The Conventional Two Arm Kettlebell Swing
(Hip Hinge Style) If at this point in time you have not read the Ebook, “What is the Hip Hinge? How do You Perform it Correctly? Explained in plain English so everyone can understand it,” I strongly suggest you do so, as it’s a precursor to the Kettlebell Swing. It is available for purchase on Amazon, on Cavemantraining bundled with the Audiobook, or delivered with Kettlebell Courses at http://kettlebelltraining.education. Introduction The Kettlebell swing is a full-body exercise that can be performed with one or two arms.
We are going to cover the two-arm conventional swing. Kettlebell exercises can be categorized into three categories, Ballistic, Hybrid and Grinding Exercises. Any variation of the kettlebell swing is a ballistic exercise, meaning it’s a dynamic, explosive and multi-joint exercise. The opposite of a ballistic exercise is a grinding exercise, an example of a grinding but very closely related exercise is the Hip Hinge Deadlift. An example of a hybrid exercise would be the Kettlebell squat thruster, where the squatting part is grinding and the thrust is ballistic. The Kettlebell Swing is very similar to the Conventional Deadlift. The main difference is that the weight swings and the movement is explosive; the hinge movement of the hips is the same. When the Kettlebell Swing is mentioned, it’s
usually the Conventional Two Arm Kettlebell Swing (also known as the Russian Swing) that is being referred to. The second most-popular swing is the American Swing.
The least popular swing is the Swing Squat Style. The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation for many other Kettlebell exercises. Therefore, it is important you become proficient in this exercise and understand all the finer points.
The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation for:
Single-arm swing Swing clean Snatch Swing Variations Following is a list of Kettlebell Swing variations. This information is from the World Kettlebell Community website and can be found here: http://kettlebell.community/the-definite-guide-to-all-kettlebell-exercises Conventional Swing AKA Russian Swing, Hip Hinge Style Single-Arm (one kettlebell) Single-Arm Alternating (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (two kettlebells) Squat Style Swing Single-Arm (one kettlebell) Single-Arm Alternating (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm(two kettlebells) American Swing Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Kettlebell Sport Swing Single-Arm (one kettlebell) Single-Arm Alternating (one kettlebell) Short Lever Swing Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Side Swing Single-Arm (one kettlebells) Double-Arm (two kettlebells) Walking Swing Single-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (two kettlebells) Reverse Walking Swing Single-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Double-Arm (two kettlebells) Swing High Pull Single-Arm (one kettlebells) Double-Arm (two kettlebells) Power Swing
Double-Arm (one kettlebell) Squatting Versus Hip Hinging There is a lot of controversy about people performing a squat movement rather than a hip hinge movement when swinging a Kettlebell. I have written a whole article about this online.
In summation: When you’re performing the conventional kettlebell swing (the hip hinge style swing) you should be hip hinging and not squatting. However, there is also a squat style of the kettlebell swing, and this version is not bad when performed correctly; it simply works different muscle groups. Pre-requisites and Progression To progress to the Kettlebell swing the following pre-requisites and progressions must be met. You should have a sound understanding of the bodyweight hip hinge and be able to perform this movement. You should have a sound understanding of the Pendulum Concept, as this plus added resistance and explosiveness is the main difference between a bodyweight hip hinge and a kettlebell swing. In a perfect world you would progress yourself or your clients as follows:
1. Bodyweight Hip Hinge
2. Kettlebell 3HL (hip hinge hang lift, less flexibility required)
3. Kettlebell Conventional Deadlift (more flexibility required)
4. Kettlebell Swing Posture
Good posture with every swing is important to avoid injury, generate maximum power, and be able to perform high reps. A good posture is standing straight with a neutral spine, pulling your shoulders back and down (packed) to keep the load off the shoulders and neck. Doing so will place most of the load on the scapula and lats. Improper form will result in smaller muscles needing to do the work, rather than the larger and stronger muscles groups, thus creating potential for injury. Muscles Involved The Kettlebell swing is a full body exercise and helps to strengthen the posterior chain muscles. The posterior chain muscles are comprised of various muscles. The main muscle groups are:biceps femoris; glutes; erector spinae; trapezius; posterior deltoids; rhomboids; soleus; and latissimus dorsi. When performed correctly, the Kettlebell swing will involve the following muscles and muscle groups: gluteus maximus; biceps femoris; erector spinae; trapezius; posterior deltoids; and latissimus dorsi. For grips, the following muscles are involved: flexor digitorum superficialis; flexor digitorum profondus; and the flexor policus longus, which are muscles located in the posterior part of the forearm. The following muscles are involved to create a proper pivot for the pendulum: trapezius; latissimus dorsi; posterior deltoids; and rhomboids. The gluteus maximus powers the hip hinge.
