Kettlebell swings are one of the best exercises to develop explosive hips, and mastering them translates to better kinesthetic awareness in all of your other lifts.
Most kettlebell exercises build off the swing, requiring solid swing technique before progressing. Unfortunately, swings seem to be one of the most improperly performed exercises in gyms across the world. Even if you think you’ve got the motion down, there are still some pointers that will help you take your swing form to the next level.
These 5 tips will tighten up your swing form, making you more efficient in the gym and less susceptible to injury.
1. Find your lats
The swing is mostly a hip movement, meaning the hips propel the bell, not the arms. But, you want to be sure to engage your upper body at the right times, particularly the lats. On the way down, engage your lats by pulling your shoulders back as you swing the bell between your legs. This will keep the weight connected to your body, and help ensure your spine stays neutral.
2. Contract your quads
Have you ever heard that you’re not supposed to lock your knees completely? Well, this isn’t entirely true. Yes, you don’t want to snap your knees back and perhaps hyperextend them. However, you do want to extend them completely by fully contracting your quads. If you keep your knees and quads loose during the lockout portion of the swing, you miss out on a ton of power production. Think about pulling your knee caps up towards your hips as opposed to back.
3. Bend your knees
Just as you may have heard to keep your knees soft at the lockout, you may have been told not to bend your knees on the way down. The hinge portion of the swing can sometimes turn into a squat if the bell is allowed to drop down towards the knees as opposed to thrown back towards the hips. Still, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bend your knees. Keeping your knees straight during the hinge can place undue stress on the hamstrings and low back, while bending them allows you to properly load your hips. The trick is to always drive the bell backwards, high into the groin, to encourage a hinge/deadlift pattern and avoid a squatting movement.
Check out Jen Sinkler showing the difference between a successful and unsuccessful swing:
4. Root your feet
There’s a reason why you see a lot of people swinging with their shoes off. The power production in the swing starts from the feet. Improper footwear can truly detract from that. Whenever possible, swing barefoot, and as an alternative-with flat soled, lightweight footwear. Regardless, you want to be sure to root your feet into the ground, thinking about pushing them through the floor. This is especially important during the lockout, when you’ll want to push your heels into the ground to engage your glutes. Just be careful not to let your toes pop up in the process or claw the ground with your toes.
5. Loosen your grip
As I mentioned before, the swing is mostly a hip movement with minimal upper body engagement. Often, if we grip the bell too tightly, we can keep the arms stiff and put too much tension in the neck and shoulders. Try loosening up your grip and only holding on as much as necessary to keep the bell from flying out of your hands. Chalk is pretty helpful in this regard, especially when the bells are heavy or your hands are sweaty.
Now, grab your bell and get your better swing on!