I’ve mastered this, take me to the next step.
The kettlebell swing is the most complete functional exercise out there. For calorie burning, back strengthening and insane conditioning, the kettlebell swing is all inclusive.
The kettlebell swing is the exercise that does it all. It demands that your body works in unity, keeping your mind connected to your body, it is about technique, power, strength and endurance. The swing will teach you how to move through your hips, instead of your back or knees, it will develop the ability to both accelerate and decelerate the bell. Performed either one handed or two handed, the swing is also one of the most important transitions into more complicated lifts, like the snatch. Take your time to develop this technique perfectly, and practice until you can’t get it wrong. Short sets with heavier weights are usually better for learning, the long sets aren’t as safe because it can be hard to concentrate as your endurance reaches it’s limit. Slightly heavier bells will also help you learn the proper motion with your hips than a bell that you can “muscle up” with your shoulders or back.
Before you begin swinging the kettlebell
Take a few minutes to teach your nervous system what to expect when the weight is in your hand. The first exercise in learning the top of the kettlebell swing (the end of the movement) is a plank. In the plank position, you will engage the same muscles to stabilize your bodyweight that you will be engaging at the top of the swing to stabilize the kettlebell. Essentially, a kettlebell swing is a plank in motion, this means ending in neutral posture. ”
Often, I see people finishing their swing still in the hip – flexed position, not coming all the way up to standing. Other times I see people arching their backs at the top of their swing, their shoulders ending up behind their hips and thats not good either. Feel this posture with bodyweight before thinking about swinging a bell! Flex your glutes but don’t hip extend. Tight abdomen but don’t flex in the spine, the reverse also applies. You want to be standing as straight up and down, or planked out, with every joint directly above the one below it. Many people are dominant in the hip flexors, and nearly everyone is tight in their hips somewhere. Please be careful and work at your own pace when it comes to taking the next steps forward. Correcting tightness should be done primarily on the level of the mind by reprogramming the software that stopped the muscle from working in a full range of motion to begin with. Teach the nervous system strength within a given range of motion and it will develop consistency in flexibility faster than anything else.
In the plank position, you will also be able to develop the basics of the “loaded lat”, the way your shoulder is pulled back and down, tightly and safely into the joint by the engaged lat muscle. The loaded lat will be performed from many angles, including overhead. It will also be performed from various angles with unstable weights so please take your time to feel it now. Pack your shoulder into the joint.
Perform this plank position from a prone position on the ground, as well as from standing. Find the neutral alignment of your body and feel the loaded lat. Packing the shoulder is going to be fundamental in many lifts that not only create amazing flexibility, but also help to align your posture faster than anything. It’s going to be a lot of fun, this isn’t mindless repping of weights, so get ready for the fun to start! Your patience is about to pay off!
Start Swinging Your Kettlebells
Everyone will have a different path to this point. That’s one of the most challenging parts of conveying my teaching to such a wide variety of people. Some people are swinging a kettlebell with me in their very first session, others aren’t swinging anything for six weeks or more! Please remember to pay attention to the details and don’t perform any of these lifts unless you have dialed in all of the basics. Your first time swinging a kettlebell you may notice not every repetition looks the same, that’s fine for now. Use all of the keys for safety that you have learned so far and keep the weight reasonable. The heavier weights will fix certain problems, but let your body tell you when it is time to move up. We are looking for consistent competency, where every repetition looks the same. This will happen naturally when all of the various thoughts become one sensation.
For now, here are some of things to focus on:
- Start the bell out front, as far out front as you can reach the bell without shifting your posture. If your hands gripping the bell are in front of your hips, it helps begin the backward motion of the pendulum as you stand.
- Assist the backward pendulum with your lats pulling the bell down.
- Think of a front to back movement, not up and down.
- On the backswing, keep the bell high, don’t swing it down by your knees.
- Plank tall at the top, glutes, abs and lats!
- Move through the hips!
- Learn to accelerate and decelerate the weight with your hips
- Sit back into your hips, not down
- Keep your knees aligned. Don’t let them go out over the ankle, or cave inward, don’t let your knees shift forward either.
- Keep your back flat
- Breathe in going down, exhale sharp at the top
- The bell should be weightless at the top, a straight line from your shoulder through the elbow, wrist and fist to the center of the kettlebell mass.
- This is a power phase lift, not strength phase like a deadlift, develop a hip snap!
The kettlebell swing will give you unbelievable benefits, like nothing you’ve ever done. Be patient and take your time to get it exact. Refer to the videos to make sure you can see how it is supposed to look and then duplicate that with your own body. Using a mirror might help at first, better yet, work with a friend or loved one and help each other out. This technique will have massive carry over to other kettlebell movements, so get to know it well, turn all of these thoughts into a feeling. You’re on your way to becoming a master girevik already!