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The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation of all kettlebell exercises and characterises everything kettlebell training is about – power-endurance. Kettlebells have become a staple piece of personal training equipment since their rise in popularity in the late 1990s, which you can read much more about in our article on the history of the kettlebell.
The kettlebell swing, which from this point on we will simply refer to as ‘the swing’, is perhaps the most basic of kettlebell exercises, and can be performed as an exercise in its own right or during transitions between other kettlebell exercises.
Prior to attempting the swing, exercisers should ensure that they can correctly perform the ‘kettlebell deadlift’, of which the swing is a natural progression.
Both the deadlift and the swing can be described as triple extension exercises, because they require a simultaneous extension of the ankles, knees and hips. Although, an extension of the ankle is somewhat limited in these exercises because the heel remains on the ground.
In order to effectively complete the swing, exercisers should follow 10 step guide below:
1. Placing the kettlebell between the feet, the stance should be slightly wider than hip-distance apart with both the knees and hips flexed beyond 90 degrees.
2. The kettlebell should sit slightly behind the heels, so that you are almost reaching behind yourself in order to take your grip.
3. Keeping the head and chest high at all times, gently swing the kettlebell forward whilst extending the ankles, knees and hips. The first three swings should remain quite low in order to gain momentum.
4. Swing the kettlebell to shoulder height during the extension phase and behind the hips during the flexion phase. Avoid trying to take the kettlebell above shoulder height.
5. Breathe in and brace your core muscles during the flexion phase and rapidly exhale through pursed lips during the extension phase. By keeping the lips pursed throughout the exercise you will engage your core musculature far more effectively and provide more stability to the spine.
6. Rapidly extend the knees and hips in a snapping motion from the bottom of the exercise. At the point of full extension, the hips should move slightly in advance of the shoulders.
7. Keep the wrists fixed and the arms completely straight so that the kettlebell handle appears to act as an extension of the hand. At no point should the wrists be flexed or cocked.
8. Sit back on the heels during the flexion phase of the swing in order to maintain balance. Aim to get more flexion at the hip rather than the knee in order to maximise the activation of the hamstrings and gluteals during the extension phase.
9. Keep the spine neutral throughout the exercise. The motion should primarily be created from the ankles, knees and hips; a minimal amount of spinal movement should be permitted.
10. Avoid trying to stop the kettlebell mid-swing. Gradually reduce the range and speed of the swing over two or three swings in order to bring the exercise to a halt.
There are a variety of other ways in which the swing can be progressed or modified including the single arm swing, the alternate swing and the alternate catching swing. Take a look at the video below in order to se some of these variations in action.
If you’re still not convinced, take a look at one of our previous articles on ‘The Benefits of Kettlebell Training’.