The Kettlebell Swing
Firstly, I had to put that picture in the homepage gallery, Andrew just jumped into the picture I was taking and it looked so funny I had to use it for a laugh LOL
Back in February, I did a couple of “Kettlebells for Beginners” tutorial videos, and the first one was on the Kettlebell swing. I feel I am at the stage now, where I can go back an re-do this tutorial and expand more on the technical pointers you should be following when doing this exercise.
The Kettlebell swing is used in a lot of my workouts as it is not only an excellent cardiovascular exercise, but it helps balance out anterior muscle dominance, by helping to develop a strong and powerful posterior chain. The posterior chain that I keep talking about includes mainly the erector spinae (lower back), gluteus maximus and medius (your butt) and the hamstrings (back of the legs). To some degree it also involves the upper back and the muscles that help pull your shoulder blades in and down (lats, rhomboids and traps).
When I did my post a few months back on “Building a Strong Back and Core“, I should have put the Kettlebell swing in as one of the number one exercises for preventing and rehabilitating lower back pain and poor posture. My lower back is so resilient now compared to even 6 months ago, and I put it down to the KB swing. When newbies come to our Kettlebell class, one of the most common issues is feeling the KB swing in the lower back. The reason this is happening is because the lower back is so weak, it fatigues quicker and is usually over-compensating for tight hip flexors, under-active glutes, and tight hamstrings. These weaknesses have “desk-job” as their root cause, but this is not always the case.
It takes people a while to get the hang of all the elements in a swing, and to really get the full benefits from the exercise, you should follow some basic teaching points:
- Stand with knees just over hip width apart, with toes pointing slightly outward.
- Hold the Kettlebell in front of the thighs with an overhand grip.
- Thrust forward to “bump” the KB into motion, doing a half swing.
- When receiving the bell back down, allow the knees to bend slightly but don’t be tempted to squat. Bend the body in the middle so you’re torso is bent forward with a straight back, always look forward. It’s a little like the position for a “Good Morning” or Stiff-Leg Deadlift, so you want to feel a stretch in the hamstrings, but keep the back straight.
- Keep the KB near the top of the inner thigh when in this position, as you may start to arch the back if the KB drops too low to the ground.
- On the upward motion allow the energy from the hamstring stretch to recoil and accelerate the KB up to about shoulder height, follow this movement through by squeezing the glutes and locking the knees and hips, getting that “snap”. Squeezing the glutes and straightening will ensure the lower back does not become fatigued, as it will be able to rest at the top for a brief second.
- Allow the KB to drop to thigh height with the arms, and just before it goes through the legs, bend the body forward and the butt back as before. Repeat as needed.
The next list is the most common mistakes or problems encountered:
- Lower back strain – caused by not enough follow through with the glutes.
- Too much squatting – remember this is a swing forward and back, not up and down. Imagine if you let go of the KB mid-swing – you would want to see the KB fly across the room and be able to hit a wall in front of you or behind you, not up to the ceiling or onto the floor.
- Lifting the KB with your arms. The arms should not be working at all, except to hold the Bell. If you are lifting the bell up, you need a heavier weight.
- Not enough acceleration, get angry with the swing and watch the KB raise to shoulder height. Remember the force comes from the hamstrings and the glutes, so use them!
I hope the video demonstration is useful and you can understand my direction alright. Remember you can go heavier than you think with the KB swing, so don’t be afraid to branch out. Just don’t let go LOL
The next tutorial will be coming soon.