Assisting muscles for the hip hinge include the biceps femoris and erector spinae. The latissimus dorsi muscles should be engaged as much as possible to keep the shoulders down and create a tight posture which has more control over the movement. The trapezius muscles are more involved on the down phase of the swing, as the force of the weight is pulling the shoulders down and the trapezius needs to be engaged to pull them up. The biceps femoris are involved with knee flexion and also involved in hip extension.
The Rhomboids are a muscle group consisting of Rhomboid Minor and Rhomboid Major.
The Deltoids are muscle group consisting of Anterior Deltoid, Lateral Deltoid and Posterior Deltoid.
Anterior Deltoid AKA Front Delt Lateral Deltoid AKA Middle Delt, Outer Delt or Side Delt. Posterior Deltoid AKA Rear Delt The Glutes are a muscle group consisting of Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Minimum and Gluteus Medius. Glutes AKA Gluteal Muscles.
The Erector Spinae are a muscle group consisting of Iliocostalis, Longissimus and Spinalis. Erector Spinae AKA Spinal Erectors Four Phases The Kettlebell Swing has four phases to the movement 1. Top or floating phase. The kettlebell floats in the air and appears weightless for a split second 2. Down phase. The kettlebell falls back down as gravity pulls it down 3. End phase. The kettlebell has reached the end of the swing and is hanging from the arms, ready be pulled back up 4. Up phase. The kettlebell is propelled back up Pendulum Concept It is important to understand the concept of a pendulum because this is what the arms will be acting as during the swing. A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. A great drill to teach the concept of the pendulum is to ask the participant to perform the static hang phase of the hip hinge with a light kettlebell. Have the participant pull their shoulders back, chest out, let the arms hang loose and relaxed. Now push the kettlebell through the legs. At first the participant will probably resist the movement and stop the kettlebell underneath them. Repeat the push and keep talking, cue with “relax the shoulders”, at some stage the concept will be understood; this is when you can proceed to the next step. Explosiveness.
The Squat Jump drill is a great way to develop the explosiveness required with the snapping of the hips. You’ll find that most people who just start swinging and are used to doing hip hinge deadlifts will perform the swing too slow. They’ll use more of the upper-body to power the move due to the lack of explosiveness. Ask the participant to bring the hands to the chest, come into a semi-squatting position (half hip hinge, half squat). Have her or him jump high up in the air, with the body being straight in the air but landing with knees bend to absorb the impact. You will have to explain that this drill is only done to experience the explosiveness required for the swing, it’s not the movement pattern itself which requires attention.
Plank Drill The plank drill is great way to teach someone what the top position of the swing should feel like, and what muscles should be engaged. The high plank is performed by first kneeling on the floor placing your hands directly under your shoulders with elbows locked out pushing your chest out pulling the shoulders back and down with the lats engaging the rhomboids to slightly pull the shoulder blades in engaging your abdominals like someone is going to punch you in the stomach locking out the knees activating the quads and squeezing the glutes while lifting your knees of the ground and coming into a high plank position where only your hands and toes are on the ground your whole body is one perfectly aligned Note that this is also a great way to test
the core strength. A weak core will affect posture and hip hinging ability with added resistance.
Height of the Swing
The height that the Kettlebell should travel to is not set in stone. A good height to aim for is chest or shoulder height, but if the Kettlebell does not travel that high or travels slightly further, that is certainly not bad. In competitions or challenges the minimum is generally shoulder height; it’s an easy standard to measure and clear to see from the side. The heavier the Kettlebell gets, the more effort is required to get it to chest height. The American Swing goes all the way above the head. Good range of motion in the shoulders is required before attempting to swing the
kettlebell that high.
Breathing There are different breathing techniques for the swing; you should explore which one works best for you. The most common one is inhaling through the nose on the down phase and exhaling through the mouth on the up phase while keeping the abdominal muscles tight and firm. Timing Correct timing is extremely important with the swing. You have to get familiar with the movement; some aspects remain the same across all variables while others change, depending on weight, height of swing, and the participant. Practicing will allow you to master the art of timing.
