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How To Do A Kettlebell Swing With Proper Form To Build Power

The kettlebellswing is a core training staple that can help to build total body strength and power, but are you sure you're even doing the exercise correctly? For this explosive movement, you shouldn't settle for anything other than perfect form —especially because it's such a simple, essential exercise that should serve as one of the centerpieces of your training plan.

author
Elaine Sutton
• Monday, 16 November, 2020
• 10 min read
kettlebell swings muscles worked benefits form proper swing muscle results groups benefit guide
(Source: craigtuttlefitness.com)

Let Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Before you pick up a weight and start waving it around, take note that it's extremely important to pay attention the movement here.

The way that you start your swing position is essential, as is your body's posture throughout—so let's break down everything you need to know. Even more than that it is a move that lets us explosively express what’s called “hip extension.”

If you do those things right (and because we increasingly sit so much, we occasionally do it wrong), you’re squeezing your glutes and your lower body is driving your ability to stand up. This action is crucial to moving and standing correctly, and critical to improving your athleticism (and your squat and dead lift movements).

This doesn’t just miss the point of a kettlebellswing (hip extension) but it’s dangerous for your shoulders, too. You end up trying to finish the swing with your shoulders, placing your rotator cuff tendons in a compromised position.

The height of the kettle bell is strictly a function of how aggressively you straighten your legs and squeeze your glutes. Ex says: The American kettlebellswing has you swinging to a wildly high target (overhead) and that’s problem one.

Problem two: if your shoulder mobility isn’t ideal; you'll compensate by arching through the lower back. Swing Cues Ex says: Your upper body isn’t the driver of the kettlebellswing ; it’s only a lever.

Ex says: This is a lower body move, and your arms shouldn’t be anything more than a lever for the bell. If you explosively and powerfully stand up, and really exaggerate that glute squeeze, your torso will naturally pop up and the bell will translate forward.

Ex says: Critical in the kettlebellswing is not letting your lower back drive the movement. Brett Williams, NASA Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men's Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.

With that common misconception out of the way, let’s clear up another, because it’s not just the name of this old school-turned-trendy exercise tool that trips people up. The preeminent kettle bell exercise —the two-handed swing —has been known to leave gym-goers of all ages and ability levels scratching their heads, wondering, “You mean I don’t use my arms to swing this thing?”

When performed correctly, kettle bell swings build total-body strength, power, and balance, while improving cardiovascular stamina, all with one piece of equipment. If that sounds too good to be true, maybe it’s because you’ve never swung a kettle bell with pinpoint precision.

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn to use your legs (and hips, glutes, and core) to perform the perfect kettlebellswing. As it turns out, dancing the salsa and swinging a kettle bell have a lot in common.

But they do share a coaching cue that makes every movement possible: It’s all in the hips. When it comes to the kettlebellswing, the hip action we’re referring to is a hinging motion.

With loose arms and a light grip, the kettle bell is swung from inside the quads up to the chest, just before eye level—in the Russian version anyway (more on this later). To the untrained eye, the swing appears to be a feat of upper-body strength: Simply squat and then stand up while pulling with the arms.

Performing the perfect kettlebellswing places all the emphasis on the posterior chain—the major muscles on the backside of the body from the heels to the base of the neck, primarily the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. And unlike the little movers (calves, biceps, triceps, and deltoid), the big movers are capable of moving big weight and burning massive amounts of calories.

But the good news is its a piece of fitness equipment that actually lives up to the hype. Consider this: A study seeking to analyze the effectiveness of kettle bell exercise concluded that “kettle bells provide a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time.”

The same study went on to say that the benefits of kettle bell training extend beyond strength and stamina by helping people “burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities.” Keep arms long and loose while squeezing shoulders blades together and engaging your core.

Soften knees, shift body weight into heels, and lower butt back and down toward the wall behind you. Driving through heels, explode through hips to send weight swinging upward from quads.

Achieving this finish position requires you to snap your hips through, contracting your core while squeezing glutes. As the kettle bell begins to descend, let the weight do the work as you ready your body for the next rep.

Shift weight back into heels while hinging at the hips and loading both the hamstrings and glutes. Receive the weight, allowing the kettle bell to ride back between legs.

As it makes the transition from backward to forward, drive through the heels and hips to repeat. There’s nothing like an arms race to create animosity among nations (or in this case, coaches and their respective exercise communities).

The movement originates at the groin and finishes at eye level. Instead of stopping at eye level, the American swing finishes with the arms and kettle bell overhead.

Our expert Chris Finn, certified personal trainer at Life Time at Sky and Strongest level-two kettle bell instructor, never recommends the American swing due to the risk of injury to your shoulders. That said, the decision on where to pledge your allegiance should be based on personal ability level and safety.

Start and finish the swing by loading, firing, and hinging at the hips. Kettle bell Swings were once exclusively performed by athletes in the Soviet Union.

Now you'd be hard-pressed to walk through a gym and not see at least one person doing this incredibly versatile exercise. Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a kettle bell about a foot in front of you on the ground.

Bend at the waist and grasp the kettle bell handle with both hands. Step 2: Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core before starting the exercise.

