Mastering the Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing Technique

Before you start, make sure you have sufficient space to swing your kettlebell safely. As there is a small risk of accidently letting go of the kettlebell mid-swing, I strongly suggest that you make sure there is nothing fragile directly to your front. I’ve heard numerous tales of kettlebells rocketing through patio doors, mirrors and even TVs!

Place your kettlebell on the floor slightly in front of you and between your shoulder-width apart feet. Bend your knees slightly and using good deadlift technique, (see issue 22-1 for details) reach down and grasp your kettlebell with a two-handed overhand grip and stand up. Make sure you keep your arms straight throughout. Lift your chest, arch your lower back slightly, draw your shoulders back and look directly forwards.

kettlebell swing

From this position, bend your knees slightly, push your bottom back and hinge forwards from your hips. Lower the ball part of the kettlebell down between your knees so your hands are quite close to your groin. Many people make the mistake of turning this hip-dominant exercise into a knee-dominant exercise by squatting instead of hinging – don’t join them. A squatting swing is not as effective as a hinging swing.

With the kettlebell between your knees, feel your weight on your heels and tension in your hamstrings. Your lower back should still be slightly arched, your chest proud and your neck long. There should be an imaginary straight line running from your ears, through your shoulders and down to your hips and your shoulders should be directly over or very slightly in front of your feet.

From this position, drive your hips forwards by imagining you are performing a standing long jump (don’t ACTUALLY jump though!). Use this momentum to swing the weight up to shoulder height. Some kettlebell practitioners suggest that you swing the kettlebell all the way up and above your head – I don’t. This tends to encourage lumbar hyperextension which could lead to injury. Instead, stop this arc of the kettlebell as your arms reach parallel to the ground.

To stop the kettlebell in this position, strongly brace your abs and lats. Ideally you want to swing the kettlebell with enough power that you need to use quite a lot of effort to “break” it as your arms reach parallel. This action results in greater total muscle recruitment and makes the exercise more demanding.

From the midpoint of the swing, use your lats to drive the kettlebell back down – don’t simply let gravity pull the weight down. Bend your knees slightly and thrust your hips to the rear. Again, your hands should come close to your groin and the kettlebell should be around or slightly above knee height. Do not allow your body to fold over at the end of the descent. Keep your lower back arched and your chest up. No rounding of the spine please.

Transition from the downward swing and into another upward swing as smoothly as you can. Establish a steady rhythm and stick to it for the duration of your set.

Working out with Swings

There are numerous ways you can integrate kettlebell swings into your workouts…

  • Multiple high rep sets using a light/moderate weight kettlebell are great for fat loss and cardiovascular conditioning
  • Low rep sets using a heavy kettlebell provide a viable alternative for the more difficult and potentially risky Olympic lifts
  • Medium rep sets are a great exercise for circuit training
  • High rep sets (50 reps and above) are great for developing “mental toughness” , especially when you use a heavy kettlebell
  • A set of heavy kettlebell swings before deadlifts, squats or plyometrics (jumping exercises) really potentiates (excites) your nervous system which can lead to greater performance

However you work kettlebells into your training, ensure that you use good technique as heavy weights moving at a high velocity can cause serious injury. Always stop your set before your technique breaks down.  Common Faults ->


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