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The Kettlebell Swing Mistake You're Likely Making

The Kettlebell Swing Mistake You’re Probably Making

While the Kettlebell Swing exercise is one of the most popular kettlebell drills, it is also one of the easiest to make mistakes with. With all the kettlebell articles out there, there is one point that doesn’t seem to be making headlines, and that is the mistake you might be making.

The Kettlebell Swing requires timing, body coordination, and skill; three things that take time and practice to develop.

WHY IS THE KETTLEBELL SWING HARD?

The problem is that there is a lot of movement happening during the Kettlebell Swing. This simple-looking movement engages your entire posterior chain (i.e., glutes, hamstrings, obliques, calves, etc.), which requires proper timing and non-stop effort during sets.

Add in the fact that if you’ve been using isometric exercises as your primary method of fitness, the full body, coordinated effort required by the Kettlebell Swing will probably feel unnatural.

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Now, this tip is based on my personal variation of the Kettlebell Swing. There are many Kettlebell Swing variations out there, and while some other people may not agree with me, I don’t think that is a bad thing.

THE MARK DE GRASSE KETTLEBELL SWING

Kettlebell Swing Mistake You're Probably Making

My variation of the Kettlebell Swing requires an explosive hip motion to expend as much force as possible during the up swing. That force is then stopped by flexing your core and quads to halt your body at a neutral standing position.

The maximum height that the kettlebell reaches on the up swing is determined by these actions, with the shoulders and arms simply acting as pivot points. The kettlebell then falls naturally, pulling your body back into the back swing.

My variation of the Kettlebell Swing involves an explosive hip motion that encourages the maximize range of motion of the hips by incorporating a slight knee bend while hinging at the hips during the back swing (See figure #3, represented as the distance between the yellow and red lines).

The goal is to get the maximum distance between a neutral body position (with a neutral body position being defined as the standing position with your knees above your ankles, your hips above your knees, and shoulders above your hips) and the apex of the back swing.

THE PRIMARY KETTLEBELL SWING MISTAKE

Kettlebell Swing Mistakes You're Probably Making

The primary Kettlebell Swing mistake that I see people making doesn’t have to do with range of motion in the hips necessarily, although that is a big issue too. The main mistake has to do with the timing of the swing.

Ideally, by the time the kettlebell passes between your legs, your body should already be in a neutral standing position (as you can see in figure #2). If it isn’t, it means that you didn’t move your hips fast enough from the back swing.

This leads to less explosiveness, translating into a weaker swing. As you can see in the picture above, the kettlebell is barely in front of my body, but I am standing up straight already.

If you find that you are standing straight at the same moment that the kettlebell is reaching the apex of the up swing (as seen in figure #1), you didn’t move your hips fast enough.

As I stated before, you need to stop the swinging motion by flexing your abs and quads. If this action is not required, your swing is weaker than it could have been (little or no hip explosiveness meaning little or no posterior chain engagement).

FIXING THE KETTLEBELL SWING MISTAKE

Here are a few ways that you can fix the timing mistake, or at least find out if you’re making it or not:

  • If you are not feeling your hamstrings stretch during the back swing, you probably aren’t hinging at the hips enough. Most likely you’re squatting. Bend a little bit more at the hips with each rep until you start to feel that stretch.
  • If you’re exploding with your hips, but the kettlebell isn’t going anywhere, you need to increase the range of motion. The best way to do this is with a slight knee bend, but make sure you don’t turn it into a squat!
  • Have someone watch you do the Kettlebell Swing. Tell them to look for the start and end point of your hips during the movement. If they say anything less than 5-6 inches, chances are that your range of motion isn’t great enough.

The Kettlebell Swing can be tricky, but with practice and a good trainer you could rapidly improve your form and your results.

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Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse is the owner of MegaMad Industries, a website design firm specializing in comprehensive solutions for small businesses. He is also a former executive of Onnit Labs, former founder and editor of My Mad Methods Magazine, and a dedicated father and husband to a growing family. Learn more at www.MarkdeGrasse.com

Comments (1)

  • Rsmith1955

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    Great article. Mark smith, my trainer, works has worked patiently with me to correct my swing and it has gotten better, but is still a work in progress. You broke it down in a way that makes it very easy to understand.

    Reply

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