Step 3: Lift the kettle bell off the ground and allow it to swing between your legs. Step 4: Forcefully drive your hips forward to propel the kettle bell into the air.

As the kettle bell lowers, move immediately and fluidly into the next rep. Step 6: On your final rep, allow it to swing back through your legs, and then place it a foot in front of you on the ground.

A loose core makes for a sloppy KettlebellSwing and puts stress on your spine. Imagine that your upper body is in a plank position with your torso hinging on your hips.

This keeps your spine in the proper position and makes your glutes, not your lower back, do the majority of work. We advise athletes to avoid this variation, as it places extra stress on the shoulders and spine.

The rhythmic nature of the KettlebellSwing makes it a wonderful move for improving your breathing technique. Take a deep diaphragmatic breath (through your stomach) as the kettle bell lowers, and exhale fully during the swing.

They explosively extend the hips and drive them forward, creating the power needed to swing the kettle bell. Your quads extend your knees to provide an extra power boost.

Your core and back muscles engage to keep your torso stable and your spine in a neutral position. These muscles also help decelerate the kettle bell during the downswing, while maintaining control of your body.

The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that all athletes should perfect. It's important for athletic skills like jumping, and for exercises like the Dead lift and Squat.

This allows your strong and powerful glutes to maximally contribute to the movement, while keeping your lower back safe. The moves require lots of practice and great coaching—heck, these lifts are sports on their own.

You don't get a full triple extension—of the hips, knees and ankles—and you can't use as heavy of a weight. In a study led by renowned spinal researcher Dr. Stuart McGill, it was found that the KettlebellSwing puts forces on the spine in the opposite direction from Dead lifts and other similar exercises.

We're not saying the Dead lift is a bad exercise—it's one of our favorite lifts—but if you're dealing with back pain, the KettlebellSwing might be a smarter option. Since the KettlebellSwing is a full-body movement, it's a great option for conditioning and training muscular endurance.

According to an ACE Fitness study, a Kettle bell Snatch workout, which is similar to the Swing, burns approximately 20 calories per minute. However, the focus of the exercise is on the hip hinge, which is driven by the glutes and hamstrings.

You will use lighter weight than the traditional Swing, but the single-arm variation is more challenging for your core. The amount of weight an experienced lifter can use is significantly different from what a beginner can handle—as with any exercise.

We always advise starting on the lighter side so you can focus on mastering technique and not on the difficulty of moving the weight. Once you perfect your form, gradually increase the weight so your muscles feel challenged in your set.

You only need one piece of equipment, and there aren't a series of super technical steps you'll have to master to perform the exercise safely, as is the case with Olympic lifts. He warns that the swing isn't just two bodybuilding moves strung together (a squat and front raise), but rather one distinct exercise.

The key motion in the kettlebellswing is, instead, the hip hinge: Butt going backwards, and hamstrings and glutes turning on to explode you forwards.” Just as badly, you’re going to need to use your shoulders to power the kettle bell upwards out of the swing, essentially pushing them through a “front raise”-type motion.

Your shoulders aren’t meant to work through that motion with the weights you’ll wind up kettle bell swinging. You should also avoid taking on the swing straight-legged, which limits your hamstrings' ability to work and kills the explosive potential of the exercise.

Brett Williams, NASA Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men's Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. “Swings work almost every major muscle in the body,” says Jacquelyn Boston, CSS, owner of Triple Fit in Chicago.

Hold a kettle bell in front of your body with both hands, arms straight. Use that momentum to stand and swing the kettle bell out in front of your body, up to shoulder height.

Thrust your hips forward, and engage your glutes and core as you stand up straight. When the kettle bell hits shoulder height, your knees should be straight and glutes contracted in a full hip extension.

Form tips: The emphasis in this move is on a hip hinge, not a squat, so make sure you have that movement pattern down before you pick up a ‘bell, Boston says. “The glutes and leg muscles generate force while the core musculature, shoulder girdle, and pecs stabilize to control the movement,” Boston explains.

They’re fabulous for developing power, improving core stability, building endurance, and improving muscle imbalances (like shortened hamstrings and weak glutes). The latter is almost impossible to control without hyper extending your lower back, and many people lack the shoulder mobility to fully and safely extend a weight overhead in this manner, Boston says.

What’s more, the variation used here—Russian Kettle bell Swings—allows you to use more power from your hips and legs, taking some strain off your shoulders as well. “Because it engages so many muscles and is dynamic in nature, you need adequate recovery time to prevent injury,” Boston explains.

Plan to work kettle bell exercises in general, not just swings, into your routine up to two or three days per week. Use the move's intensity to your advantage by including it in a HIIT workout, ideally paired with push ups, planks, and squats (all body weight movements).

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.

Sources
1 www.menshealth.com - https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a28439541/kettlebell-swing-form/
2 greatist.com - https://greatist.com/move/how-to-do-the-perfect-kettlebell-swing
3 www.stack.com - https://www.stack.com/a/proper-kettlebell-swing-form-a-step-by-step-guide
4 www.menshealth.com - https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a33313816/kettlebell-swing-no-squat/
5 www.womenshealthmag.com - https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a28338905/kettlebell-swing-exercise/