How and Why You Should Take Full Advantage Of The Kettlebell Swing *The full How-To-Edu video is above

The kettlebell swing is able to train and engage the posterior chain in an incredibly ‘functional’ and unique way. Great for athletes, recreational athletes to work power, endurance and neuromuscular efficiency – the hip is such an essential part of most sports and activities, as are the glutes and the back and core.

The swing is also incredible for anyone looking to lose fat (weight-loss in teh form of fat-loss), build muscle, avoid muscle imbalances and also add metabolic, cardio vascular fitness, including VO2max.

The Kettlebell Swing is a Posterior Chain Motion

The posterior chain is a group of muscles including the glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings that are commonly inhibited when sitting. As we stand and begin to do exercise, the muscles do not fire (work/engage) correctly during actions like squatting, lunging, running, or simply walking up the stairs.

Only when you execute the kettlebell swing correctly—using only the posterior chain —do the forgotten and inactive muscles have to fire and re-activate! This is truly vital to the balance of your body and its kinetic chain. It is also very important for anyone looking to improve sports performance, including faster and more efficient runs. This helps avoid knee overuse due to muscle imbalances, and for all those women sick of bulky thighs and the lack of a shapely behind, posterior chain motion like the kettlebell swing will engage the muscles in the backside, teaching them to work during other motions like the squat or lunge, and helping to get more shape and less quad (front of the leg) bulk. Why else do you think we love the kettlebell so much?

Safer Ways To Work In Anaerobic, Vo2max ‘Cardio’

Kettlebell workouts use ballistic motions (such as swings) to produce the same cardiorespiratory effect on the body as more impact-driven (and often injury- causing) exercises like high-impact plyometrics such as box jumps, knee tucks, and other sports science techniques that should be reserved for professional athletes with individualized prescriptions and supervised settings. This is crucial to understand, because sports science has found that not everybody should be jumping on boxes and doing high vertical jumps (just to name a few high-liability plyometric motions), especially not if they have muscle imbalances. Doing these motions too soon on a deconditioned or untrained body will leave you overtrainedand injured—if not directly after a workout, then most definitely over time. When swung using the correct form, time interval, and weight, the kettlebell can more safely produce the same cardiorespiratory and physiological response as the potentially dangerous plyometric moves many people do at the gym.

No pressure— but the swing is a rite of passage in the kettlebell world. We’ll start with the double-handed kettlebell swing. To get all of the unique biomechanical benefits of kettlebell, this motion must be executed correctly. This is the foundational exercise to all of the ballistic motions you will be performing with a kettlebell.

Why Swing?

Do you remember in chapter 3 when I discussed the movement patterns we should all incorporate into our routines: push, pull, squat, hinge, and locomotion? Well, the swing is beloved for its hinge.

I find that most people have tremendous difficulty with the hinge, and this is because they spend most of the day sitting. The inability to hinge is linked by our culture of sitting to the reason many of us suffer back pain, knee pain, and weakness. Not being able to hinge means not being able to properly engage the posterior chain of the body, particularly the glutes. Without hinging, the same muscles that help you run and protect you from back weakness during many activities are now inactive. Instead, modern people and even some athletes are unintentionally using their knees and lower backs to do all the work their butt muscles are supposed to do. This leads to overuse and misuse of other areas of the body, and this leads to knee pain and eventual knee and ankle injury, as well as back pain, which can then lead to shoulder and neck injury.

The kettlebell swing is all glutes, all of the time! When you swing the kettlebell correctly in any swing variation, you engage the posterior chain, fire the glutes and hamstrings, and strengthen the areas that have been weakened or deacti- vated by day-to-day sitting. If you have any of the pain or imbalances associatedwith not being able to hinge, the kettlebell swing is a perfect weapon to use to wage a war on them.

You might not get it right away, and that’s okay. I find that it can take students one to three class sessions or DVDs after initially being taught the swing to get it, so be patient with yourself. Remember that these are muscles and movement patterns that have not been worked in a while. Once they begin to work, you are now firing your glutes and hamstrings and reactivating them, or teaching them to work and pitch in during simple motions like walking, running, jumping, kicking, lunging, and squatting.

So, let’s swing!

