Getting the most out of your Kettlebell Swing

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY BRETT JONES, CHIEF SFG INSTRUCTOR AT STRONGFIRST.

The Kettlebell Swing is, in my opinion, one of the best power and conditioning moves available. A rhythmically repetitive syncing of breath and power with an athletic hip hinge, it provides a uniquely loaded eccentric position. Here are some tips and details to help you get the most out of your Kettlebell Swing.

1. Set-up

Athletic hinge position with the shoulder above the hip and the hip above the knee. Your structure and movement ability may influence how this looks, but two particular extremes are counterproductive and should be avoided: • When the shoulders are even with or lower than the hips, the hip hinge has become more of a stiff-legged deadlift with too much emphasis on the hamstrings. • When the hips drop below the knees, the hip hinge has become a squat and that isn’t the goal when performing a swing.

2. Hike

Hike the kettlebell to connect the arms to ribs – activate the lats. During SFG Courses and Certifications, we make a big deal about getting the arms connected to the ribs during the kettlebell deadlift and swing. This activates the lats (latissimus dorsi), connects the upper body to the hips via the thoracolumbar fascia and increases your stability and power.

3. Patience

As you extend the hips keep the arms against the ribs as long as possible. You need to “close all the doors” in sequence in order to move the power from the ground through the body to the kettlebell. This requires patience. If the kettlebell swings away from your body too soon (or you pull with the arms), then the power cannot get to the kettlebell. “Velcro” your upper arms to your ribs and wait for the energy from your hip extension to “break the bond”.

4. Patience

Hold the top position until you actively return the arms to the ribs into an overspeed eccentric. Don't confuse RPMs (reps per minute) with power! During the float of the kettlebell at the top of a swing, you will need to have patience. Hold that standing plank until you use your lats to reconnect the arms to the ribs. This is your hip “trigger” to sit back into another athletic hinge.

5. Syncing the breath

Sniff into tight abs during the hike and use a forced exhale as the hips finish extending. Breath is critical to all we do. In the kettlebell swing, it’s part of the rhythm and safety of the exercise. The sniff into braced abs during the hike creates intra-abdominal pressure, giving you a solid center to transmit force through. A forced exhale at the finish is part of the crisp and full expression of hip extension and sends your energy into the swing.

6. Listen to your Body and the PUSH band

Too many people fall prey to chasing the “burn” or beating the clock during their training sessions. Or the goal repetition number is pursued and achieved regardless of the quality, power or velocity. But this type of workout mentality obscures your work towards a specific goal. More is not better. Better is better. Watch out for that 10%+ drop in power! Keep power high and don’t be afraid to stop a set when power drops.

So, there you have it. Tips and details to help you get the most out of your kettlebell swing.

Brett Jones

Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Chief SFG Instructor and Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from the Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally. As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006 and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching by e-mailing him at brett.jones@strongfirst.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.