Calluses and Hand Maintenance Calluses are a thickened layer of skin that can develop on your hands when working with Kettlebells. It’s a layer of dead skin which is caused by friction between the handle and the skin. To keep the development of calluses to a minimum, make sure the handle of the kettlebell is not moving within your grip during the swing (i.e., bobbing at the end
phase of the swing) and you’re not gripping it too tight. It is important to maintain your hands when calluses do develop. Unmaintained calluses can turn into ripped calluses, untreated or
ripped calluses are painful. They can become infected and take you out of action for a while. If your calluses tear during a workout, it is recommend to immediately treat it with an antibacterial solution and bandage it. You should shave or peel your calluses regularly and apply moisturiser to the area. A good tool to use for maintaining calluses is a Pumice Stone. Soak your hands for a few minutes in warm water for a few minutes and then use the Pumice Stone to treat the areas, if you soaked long enough, the callused areas will look white.
Chalk When you do lots of swings, your palms will probably start to sweat and your grip on the Kettlebell becomes slippery. This is not good, as the Kettlebell can potentially slip out of your hands. It can also produce blisters and require you to start employing a tighter grip. To avoid this, you can use chalk. Chalk is great—it can also help with reducing the development of calluses, but don’t overdo it or it can have the opposite effect. Use chalk sparingly, just enough to lightly cover the effected parts of your hands, and rub a little on the Kettlebell handle. If you start seeing clumps of chalk on your hands, you’ve used too much. Reapply when your hands start getting sweaty and slippery again.
Gloves The use of gloves with Kettlebell training is not recommended. It removes the connection between you and the Kettlebell which removes the sensory connection from the hand to the
brain. You won’t learn to employ the correct grips, you’ll get lazy about gripping technique and won’t develop the grip strength that comes as an added benefit of Kettlebell training. Gloves can bunch up and make the grip uncomfortable. You won’t develop any calluses at all using gloves. This may sound good, but in reality you should be developing moderate calluses when working with Kettlebells and maintain those.
Footwear Training with bare feet is the most effective way to train with Kettlebells. It’s great for developing stability and muscle strength in the feet. The next best thing for footwear is five finger shoes or shoes with a flat sole. Running shoes or shoes with a thick sole take away the connection between your body and the floor; they will potentially cause instability and ankle issues. They can also cause ‘happy feet’ (moving feet) and other instability issues. More importantly, with thick soled shoes you’re losing power generated by the lower body. A solid grounding will allow you to use all the power you can generate from the lower-body. Running shoes are great for running, but not for Kettlebell training, where the weight constantly shifts around the body and a solid connection with the ground is required to accommodate and anticipate this constant shifting of weight. Note that there is a whole lot more than can be said about training bare feet and these few paragraphs don’t do it justice. I highly recommend doing further research on the Internet, or look up my article online about training with bare feet.
Quality over Quantity When you initially start Kettlebell Training or doing the Kettlebell Swing, you should focus on quality rather than quantity. In other words, rather than doing 50 swings with
incorrect technique, do 5 sets of 10, or 10 sets of 5 where the focus is on thinking about every point raised within this document. Grow Gradually It’s impossible to execute everything that is mentioned within this document perfectly your first time. Perhaps not even over a period of six months, maybe not even within a year if you’re not training regularly and constantly focusing on every point made in this document. The most important things to focus on initially are the safety points. Understand and execute those, and then start adding the next points raised, those points that will make your technique more efficient and allow you to swing more weight. Take it step by step, create your own plan, take the points that you currently understand, write them down and work on those. Once you feel you have a good understanding of them, read the document again, write down some more points you want to focus on. Grow gradually until you’ve mastered the swing technique.
Choosing Weight It is important that you start swinging with the right weight. If you pick a weight too light, you don’t get the resistance you need for activating the right muscles. Pick a weight
too heavy and your form will go out the door. As a general rule, and keeping in mind everyone is different, use a 6kg Kettlebell for a child, and start women on 8kg at least. Start men out with at least 10 or 12kg Kettlebells. Always make sure to assess your clients’ swing from side and front-on. If form goes out the door with these weights, reset go through the exercise and drills again making sure the client understands what muscles to activate rather than moving down in weight—a common mistake.
Common Sense Every human being is built differently. It’s important to keep in mind that certain moves, cues, or tips might not work the same for your body. Always use common sense and adjust the exercise to your body. As long as the exercise is performed safely, any slight adjustments should be fine. If unsure, visit the World Kettlebell Community forum on http://kettlebells.community and ask your question under “The Kettlebell Swing”. The Movement Step by Step Stand in spine-neutral position with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with the Kettlebell in-front of you. Hip hinge and hold the Kettlebell by the handle with both hands and a loose grip. The handle should rest in the fingers rather than the palm, make sure not to employ a crush grip. There are two ways to start the swing, you can start with a Dead Swing or Deadlift and Leg Bump.