As discussed, the swing is the basis of all kettlebell ballistic movements. It starts with a hinge, not a squat—this is very important. In a hinge, the bend in your hips comes before the bend in your knees. Hinging also means you should bend your knees to a lesser degree than that of your hips. Do not squat! You will be swinging the kettlebell from behind your knees, with your grip above your knees. Remember to bend more at your hips with a slight bend at your knees and a straight and strong back. You will be incorporating your posterior chain and momentum to generate the power of the movement. As a result, the kettlebell should feel almost weightless when it comes up to the terminal position of shoul- der height. Squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion, you should be stand– ing straight and upright with hips forward and knees straight (there should be no overarching of the back) at the end of the motion.

The kettlebell should swing between and behind your legs and up to shoulder height in a nonstop, repetitive motion.

  1. With both hands, pick up the kettlebell by the handle and sit back in a hinge, bending first and more deeply at the hips, then at the knees.
  2. From the hinged position, swing the kettlebell back and behind your knees.
  3. Swing the kettlebell up to shoulder level with your arms straight as you thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back into the standing position.
    • Make sure your butt muscles are engaged by squeezing your glutes together tightly.
    • Do not raise the kettlebell with your arms. Your arms and the kettlebell should feel weightless through the entire motion.

  4. At the top of the swing, remember to keep your arms straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell no higher than chest level as you rise to a standing position.

• Do not bend back at the top of the motion.



5. Continue without stopping back down into your hinge and repeat steps 1–4. Create a nonstop fluid motion of the swing, with the kettlebell going behind the knees and back up to shoulder level.

Notice how everyone’s swing is slightly different, but the hinge remains a constant!

The Hinge

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The first thing to understand with kettlebells is that you must link your body together into one strong chain of action. This principle ensures that you will not be placing too much pressure on any one joint or muscle.Additionally, it will secure the total-body principles on which kettlebells are built. Link your body by applying proper form, checking your alignment and center of gravity, and executing each move with a flow of motion.

Stay rooted into the ground. Never explode out with the kettlebell and find your heels or toes off balance or off the ground. In swinging motions especially, keep yourself rooted and remember to engage the glutes.

In your swing, do not squat! Generate power with your hips by pushing your hips back toward the wall behind you (not by squatting to the floor) and then snapping your hips forward.

Do not hyperextend or bend your back into a backward bend. Your glutes must squeeze together before you can even attempt a backward bend.

Aim to squeeze your glutes before the kettlebell reaches face level—as it does, pop the hip forward and consciously let the kettlebell fall back behind the knees.

At the hinge, the kettlebell falls above and behind the knees. At the standing position, it comes up to face level and no higher.

Speed comes from making sure your force and body drop the kettlebell down, not letting gravity do all the work.

Swing dos and don’ts

Don’t squat! If you squat during this motion, it will not be a posterior chain motion, therefore you won’t be focusing on the glutes and hamstrings—the very area this motion was created for! Remember—a squat is a squat and a hinge is a hinge!

Don’t lift the kettlebell with your arms! You can easily hurt yourself, plus this is not a lift or an arm exercise. The kettlebell should feel weightless in your arms the entire time.

Don’t keep your legs straight. The hinge required for a kettlebell swing has a mild bend at the knee and hip—it’s not a full extension.

Don’t backward bend. Remember that your butt muscles are supposed to
stop the motion of the bell at the top. If you let the kettlebell go past your
shoulders and you do not engage the glutes, you risk hurting your back instead of strengthening your back, core, and butt muscles. So make sure to stop at shoulder level, and keep your glutes activated and protecting the back. Your butt muscles should not allow a backward bend.

rEMEMBEr: All of your swinging motions will come from this form, so practice this and try to execute each step as instructed. If you are not following the protocol, you are not doing a kettlebell swing, and you are not getting the benefit. So no squatting or arm lifts; use your hinge and the power generated by your hips as well as the stability of your core—nothing else!

MOST common mistakes: You are NOT squatting. You are NOT raising the kettlebell with your arms. At no point is the swing an arm- or quad-dominant motion. It is all hips and core.

The kettlebell swing requires a hinge, not a squat.

Hinge Squat