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Kettlebell Swings…How and Why

How to Be A Great Swinger!

Kettlebell swings are personally one of my favorite exercises.  No matter your fitness level, you can learn to swing properly and efficiently.

Swing Stance and Set Up

Start with placing your feet slightly outside hip width. Your stance should be more narrow than a squat stance, with toes pointing forward. From this position, you will “hinge” your hips back, and allow a slight bend in the knee or “soft” knees. If you are unfamiliar with a hip hinge, (in its simplest form) visualize this. You’ve got both arms full of groceries and you need to shut your car door. Without thought, you abruptly press your butt towards your car door and shut it. You’ve probably done that a thousand times. This is ‘hinging your hip’. Read more about hip hinging in Bobby Scott’s article: https://www.nbsfitness.net/hip-hinging-important/

Your shoulders should be above the hips, and the hips above the knees. Your spine maintains a neutral position.  I often see people make the mistake of setting up their swing with their legs in more of a squat like position or allowing the knees to travel forward. This is incorrect.  Setting up this way inadvertently puts pressure on the knees and loads the quadriceps.  Over time this can create a sheering on the knees and that would be unpleasant. Furthermore, we want the hamstrings, glutes and adductors involved in the work, not the quads.  Additionally, the shins should be as vertical as possible.

Good hip hinge!
Not good! Knees are forward and hip is too low.

Upper Body Set Up

As stated above, your spine will be in a neutral position and it will maintain this neutral position throughout your swings. You will press your lats back and down. This is a very important step but sometimes its hard for us to figure out how to contract our lats, so try squeezing your spine with your shoulder blades. Creating tension here will keep your low back safe and out of trouble. Keep a ‘proud chest’, head up, and eyes fixed straight ahead.

Get Started

You will start the swing with the kettlbell on the floor about one foot in front of you. Starting the kettlbell here will help to create momentum before you start swinging.  With your body positioned as stated above, reach forward for the kettlebell and grab by the ‘horn’.  You will ‘hike’ the kettlebell.  The inner part of the forearms will be hitting very high near the groin and the bottom of the kettlebell will be pointing behind you, not towards the ground. You will now press your heels into the floor and quickly bring your legs and hip to full extension, making sure to contract the glutes. The kettlebell should swing to about eye level. As gravity brings your kettlebell back down, hinge your hip back to start position so you’re ready to re-engage for another swing.  The arms really have little power. The force that you are creating be pressing into the floor with your feet, transferring that force with the quick extension of the hip will allow the arms to rise on their own, thus allowing the kettlbell to rise.

“Hike” the kettlebell.

Breathe

Let’s talk briefly about breathing. Creating a rhythmic breathing pattern will allow you to perform more swings in a given set, as it will allow you to have a bit of control over your heart rate.  Inhale when the kettlebell is at the bottom in the ‘loaded’ position. Exhale as you come into full extension. It will take time to learn the breathing pattern but with practice, you’ll get it with no problem!

Benefits

Some of the benefits to learning kettlebell swings and incorporating them in your weekly routine include an increase in your aerobic capacity, your anaerobic capacity, as well as your muscular endurance.  To increase your aerobic capacity, use a light kettlebell and perform high rep sets of 50 or more to give your heart and lungs a good workout. A good goal would be to get to 500 – 1000 reps.  For an increase in your anaerobic capacity, use a heavier kettlbell. Swing for 30 – 90 seconds, with an equivalent work/rest ratio.  Your heart rate will increase dramatically! Muscular endurance is your ability to generate max muscular contractions for extended periods of time. Perform moderate to high reps using a moderate weight,  combined with short rests. Your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, shoulders and arms all work together effectively and efficiently during kettlebell swings so over time you will strengthen each of these.

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