Four Simple Steps Towards Your First Kettlebell Swing

 

Kettlebell swings are one of the most popular exercises you can do with a kettlebell. The kettlebell swing is the foundation of almost every kettlebell exercise. The thing with the swing, is that if you’re not working with a coach you’re probably not doing it right. In this article I will be providing the step by step approach I use to getting down your first kettlebell swing.

Picture1.pngDON’T DO THIS

 1. HIP HINGE- Begin with the feet shoulder length apart and imagine as if you have a string attached to the top of your head that’s pulling you up, this way you can be as tall as you can get. Have a slight bend in the knees, think very minimal bend but enough so it isn’t locked out. Imagine as if you are a can crusher, the can is placed at your belt line, you then push your hips back and crush the can with the hips and lower abdominals. Lastly keep your back as straight as you can by pulling your shoulder back, finish the hip hinge by standing up tall by locking the knees out and squeezing the glutes.

 

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Clean Up Your Hinge- It is very easy to squat the hinge (where you use more knee bend than hip bend) make sure that every time you perform a hip hinge you feel a good pull on the back of your legs. Using a dowel will help you with maintaining a straight back you will make sure that you keep the three points of contact (head, middle back between the shoulders, and lower back) in mind while hinging. The reason we want to avoid squatting the hip hinge is because we are not using the knees in a swing, we are using the hips to produce force. Maintaining proper alignment by keeping a straight back through the swing will help with avoiding injury.

 

2. Deadlift- The deadlift is the exact same set up as the hip hinge, but you are now loading up the hinge. Place the kettlebell between your feet so the handle is in line with your toes. Hip hinge down and grab onto the hand, when you grab the handle make sure that you try to break the handle in half that way the back of your arms are tight against the ribs. Pinch your shoulders back, sit back on the heel and stand up tall. Make sure you finish by squeezing the glutes very tight by trying to crack a walnut or break some pencils.

 

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Clean Up Your Deadlift- If you find yourself sitting far too back onto your heels where your toes are coming off the ground try this, punch your feet into the ground and imagine as if you are going to be pulling grass with your toes. Make sure that as your pulling the bell from the ground that you are keeping the elbows as straight as you can. Finish strong, make sure that you are embracing the abdominals and the glutes at the top of your position. Avoid arching your low back at the top of the deadlift, this can lead to low back pain. Explosive Deadlift– Once you’ve owned the deadlifting technique move on to the explosive deadlift. The explosive deadlift is the same as a regular deadlift except you are finishing the deadlift quick and powerful.

 

3. Hike Pass- The hike pass is done at the bottom position of your hinge. Place the bell about a foot or two away from you and tilt the bell towards you, it is crucial that you tilt the bell towards you to help the bell pass. Break the handle in half and sink the shoulder blades into your rear pockets. Imagine as if you are a football player and you are going to hike the kettlebell behind you, make sure that as you hike the bell behind you that you are getting the bell as far back as it can go, finish by placing the bell in the start position where it is tilted towards you.

 

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Clean Up Your Hike Pass- As you hike the bell behind you make sure that the triceps are in contact with the ribs. The hike pass needs to have the hands go high into the thigh, make sure that you are attacking your zipper with each pass. Inhale through the nose as you tilt the bell towards you and hike it back, as the bell comes back exhale through the mouth. Make sure you are maintaining a straight back while you are bringing your chest out in front of you as you hike the bell.

 
4. Swing- Finally the swing, we are now going to piece together steps one through three for your first kettlebell swing. Place the bell a foot or two away from you and get into your hike pass position. Hike the bell behind you and perform your explosive deadlift to propel the bell in front of you. The hands are meat hooks and the arms are ropes, the arms do not bring the bell up, it is the force generated from the hips that raise the bell up to the chest. Allow the bell to float down and hinge for you, park the bell and repeat the motion as singles until you are ready for continuous swings.

