettlebells. The kettlebell swing is one of the most popular exercises that have made their way into just about everyone’s programming lately. But not many people actually take the time to figure out how to kettlebell swing properly. It may not look like a difficult movement when you see it in action, but it’s actually quite complicated, especially for beginners who have never touched a kettlebell.
I use the kettlebell swing in my programming very often and I love the results it gives me. Once you perfect the kettlebell swing, there are many different variations you can add to your programming that will give you even better results. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First I’m going to take you through some basic steps of how to perform the kettlebell swing properly, then I’ll walk you through the most common mistakes that see people making in the gym when they do kettlebell swings. I’ll also offer some tips on how to include kettlebell swings into your programming so you can see incredible results. Keep in mind that if you’re new to the kettlebell, the kettlebell swing may not be an easy feat for you at first. That’s OK. Just be patient, keep working at it, and always make sure you’re moving with the correct alignment.
How Do You Execute a Kettlebell Swing?
The first thing you need to know about the kettlebell swing is that it’s not an upper-body exercise. The power comes from your hips. Here’s the sequence of events that happen in the perfect kettlebell swing:
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Place the kettlebell about 12 inches in front of your body and grab the handle of the kettlebell so that the bell is slanted, with the handle angling towards you.
- Hinge from your hips with a flat back (no rounding of your back!). Squeeze your shoulder blades together and engage your core.
- Pull the kettlebell from the point on the floor until the bell goes through your legs, under your hips, as you glue your arms to your body as quickly as you can
- Drive through your heels and power your hips forward to send the kettlebell swinging forward.
- When the kettlebell is at the apex of the swing, which is about eye height, your hips and knees should be hit full extension. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
- As the kettlebell descends, marry your arms to your body as quickly as possible so the kettlebell is in line with your spine.
- Shift the weight into your heels and hinge from your hips to receive the weight between your legs.
- Rinse and repeat.
This list of instructions seems pretty straightforward, but it’s not an easy move to nail on the first try. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to hinge from your hips rather than squatting down. Your knees will naturally bend slightly but make sure the power is being driven from your hips. Another important thing to keep in mind is to marry your arms to your body as quickly as possible when the kettlebell is descending down from the apex; don’t hinge your hips too soon (more on this mistake below). This ensures that the weight is in line with your spine, which will help prevent injury and allow you to accept more weight.
What Are the Common Mistakes of the Kettlebell Swing?
Kettlebell swings often elicit several common mistakes amongst many people who try it for the first time. Perhaps the most common mistake is squatting rather than hinging at the hips. Think about sending your hips backwards rather then bending your knees. A good partner drill is to hold your fist a few inches in front of your partner’s knee. Their knee should never touch your fist during the kettlebell swing. This encourages you to hinge and drive from the hips rather than bend the knees too much.
Another very common mistake is hinging from the hips too soon once the kettlebell is coming down from the apex. To fix this, think about marrying your arms to your torso as soon as you can while the kettlebell is descending. This will prevent you from hinging the hips too soon. It’s all about timing, and that’s something that you’ll gain over time.
Another common mistake is using your arms to drive the kettlebell rather than your hips. You can quickly identify if someone is doing this if you’re watching from the side and you can see that the bell of the kettlebell falls towards the ground when it’s at the apex. You should never be lifting up the kettlebell with your arms. The power should always come from your hips. So if you feel like you’re lifting the weight up with your upper-body strength, think more about sending your hips forward with a snap—it’s more of a sharp movement than a slow, heavy one.
How Do You Include Kettlebell Swing Into Your Programming?
There are many different ways to incorporate kettlebell swings into your programming. I like to mix them in with full-body circuits, alternating movements like push-ups, rows, or cleans with the classic kettlebell swing. You can also use kettlebell swings for a cardiovascular pump as a warmup or a sweaty finisher to a workout.
If you really want to get the hang of the kettlebell swing, I recommend you train them three times a week. Experiment with using different weights, rep count, etc. and when you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, you can reduce it to twice a week. Don’t forget to be patient, even if you feel like you’re not getting it at first. Hard work will pay off and you’ll be proud of your progress.