You’re going to start with the Dead Swing by pulling the Kettlebell off the ground and between the legs. Keep your feet flat on the ground at all times to be able to push into the ground and activate the right muscles. Snap the hips forward and bring the body upright to power the movement. Transfer the power from lower to upper body during the up phase. Break at the hips and push them back; try and keep the knees directly over the ankles as much as possible. You should feel tension on the hamstrings when pushing the hips back. Remember that this is not a squat. Note that the point of breaking at the hips all depends on where the Kettlebell is; in some cases the height of the Kettlebell might be such that you need to wait a fraction of a second before breaking at the hips, other times it might be that you need to break the moment the Kettlebell starts falling.
The timing is something you will need to work on and perfect over time. Do not involve your shoulders to lift the Kettlebell upwards, let the force from the snapping of the hips and the coming upright of the body propel the Kettlebell. Note that with the American Swing the shoulders are involved, and will pull the Kettlebell further up till positioned above the head. The Kettlebell should come through the legs approximately around the knees, you should be able to put another Kettlebell between your legs and not hit it. Elbows and forearms should be making contact around the waist line. Part of the wrists should contact around the upper thighs. The top of the swing is when the Kettlebell is motionless for a split second. Relax your grip at this point. The Kettlebell usually reaches about chest height but keep in mind that the Kettlebell only needs to swing as high as the force generated by your hips will move it. When the Kettlebell starts to fall down, it’s time to break at the hips and tighten the grip on the handle bit by bit, but only as little as is required.
Squeeze the glutes (gluteus maximus) when bringing the hips forward. The torso should follow the hips and not vice versa. In other words, the hips should lead and the torso should follow. Maintain a neutral spine at all times, with the only exception being during the down phase, when the head can be slightly tilted up if you’re having trouble keeping your shoulders back and chest out. Otherwise your head should remain in line with your torso at all times to avoid neck strain. Stand up straight with muscles engaged like in the plank position. Do not hyperextend the back when snapping the hips forward. That is, do not push your hips past your ankles and shoulders. During the down phase there is a stage where the hips can’t go any further, the torso will continue to come down to guide the kettlebell towards the back, to decelerate and to prevent the Kettlebell from bobbing. At the top of the swing remember: chest out and shoulders back engage the core squeeze the glutes legs are straight hands can relax the grip more to give the muscles a break Guide the kettlebell towards the back of you, prevent it from swinging upwards to where it can’t go, and the arms will stop, but the kettlebell will want to go further and start bobbing. You can immediately pull the kettlebell back up once it hits the furthest point through the legs. This adds the most resistance.
The alternative is to wait for it to start swinging back and then pull up. This is more like the sport style swing, has less resistance, and is more efficient. If you start doing high volume repetitions, you’re better off choosing this style. Leave the arms relaxed but straight at all times—elbows can be locked out or not—and only use the arms as a pendulum so the Kettlebell can swing freely. Pull the lats down, not only to add another muscle group to the exercise, but also to keep the shoulders nicely positioned within their sockets. The added benefit is more control on the up and down phase.
Faults and Correction Hyper Extending the Back This is usually done to get the kettlebell up higher. Correction: Remind the participant about the plank, promote more hip drive, put your hand at the hyper extension point and ask for it not to be touched. Happy Feet The feet are moving around or partially coming off the floor. This is usually caused by improper weight distribution (i.e., the weight is coming too far forward or back) and the feet are not pushed flat into the ground. Correction: Remind the participant about the Squat Jump. Ask him or her to push his or her feet into the ground like he or she is going to jump. Happy feet can also prevent the participant from being able to activate the right muscles.
Frontal Raise The shoulders are pulling the Kettlebell up rather than the hip drive powering the swing; you can also see that the Kettlebell starts to droop, rather than being in line with the arms. Correction: Remind the participant about the pendulum, promote more hip drive, if need be, stop the participant and get them to do the Pendulum or Squat Jump drill. Kettlebell Coming too Low
The kettlebell is coming too low to the ground when passing through the legs. This can be caused by the participant not engaging their core muscles (being lazy), having weak core muscles, the weight being too heavy, or it is related to proprioception issues, where the participant simply does not have a good sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort needing to be employed in the movement.
Correction: Remind the participant to come through between the legs with the Kettlebell at approximately knee height. After several failed attempts, you can put another Kettlebell between the legs and caution the participant about hitting it. Also, improve core strength and/or go down in weight. Rounded Back The participant has a rounded back rather than a neutral spine. This could be due to the weight being too heavy, not activating the right muscles, or having weak back muscles. Having a rounded back can cause strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the back, which in turn can lead to discomfort or serious injury. A neutral or correctly aligned spine allows the skeletal system to safely take some load of the muscles.
