Mastering the Kettlebell Swing

Common Kettlebell Swing Faults

An ugly swing is a potentially injurious swing so minimize your risk by avoiding these faults…

  • Rounded lower back at the bottom of the swing – Remember to drive your hips back and only bend your knees slightly. As Russian Kettlebell instructor Dan John says; attack your crotch. He doesn’t mean actually hit yourself in the groin but, rather, keep the kettlebell as high off the ground and close to you are reasonably possible. Also, your kettlebell may be too heavy. Perfect your technique before adding more weight.
  • Excessively arched lower back at the top of the swing – you may be swinging the kettlebell above shoulder height which tends to throw the back into extension. Alternatively you might not be bracing your abs and lats with sufficient force to a) keep your spine aligned and b) bring the kettlebell to an abrupt stop. Make a point of exhaling as your arms reach parallel to the floor and really tensing your abs and lats hard to arrest the travel of the kettlebell.
  • Your lower back hurts/feels tired during sets of swings – Firstly, you may lack local muscular endurance in your erector spinae. This will improve with regular swing workouts. Keep your sets relatively short and do not use weights that are too heavy. Increase your swinging volume gradually as your endurance increases.Alternatively, you might not be using your hamstrings and glutes to their full capacity which means you are probably relying too much on your back. Remember; drive your hips back and only bend your knees slightly. Sitting back “coils” your hamstrings like a powerful spring.Finally, make sure your shoulders do not project very far beyond your feet as if they do your back is placed in a mechanically disadvantageous position. To fix this, stand in your normal swinging stance with your back to a wall so your feet are around 12 inches/30 centimetres away. Bend your knees slightly and push your hips back so you touch it with your b**t. Move a few more inches away from the wall and repeat. Once this hips back movement is ingrained, you should find you can use your glutes and hamstrings more and your lower back less.

kettlebel swing one arm

Kettlebell Swing Variations

The two-handed kettlebell swing described above is a great exercise but, for variation, you can perform your swings in a number of different but equally effective ways…

One handed kettlebell swings
Grasp your kettlebell with one hand instead of two. This increases rotational force which subsequently increases the involvement of your obliques. Perform a single set using one hand, rest a moment and then perform a set with your opposite hand.

Alternating kettlebell swings
Perform single arm kettlebell swings but change hands at the top of each swing. This is tricky if you have big hands or a small handled kettlebell but adds an element of coordination to the exercise.

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