Updated: Jul 16, 2021
The kettle bell swing is a reasonably complex movement. A lot of clients struggle getting the technique nailed down on this at the start.
The best thing to do for complicated movements to strip it back and simplify it. Then nailing each step of the movement to a high standard.
This will certainly help with performance and help reduce risk of injury.
To swing the kettle bell, first you have to pick it up. You pick it up very similar to how you’d perform a deadlift. In fact, there are a lot of deadlift similarities to the swing. Tight core, hip hinge with a flat back, braced shoulders and then up.
If you don’t start well, chances are you’re not gonna finish perform the exercise well. Starting with a rounded back, knees shooting forward and bad shoulder position are not a good start to an exercise.
So let’s go through correct set up and correctly performing the exercise.
As I just mentioned, the start is very like a deadlift, in fact a lot of this is like a deadlift. So I’ll not go on too much about that as I’ve already done a full deadlift break down. If you haven’t seen it check out https://www.rmfitness.net/post/how-to-deadlift
Feet straight, shoulder width stance, create hip torque, tight core and brace the shoulders.
Hip hinge keeping the shins straight. If you’re knees go forward a bit it’s not the end of the world, it’s a sign that you need to work on hamstring flexibility and engagement.
Like I said, this part if very deadlift like so not going to spend too much time on it. Just keep all your deadlift checks in mind while picking it up. It’ll also serve you well for your swing technique.
Now the main part, the swing itself. So to actually start the swing, drive your knees out, hinge forward and stick your butt out.
It’s very important however that when you stick your butt out that you do this by reaching back with your hamstrings. Although in my experience with clients, not a lot of people know what you mean when you say that. Saying stick your butt out or reach back with your butt makes more sense.
However, when people stick their butt out, they often do it by curling their lower back so they look like a duck. Obviously this tilt the pelvis forward and tightens up the lower back which we don’t want.
So it’s very important to remember to maintain that tight core at all times, especially when hinging.
As you do this, bring the kettle bell between your legs like you’re hiking an American football.
To swing the kettle bell up, drive your hips through and squeeze your glutes into full hip extension. Remember to the weight evenly distributed over the centre of your feet.
Think about driving your hips into your forearms and using that motion to swing the kettle bell.
Your arms should not go too far away from your body until you are fully extended. At the top there will be this feeling of almost weightlessness. Use this to squeeze your glutes and make sure your body remains well organised.
When coming down, go back the way you came. So you should receive the weight the same way that you started the movement. That means hips and hamstrings back, shins straight and core braced.
Creating tension and torque in the shoulders is incredibly important. If you fail to do this, your shoulders will compensate and rotate internally. Being aware of how you set up at the start and maintaining that will fix this.
Although, if you lack internal rotation in your shoulders it will be difficult to get a good stable shoulder position due to the narrow grip. If you have this issue you can grip the kettle bell from the side handles instead.
Just bear in mind that this should only be a short term solution. You should address the fact that you struggle to get into that position and then work on using a normal grip as soon as possible.
Another fault is following the weight between your legs. This is usually down to a lack of torque or brace. It is also common if you’ve a weak lower back. If at the loaded point of the swing were you are bent over, you lose all tension in your hips and shoulders and let the momentum pull you forward you will end up in this position.
There is a risk of this giving you lower back issues. This is common on the last rep as people tend to get to the top and count their last reps and then lose all that tension and come down on the swing with no torque or tension at all. Maintain all the steps that you go through when setting up at all times until you are completely finished the exercise.
The kettle bell swing is an amazing exercise. However, like anything else, not done properly it can do more damage than good. Follow these steps and you’ll be fine and should make great progress as long as you stick to it.