I used to swing dance in college and it was a lot of fun, I highly recommend it if you ever get the opportunity. This post is not about that kind of swing though. We’re going to break down the kettlebell swing. Yay!
Why do I like it?
-Excellent tool in teaching the hip hinge and improves movement patterns for other lifts.
- Builds a powerful and attractive posterior chain (aka the bootay and hamstrings…and I’m all about that!) which will help prevent knee and low back injuries.
- Joint-friendly conditioning tool.
- The “snap” at the top of the swing is the same movement needed for vertical and broad jumps. So, stronger snap means a more powerful jump (and you volleyball and basketball players who are concerned with your vertical… start swinging!)
Getting Started: Learning to Hinge
Stand facing away from a wall, heels about 2 inches away. Put your hands on the crease of your hips and shove your butt back to touch the wall. Form Check: knees should be “soft” and not locked. Spine should be neutral. THIS is a hinge.
CRACK a walnut between your butt cheeks and SNAP your hips through.
Now, step out about 6 inches and repeat the process until your butt and hamstrings are a little shaky and you know exactly where they are. This is how you move in a swing. Memorize this movement.
Getting Started Part 2: Putting the Two Together
Hinge at your hips (butt back, I can’t say that enough, and spine straight/neutral) and place your forearms on your inner thighs and pretend you have a piece of paper under each armpit. SQUEEZE tight and pull your shoulder blades into your back pockets (this will make your low back arch a bit…this is good.) Breathe in. This is the bottom of the swing.
Crack you walnut and snap your hips through. Upper arms should still be holding your pieces of paper (upper arms against your ribcage). Allow your arms to “float” up until they’re parallel to the floor. Exhale, squeeze your glutes as if your life depended upon your walnut-cracking ability and pull your shoulders down to your hips. You should feel TIGHT, like a stone pillar. If I came by and shoved you, you shouldn’t fall over.
Moving On: Practice
Ok, now let’s see how it all fits together. Grab a light kettlebell (or dumbbell, just hold it vertically from one end). Hip-hinge, the KB should come between your legs, stay tight at the bottom (butt back, spine neutral, shoulders down and breathe in), and CRACK (aka: SHATTER) the walnut and snap dem hips through, your arms should float up to parallel (do NOT force them up, your hips should be generating all the momentum) and the KB does not pass your eyes. Exhale as you squeeze glutes and lats.
Pull the KB back down between your crotch (attack your zipper) and do it all over again.
Not bad eh?
I like Dan John‘s analogy of gas pedal/brakes:
Hip-snap and pop the glutes = gas pedal
Tighten the lats (pull shoulders down to your hips) and brace the abdomen = brakes
Balance between the two, you should be tight at the bottom and the top of the swing but flow-y and loose between the two. Don’t be too stiff.
*Note: for some reason in this video I snap my head down a bit at the top. Don’t do that.
Trouble Shooting: Common Swing Mishaps
-Not “pulling” the KB back down to your crotch. In other words, letting it just flop back down between your legs which will cause it to be further from your hips than you want (and thus more strain on your lower back and elbows). As Dan John says, “Attack your zipper!”
-Failing to keep your chest up, your back flat and lats tight throughout the movement.
-Not standing “tall” at the end with hips and knees fully extended.
-Forcing the swing, too tight throughout and not relaxing between the top and bottom of the swing.
-Wild arcs: letting the KB get too far away from you throughout the swing.
Practical Applications: Work outs
Before trying out these workouts, make certain that you’ve got the swing down pretty well. Throw in a couple sets of 8-10 at the end of workouts just to practice.
X-swings per day
Set a number of swings you want to accomplish, say 80, and complete them during your normal work out. I did that for a couple weeks, and increased my total each week by 20 reps. I would work in sets of 20 throughout my work out.
Swing for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. See how long you can go. I’d start out with 8-10 minutes.
Similar to the 30/30, at the top of every minute, perform 20 swings and then rest the remainder of the minute. For 12 minutes. Your heart rate will get up there!
Swing Clean Up: Miscellaneous thoughts
-How heavy a KB should you use? Start light, maybe a 20 or 25 and then work your way up. Remember that the number of swings you’re doing should be somewhat inversely porportional to the weight you use. I’ve found that for someone my size, a 45-50 pound bell works well for conditioning. If you’re using your glutes as you should, you’ll be pleasantly suprised at how much you can swing. (I’ve done a 70 pound KB for sets of 15 and I was surprised at how “easy” it was when I let my hips do the talking. So don’t be afeared of the bigger bells!)
-How many swings in a set? Depends on the goal. I’ve worked anywhere from 10 to 50 swings per set. (and of course you can do more, just be strict with your form. Stop when you feel less than perfect!) For conditioning swings alone I will stay above 25 swings. If I have swings within a conditioning circuit I usually stay below 20.
Wow, I talked way more than I thought I would! Thanks for making it all the way through! Now go get swingin’!