 

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Clean Up Your Swing- One area that many people have issues with is the timing of the hip hinge with the swing, as the bell is coming back down, WAIT for the bell to hinge you back, this is again attacking the zipper and keeping the hands from going below the knee. If you feel that you are using your upper body to swing, a quick fix for that is using a heavier bell, it is very difficult to muscle up a heavier bell up. If you are squatting your swing, revisit your deadlift and own that skill before you are swinging the bell again. BREATHING is very important when it comes to your swing, make sure that you are sniffing the air at the bottom of the swing and exhaling through the mouth at the top of the swing.

 

Putting It Together for Training- Now that we have all the right steps to perform a swing it’s time to put a plan together for it. Take a week owning each skill, apply three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Do not move on to the next progression until you have fully mastered the prior technique. Learning to swing does take time, but the benefits are well worth it.

Kettlebells: The Swiss Army Knife of Fitness.

Kettlebells are one of the most universal tools that build strength, endurance, mobility, power, rehab injuries, and anything else you can possibly think of. Not only are these tools universal for training, but they are easy to use anywhere. These cast iron bells have made a huge impact in the fitness industry. Being able to utilize a single tool with so many different purposes has given it the name Swiss Army Knife of Fitness.

 

Strength- Kettlebells have been known for the “What the Hell Effect” which is phrase used after using kettlebells for some time and seeing the carry over to other exercises. The strength that can be built with using kettlebells can carry over to barbell lifts, bodyweight exercises, strongman lifts, and sandbag exercises. For example, I have taken away all barbell exercises for 10 months now and have just focused on kettlebells and natural movement, to retest some strength I went and did 315lbs for 10 repetitions on a back squat (https://www.instagram.com/p/BLhWRf7FHbl/?taken-by=restoredstrength ). Kettlebells may not seem sexy like a barbell with 10 plates, but they build the same amount of strength.

 

Endurance- Swings, that’s all you need to know about endurance training with kettlebells, well there are other awesome exercises, but mainly the swing is the trick here. Being able to produce high volume swings with minimum rest is the bread and butter of endurance training with kettlebells. A popular method used when training endurance work with kettlebells is the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) method, this allows for high intensity work with a short amount of recovery. Kettlebells have proven themselves worthy overtime as to how swinging the cast iron can improve your endurance by cutting seconds to minutes off run times.

 

Mobility- “If you are tight you are weak” is a statement made by Pavel Tsatsouline, this statement holds true to the idea that restricted ranges of motion prevent optimal use of strength. Kettlebells have this unique way of helping us fight this ugly disease of immobility and tight muscles. One of my favorite exercises is the halo that assists with thoracic mobility, but then also using the side bent sit position with a kettlebell to open up the hips. Mobility work and kettlebells go hand in hand by providing the user with a tool of strength with new found ranges of motion.

 

Power- The ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements is defined as power. Using exercises like the swing or the snatch, kettlebells have the ability to build a large amount of power. The amount of tension, speed, and force needed to complete a swing or a snatch is very high, thus carrying over into the production of power. Kettlebell exercises have been known to carry over in aiding athletes to improve their performance in their sports by increasing their power output.

 

Rehab- Seriously what can’t these things do? If you were to look up “Kettlebells and back pain” you be flooded with information on google, this is because kettlebells when used correctly can fix lower back pain. The kettlebell arm bar has been shown to improve strength and stability in the rotator cuff which is a commonly injured muscle, using this exercise can be used as injury prevention. Lastly kettlebells have been proven to fix glute amnesia which is the inability to activate your glutes, which can lead to lower back pain.

 

Putting Your Swiss Army Knife to Use- Now that you have a better understanding as to how many different ways you can use your kettlebell, it’s time to put it to use. Each category can be used to your advantage when training. It’s simply up to you as to where you want to put each category and how it will fit into your goals. I have provided a sample program of implementing each category into a sample day-one program. This is just an example as to how you can use kettlebells. The first colored box is to have the exercises paired together, and repeating with each paired set. Hopefully this can help you to start using more kettlebell exercises in your training!

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Day One