1. The kettlebell swing is one of the most dynamic loaded movements in any athlete’s training arsenal.
2. This is not a dynamic loaded squat! The KB swing gets butchered with this common mistake over and over again until a proper hip hinge fundamental movement pattern is grooved.
3. Accentuating your strength work with high velocity, high rep KB swings will add a metabolic component into your routine while also getting every last ounce out of your glutes, adductors and hamstrings before your workout leaves you on the floor dry heaving.
Introduction To The Swing
I am going to preface this article by making it clear that I am, by no means, a “kettlebell guy” that believes that the cannon ball with a handle is the most intelligently designed resistance apparatus known to man. I will go as far in saying that for many years early in my career, I have flat avoided the use of kettlebells whenever possible. This was mostly due to the cult following those RKC’s and other kettlebell certified fitness professionals buy into, and their single mindedness when it comes to exercise prescription and equipment use. That’s an entirely different story…
The best in the business realize that the field is always evolving. The key to success is to evolve with the times, and, when warranted, implement new techniques and movement only when it proves to be FAR superior to your previous protocols and teachings.
The kettlebell swing is one of the most dynamic loaded movements in any athlete’s training arsenal. It is also very equipment specific to the kettlebell, meaning if you don’t have a kettlebell, the exercise itself will not only be less effective, it will also lose it’s functionality. The unique shape of the kettlebell allows increased torque angle development throughout the motion, increasing the velocity and muscular recruitment of the motion. Simply put, the kettlebell swing will build muscle, improve your fundamental hip hinge pattern, and increase your functional power production, all while crushing you from a conditioning standpoint!
Enhance Your Technique
The setup position of the kettlebell swing is crucial for proper performance and technique.
1. Foot position will be unique to each individual, but a good starting position will be identical to your squat.
2. Place the kettlebell about 2ft in front of your toes.
3. We want to use our functional hip hinge to go down and grab the handle of the kettlebell, not just bend over at the waist and aimlessly stress our lower backs! (posture, posture, posture!!)
4. Pretend you are hiking a football through your legs to initiate the swing. Aim for the place between your cheeks where the sun don’t shine!
5. While maintaining a neutral spine, reverse your hip hinge and achieve a triple extension moment (extension of the knee joint, hip joint and slight extension of the spine).
6. The shoulder girdle should stay active in dynamic stabilization, but should NOT assist in lifting of the kettlebell in any way, shape or form. The arms are there to provide leverage, and link the lower body to the load, nothing more, nothing less.
7. Keep the swing going from ass to triple extension for the prescribed rep scheme, and get ready for the burn!
Check out the videos below from both the front and side, and check out the key points below each video.
Kettlebell Swing Front View
Key Coaching Cues
Knee tracking is huge for this movement. The knees should maintain a neutral position (not moving in or out) during the swing. If you are having trouble keeping this position, fire the glutes harder to stabilize the hips.
The head will follow the spine. Since the eyes lead the rest of the spine, it is important to maintain a neutral position from the top down. When the kettlebell is at your glutes, your head position should be looking at the ground, while during the top of the movement, your head should be in anatomical neutral.
Kettlebell Swing Side View
Key Coaching Cues
Notice I am not squatting. This is a common mistake with newbies to the swing, or to those whose squat technique is ingrained in every movement they complete with their lower body! The knees move from a 10-15 degree bend when the kettlebell is at your glutes to a straight knee position at the top of the motion. Think deadlift.
Breathing is a huge component of the swing. To enhance your intra-abdominal pressure and stability your lumbar spine, coordinate your breath with the swing. Exhale when the kettlebell is at the apex of the movement.
Programming For Conditioning
Lately, I have been using the kettlebell swing exclusively for lower body emphasis day lift finishers. If you are already crushing well balanced lower body split days, you are most likely working the posterior chain hard (hopefully in a 2:1 ratio posterior to anterior). Accentuating your strength work with high velocity, high rep kettlebell swings will add a metabolic component into your routine while also getting every last ounce out of your glutes, adductors and hamstrings before your workout leaves you on the floor dry heaving. Here’s my recommended programming:
Load– can vary, make sure it is a load that you can complete all reps with pristine form
Rest– 15 seconds
Start with this, and vary the program accordingly. I always increase my reps before increasing load to challenge my metabolic system rather than my muscular strength. That is, indeed why we are doing finishers in the first place!
I have lived, and I have learned…to coach the kettlebell swing because there is truly no other loaded movement like it available to athletes and trainees today. The swing, along with loaded carries, prove the kettlebell to be a necessity in any type of training program. Get out there and start swinging! Oh, and did I mention that kettlebell swings burn a shit ton of calories? Even better, get to work!
About The Author
Meet Dr. John Rusin | The Strength Doc
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer, whose published over 200 articles in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Men’s Fitness, Testosterone Nation, Mountain Dog Diet, Bodybuilding.com, and Muscle and Strength, to name a few.
Along with an impressive laundry list of publications, Dr. John works with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Star Pitchers, Professional Bodybuilders and World Class IronMan Triathletes.