The swing is what the kettlebell is best known for and is the basis for pretty much every other lift. Once you have the swing mastered progressing on to the clean and the snatch is a lot easier. But the swing can also be a bit daunting for an absolute beginner as it can take a bit of practice to master and is easy to do wrong.
It took me going for my certification to get my swing correct, before that I was making the same mistake that most people make when first learning to swing. I was squatting and swinging the kettlebell with my arms, this is incorrect. The swing comes from hinging at the hips and straightening up with enough explosive power to send your arm and the kettlebell away from your body. The only role your arms play is stabilising the kettlebell as it rises and falls.
So in this post I plan to take you through the steps needed to master the basic kettlebell swing, and to begin we will revisit the hip hinge.
In my post detailing beginner lifts that you can do before you learn to swing we began with learning to hip hinge by box squatting. This helped us learn to slide our hips back and keep our backs straight, only now we need to start hinging even further forwards whilst maintaining a straight back. To teach this one of the things I like to do is use a wooden dowel held behind the back to keep it straight as we hinge forwards. There are two ways this can be done.
The first is with the dowel straight down the back along the spine.
But reaching all the way around to be able to hold the doweling vertically can be a bit difficult if you have tight shoulders, so the alternative is to hold the dowel horizontally across your lower back and hooking your arms underneath.
Again with the dowel in position we hinge forwards keeping our backs straight as we slide our hips backwards.
Once you’ve practiced hinging this way a few times the next step is to begin practicing the swing technique.
To begin it is a good idea to start without a kettlebell and simply mime the steps of the swing, beginning with the hike.
Stand straight with your feet shoulder width or slightly wider, hinge your hips back, keeping your back straight reach your arms slightly forwards as if you are about to hike a rugby ball. Now you are in the starting position for the swing.
The next step is to pull or hike your arms between your legs, once your arms reach as far back as they can, straighten up explosively.
DO NOT MOVE/LIFT YOUR ARMS
This is where people start to get into the bad habit of raising their arms, this is why when miming the swing I tell people to leave their arms still as they straighten up. Once we add a kettlebell to this movement the power generated by the hips will send it away from the body, this is what creates the swing. The arms simply guide the kettlebell as it rises and falls.
Now we’ve spent some time practicing a full hinge and miming the actions of a swing it’s time to grab a kettlebell and give it a go.
The swing can be broken down into 4 stages or verbal cues.
Hike, Hinge, Root and Float
As with when we were miming we begin with the Hike.
Set your kettlebell up about 12-18 inches in front of you. Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly. Gripping the kettlebell handle with both hands, pull your shoulders back and down into their sockets and activate your lats – the kettlebell will tilt towards you.
Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettlebell through your knees by contracting your lats.
Next up the Hinge.
Once the kettlebell reaches the top of its swing between your legs, before it has chance to begin it’s downswing, begin to stand by driving with your hips and pushing your feet into the floor, all the while keeping your back straight.
It is important to remember that Swings are a HINGE movement and not a squat, as I mentioned earlier this is where most people start to make mistakes.
The Root is the finish of the swing.
Think of the root as a standing plank where you are tightening every muscle in your body from your shoulders down…
Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot. Pull your knee caps up (“flex” your quads).
Squeeze your glutes as tight ass possible, brace your abs like you’re about to take a punch and pull your shoulders as far from your ears as possible contracting your lats. This is your ROOT position and this is your goal.
Just remember that when you’re in the ROOT, your goal is to get to the HINGE as quickly as possible. When you are in the HINGE, your goal is to stand up and get to the ROOT as explosively as possible.
The Float is what happens to the kettlebell when you do the swing correctly. It ensures that your energy is focused on your glutes and not on your trying to “muscle” the kettlebell up to a certain height.
When you go from HINGE to ROOT, the harder you contract your glutes, the higher the kettlebell will swing or FLOAT.
The higher the float of the kettlebell, the more rest you get between reps float is what the kettlebell will do while the rest of your body is in the root.
HIKE – HINGE – ROOT – FLOAT
This demonstrates the two handed swing, once you’ve mastered using both hands you can then move on to one handed Swings.
Remember what I said at the start of this tutorial, it can take a lot of practice to get the hang of the swing so be patient with yourself when trying to learn.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re getting the form exactly right feel free to post a video on my Facebook page and I can have a look at your swing and help with any parts you might be struggling with.