The kettlebell swing is a ballistic hip hinge exercise that strengthens your backside and grip and will increase your heart rate in a joint-friendly fashion. The kettlebell swing is a fundamental move based on which many other kettlebell moves, including the snatch, clean, and clean & press. It’s arguably the best tool that offers the best mix of strength and cardio when performed correctly,
But do you know what other title the kettlebell swing holds? It might be the one of the most botched moves in the gym. It’s a hip hinge, but oftentimes is performed more like a squat and front raise combination. Many lifters have their swing style because we are all put together differently, but it doesn’t change the fact that proper hip hinge movement is the goal with this exercise.
Here we’ll get into what constitutes a good kettlebell swing and a few major flaws with easy kettlebell swing fixes to get the best out of this excellent exercise.
Kettlebell Swing Form Tips
You’re going to be tired of hearing this, but the foundation of the swing is based on the hip hinge and hip extension. Without those two important elements, you’ll be doing something between your legs with a kettlebell, but it will not be a swing.
Good form for the kettlebell swings consists of:
- Setting up like a barbell deadlift with the KB slightly in front of you.
- More hip flexion than knee flexion.
- Feeling tension in your hamstrings and not the lower back
- Keep your shoulders down and chest up when gripping the bell.
- Hiking the KB behind you and finishing the swing with your glutes.
There are some finer points to the kettlebell swing that purists love to get into but the above cover the big rocks of the swing. Next, let’s move on to some common errors with the swing 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 popping glutes. However, some lifters try to quickly progress with this exercise before learning the nuances of the deadlift and its variations. If you don’t know how to deadlift, you have no business doing the kettlebell swing.
The swing is a speed-up deadlift. You learned to crawl before you could run because you need to learn slow. Feel comfortable with the deadlift and its variations before hiking a kettlebell between your legs.
Now let’s get into some common kettlebell swing fixes for the most common mistakes.
1. Poor Setup
The video above is about how to set-up for the swing. This will vary from person to person, but the most significant error is setting up too far from the kettlebell. If the bell is too far away from your feet, you must shift your weight too far forward, and this cause you to shrug your shoulders to reach for it. With the hips higher than the shoulders, you will struggle to generate power with your first swing.
Fix It: Setting up side-on to a mirror to ensure your hips are below your shoulders will help. Plus, form an imaginary triangle with your feet and kettlebell. Your toes form the bottom of the triangle, and the base of the kettlebell is the tip. This ensures the kettlebell is just a short distance from your feet.
2. Squat-like Swing
The goal of the move is to generate power from your hips, not from knees, yet many lifters still rely on bending in a squat-like position in order to get more explosive. Stop this.
Fix it: The first step in preventing a squatty swing is learning to hip hinge correctly. A good hip hinge technique will only sometimes guarantee a good swing, given how much faster it happens, but it goes a long way. The second fix is to swing with a short foam roller between your legs. This is a reference point to keep the kettlebell above your knees during the downward arc. If you knock the foam roller over, it means you’re squatting your swing.
3. It’s Not a Front Raise
The kettlebell swing is a ballistic hip hinge, not a front raise, even though proponents of the American kettlebell swing may argue otherwise. Minus the American swing, some lifters still think the higher the swing the better the swing, but in reality, the swing loses its luster when turned into a front raise.
If the kettlebell is drooping at the top of the swing and you feel it in your shoulders, you’re 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 shouldn’t do any lifting. One way to kick this habit is to glue your armpits and arms together at all times, and if you feel any significant separation between your arms and your torso, put a stop to it.
4. Not Locking Out Glutes
The point of performing swings is strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Some lifters, to be ballistic and see how high they can swing the bell, arch, and finish with their lower back, not with hip extension. This is difficult to pick up while performing it, but your lower back will tell you the next day. Either get someone to observe you or record yourself performing swings.
Fix It: The lockout position of the kettlebell swing looks like a standing front plank. To ensure you’re using your hips and not your back, the following tip I picked up a while ago is to squeeze your quads at lockout. Intentionally flexing the quads will encourage hip extension and ensure you finish your swing with your hips and not your back.