Get the base of a kettlebell swing right.
All too often when I’m at a gym, whether watching a person work out on their own or watching a trainer use kettlebells with their client, the very root of the kettlebell swing motion is done incorrectly. To easily explain the reason one motion is correct and the other is not, we’ll look at directionality of motion.
The most basic thing: a kettlebell swing is NOT based on a squat motion. A proper kettlebell swing is based on a deadlift. End of list. Let’s take a look at the hips.
In a squat, the hips and knees both flex the same amount, in opposite directions. It is as though you’re sitting yourself down into a chair. Where do the hips go? More or less, almost directly downward. So the completion of the motion is directly upward. It is a vertical motion of the hips.
Now, a kettlebell swing is a circular motion. The motion of the bell itself is an arc. In order to properly connect the motion of the body to the motion of the bell, the motion of the body, primarily the hips, has to be in the same direction as the motion of the bell. By using a squat motion, the vertical motion of the hips does not translate into the bell; any centrifugal motion has to be initiated completely by the arms, a very disconnected motion. When the bell returns downward, if you’re going into a squatting motion, the bell is just dropping to the ground, losing the circularity of the motion, therefore being a wasteful, inefficient motion.
In a deadlift, on the other hand, the hips move more horizontally. There is very little flexion of the knees, just enough to take some of the stress off the hamstrings. The hips move behind you and the torso bends forward. In the return, the hips initiate the motion forward bringing the body back to an upright position.
When doing the deadlift motion, while holding a kettlebell in both hands, the horizontal motion of the hips translates into the bell. With the shoulders being the focal point of the lever arm of the motion, the bell will be thrust forward and will circle around the end of the lever arm, the shoulders. That creates a circular, centrifugal motion. When the bell swings back, once the arms connect with the torso again, the circular motion of the kettlebell swing guides the hips right back into a deadlift motion. The two motions compliment each other and assist each other.
When performing a kettlebell swing, the bell should never get below your knees. Your hands (or just hand if you’re doing a 1 arm swing) should come into strong contact with your upper inner thigh(s). The thrust of the hips will bring the bell back out and up, in another beautiful circular arc.
So remember.. deadlift… DEADLIFT… not squat.
Done right, a kettlebell swing is strengthening, powerful and great for your posture. Done wrong, using a squatting motion, you risk injury to your low back and your shoulder. So, don’t do that!