Correction: Ask the participant to push out her or his chest, activate the lats, and slightly squeeze the shoulder blades together. If the cues do not provide a fix, stop and ask the participant to go into a plank and make the corrections step by step.
Kettlebell Bobbing The Kettlebell makes a quick, short movement up and down at the end of the backswing. This can potentially punch the participant in the buttocks or cause friction in the palms. The bobbing is usually caused by improper guidance of the Kettlebell, pulling back to early, or the torso not coming down enough. Correction: Explain the path in which the Kettlebell should be guided by the participant or ask the participant to come down towards the ground more with the torso. Another way to get the participant down more is to ask him or her to follow the Kettlebell with one’s eyes until they see the ground (head remains in line with torso). Last resort: stop them, remove the Kettlebell, and ask them to perform a bodyweight Hip Hinge and stop in the hang phase. Repeat several times and ask them to feel the position and pay attention to the angles.
Cowboy Legs The feet are placed too close together, not allowing enough space for the Kettlebell to travel through the legs. The participant will need to pull the knees outwards to allow the
Kettlebell to travel through; doing this will cause unnecessary stress on the knees and also prevent proper muscle activation. Correction: Ask the participant to place their feet wider apart. Stop if need be, and put participant in the static hang phase of the hip hinge, with proper feet placement, and push the Kettlebell through the legs a few times, so the participant can experience the feeling.
Torso Coming too Low The participant comes too low with the torso. This is usually because the eyes are following the kettlebell, while they should stop approximately just before seeing the ground underneath. They should not follow the kettlebell through the legs. Correction: Point at where you expect the eyes to stop following the Kettlebell. If this does not help, put an object at the point where you want the eyes to stop following the Kettlebell. Knees Staying Bent The participant is not standing up straight, and the knees remain bent during each rep. This will cause the participant to lose power generated by the legs. The cause is usually fatigue, but can also be laziness. Correction: Ask the participant to press the floor and stand up straight. Remind the participant about the plank. Next, ask the participant to start locking out the knees, if this does not improve the issue, then suggest rest.
Feet too Far Apart The participant has their feet too far apart, almost looking like a sumo squat. This will reduce the power generated by the snapping of the hips. It will also make it difficult for the arms to connect with the thighs. Correction: Ask the participant to bring her or his feet closer together.
Power Swinging Although this swing style actually exists, the conventional swing should be mastered first. If programming calls for a conventional swing, this is what should be performed. You can spot a Power Swing when the participant is not guiding the kettlebell but pushing it down and/or pulling it up to increase the speed of the swing. Correction: Ask the participant to simply
let gravity take control, just think about guiding the Kettlebell where it should go. Aches and Pains Some of the most common aches and pains—further referred to as issues—caused by incorrect
technique are listed below.
Lower Back The following can be potential causes for lower back issues. no activation of the gluteus maximus and pulling the Kettlebell up with the lower back muscles too many repetitions
weight being too heavy Forearms The following can be potential causes for forearm issues. grip on the Kettlebell too tight too many repetitions not enough rest not relaxing grip at the top of the swing Elbow / Upper arms The following can be potential causes for upper arm issues. elbows remain bent causing stress on the biceps swinging too heavy performing high reps while unconditioned Shoulders The following can be potential causes for shoulder (deltoids) issues. pulling the kettlebell up not pushing the chest out and shoulders back not pulling the lats down Knees The following can be potential causes for knee issues. hyperextending the knees cowboy legs knees collapsing in on the down phase squatting rather than hinging sumo stance, too wide with the feet apart.
Cues Common cues for teaching are: relax the shoulders chest out pull the lats down shoulders back neutral spine or straight back more explosive pull the knees back don’t turn it into a squat feel the tension on the hamstrings active core lock the elbows out guide the kettlebell towards the back control your breathing keep the feet flat To fix out of sync movement, you can clap your hands when the participant should for example be snapping the hips. You can choose to gently slap the participant on the hamstrings at the moment he or she should be exploding the hips forward. Do make sure you ask for permission before touching a participant. To make sure the participant engages their abdominals, you can choose to gently slap the participant in the areas they should pay
attention to once they’re in the up phase of the swing.
Notes Locking out: If you’re not familiar with the movement yet and feel like you still have a lot to learn, play it safe and keep the knees soft. If you’re confident that you can lock your joints with care and you feel like your posture and power improves when doing so, then implement this technique.
As found on Youtube