The kettlebell swing is a phenomenal exercise. I think it should be part of every training program. It addresses explosive power, the posterior chain, anaerobic conditioning and even grip strength. The kettlebell swing has many awesome qualities!
It’s also the foundation for more advanced kettlebell movements like one-arm swings, cleans and snatches. Before progressing to those more advanced movements, make sure that your two-hand swing is dialed in and that you can maintain proper technique with heavy kettlebells and high reps.
Let’s dial in our kettlebell swing technique by avoiding these four common mistakes.
Common Kettlebell Swing Mistake #1:
There are several key concepts to remember for the kettlebell swing setup.
How far away are you from the kettlebell? If you’re too far from the bell, then you might shift too much weight forward and shrug your shoulders up to your ears while reaching for the bell.
Ideally, you want to sit back with your shoulders pulled down and the kettlebell tilted toward you.
Also, make sure that your hips are below your shoulders. If your hips are too high, then you may not be able to generate a lot of power with your first rep. And the swing is all about power.
Common Kettlebell Swing Mistake #2:
Arms Disconnected from the Body with Wrong Hip Hinge Timing
This mistake can cause discomfort or even injury to your lower back, so let’s dial this one in!
Each time the kettlebell is swung between your legs, even from the initial hike, your arms should connect to your torso. Upper arms connect to your ribcage and forearms connect to your inner thighs.
This will allow the hips to propel the kettlebell forward creating much more power.
Once you’ve reached the top of the swing, you want to stay standing tall for as long as possible while the kettlebell comes back down. Essentially, you’re playing chicken with the kettlebell.
Pushing your hips back too soon—while the kettlebell is still out in front of you—can cause unnecessary stress on the lower back.
The hips push the arms forward, the arms push the hips back.
Common Kettlebell Swing Mistake #3:
Using Your Arms and Shoulders to Raise the Kettlebell
The kettlebell swing is an explosive hip hinge, not a shoulder raise or shrug.
If the kettlebell is drooping at the top of the swing, or your shoulders and neck are feeling it, then you’re using your upper body way too much.
The arms are simply a tether holding onto the kettlebell. They shouldn’t do the heavy lifting. If you’re having issues with this, then check out the towel swing drill in the video below.
Common Kettlebell Swing Mistake #4:
Not Fully Locking Out Your hips or Knees at the Top of the Swing
In order to fully express your power, you must have full extension from the hips and knees. This doesn’t mean hyper-extending your knees, rather straightening your knees by flexing your quads.
You also don’t want to leave your hips back. You MUST contract your glutes hard at the top of the swing for maximum power and to protect your lower back.
Watch this video to see each mistake and correction.
I hope these tips help you master your kettlebell swing. When you get the swing dialed in, it’s one of the best exercises you can do for your fitness.
Ryan Jankowitz, RKC II
Ryan lives in Maryland with his wife and two dogs. They love to go hiking and spend time on the beach. When he’s not telling his dogs to stop chasing squirrels, Ryan enjoys spreading the RKC message and teaching others how to train with kettlebells. He’s got a 90-day coaching program that helps busy adults get into shape, look and feel better by working out with kettlebells and eating healthier so they can elevate their self-esteem. Visit his website rjkettlebell.com or schedule a free call with Ryan: https://go.oncehub.com/RyanJankowitz