The kettlebell swing is a ballistic hip hinge exercise that strengthens your back and grip and will increase your heart rate in a joint-friendly way. The kettlebell swing is a fundamental movement based on many other kettlebell movements, including the snatch, clean, and clean & press. It’s arguably the best tool that delivers the best mix of strength and cardio when performed correctly,
But do you know what other title holds the kettlebell swing? This is perhaps one of the most failed moves in the gym. It’s a hip hinge, but it’s often performed more like a combination squat and front raise. Many lifters have their swing style because we’re all put together differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that proper hip hinge movement is the goal of this exercise.
Here we’ll get into what constitutes a good kettlebell swing and some major flaws with easy fixes to get the most out of this great exercise.
Kettlebell Swing Form Tips
You are going to be tired of hearing this, but the basis of the swing is based on hip hinge and hip extension. Without these two important elements, you’ll do something between your legs with a kettlebell, but it won’t be a swing.
Good form for kettlebell swings consists of:
- Setup like a barbell deadlift with the KB slightly in front of you.
- More hip flexion than knee flexion.
- Feel tension in the hamstrings and not in the lower back
- Keep your shoulders down and your chest up as you grab the bell.
- Hike the KB behind you and finish the swing with your glutes.
There are a few finer points to the kettlebell swing that purists love to tackle, but the above covers the big swing rocks. Next, let’s get to some common mistakes with the swing along with some simple kettlebell swing fixes.
4 Easy Fixes For Common Kettlebell Swing Mistakes
The kettlebell swing has many benefits, including improved grip strength, cardiovascular capacity, and glowing glutes. However, some lifters try to progress quickly with this exercise before learning the nuances of the deadlift and its variations. If you don’t know how to deadlift, you have nothing to do with the kettlebell swing.
The swing is an accelerated deadlift. You learned to crawl before you could run because you have to learn slowly. Get comfortable with the deadlift and its variations before mounting a kettlebell between your legs.
Now let’s move on to some common kettlebell swing fixes for the most common mistakes.
The video above explains how to prepare for the swing. This will vary from person to person, but the biggest mistake is setting yourself up too far from the kettlebell. If the bell is too far from your feet, you have to shift your weight too far forward, causing you to shrug your shoulders to reach it. With the hips higher than the shoulders, you’ll struggle to generate power from your first swing.
Fix it: Sit to the side of a mirror to make sure your hips are below your shoulders. Also, form an imaginary triangle with your feet and your kettlebell. Your toes form the bottom of the triangle, and the base of the kettlebell is the toe. This ensures that the kettlebell is a short distance from your feet.
2. Squat-style swing
The goal of the move is to generate power from your hips, not your knees, but many lifters still rely on bending into a squat-like position to become more explosive. Stop that.
Fix it: The first step to preventing a squatty swing is to learn how to properly hip joint. Proper hip hinge technique will only sometimes guarantee a good swing, given the speed at which it happens, but it goes a long way. The second solution is to swing with a small foam roller between your legs. This is a reference point for keeping the kettlebell above your knees during the downward arc. If you knock the foam roller over, it means you are squatting your swing.
3. This is not a forward raise
The kettlebell swing is a ballistic hip hinge, not a forward raise, although proponents of the American kettlebell swing may argue otherwise. Minus the American swing, some lifters still believe that the higher the swing the better the swing, but in reality the swing loses its luster when turned into a forward raise.
If the kettlebell drops off the top of the swing and you feel it in your shoulders, you are using your upper body too much.
Fix it: The arms are an extension of your hips and are just there to hold the kettlebell and should not lift. One way to kick this habit is to stick your armpits and arms together at all times, and if you feel significant separation between your arms and torso, stop it.
4. Not locking the glutes
The goal of performing swings is to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Some lifters, to be ballistic and see how high they can swing the bell, arch and finish with lower back, not hip extension. It’s hard to figure out while running, but your lower back will tell you the next day. Have someone observe you or record yourself swinging.
Fix it: The locked position of the kettlebell swing resembles a standing forward plank. To make sure you’re using your hips and not your back, the next tip I picked up a while ago is to squeeze your quads into the lockout. Intentionally flexing the quads will encourage hip extension and ensure you end your swing with your hips, not your back.