The kettlebell swing is arguably the most fundamental kettlebell exercise that can provide tons of health benefits to athletes. When performed correctly, it effectively works the lats, abdominals, glutes, quads and hamstrings; it acts as both a strengthening exercise and a cardio exercise. It can also help open up the muscles in the hips and get the glutes to engage. However, when performed incorrectly, athletes can experience lower back pain and tension in the forearms and biceps.
The kettlebell swing, in essence, is a deadlift with momentum. The kettlebell swings back behind the athlete, the athlete squeezes his or her glutes and hamstrings and drives forward with the hips, and the kettlebell is propelled forward and stops about chest height. It then travels down and back behind the athlete in a pendulum motion, and the movement is repeated.
Check out the tips below to perform the kettlebell swing safely and effectively!
1. Get your hinge position down.
One of the most common mistakes athletes make when first learning the kettlebell swing is squatting into the kettlebell swing. The kettlebell swing is a hinge position, similar to a deadlift, meaning that the initial bend comes from the hips instead of the knees. When performing the kettlebell swing, you want to sit your hips back as the kettlebell travels behind you.
This allows for the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings to take the load of the weight so that as the kettlebell starts to travel back forward, you can squeeze those muscles and drive your hips forward to get the kettlebell in front of you. If you squat down and bend at the knees first, you won’t be able to effectively use those muscles, and you place yourself at risk for using more of your upper body or back to perform the movement.
2. Engage your core muscles.
The kettlebell swing requires you to use all the major muscles of your core: your lats, abs, glutes, hamstrings and quads. As the kettlebell travels back behind you into the hinge position, you should be engaging your lats to help keep your back in an arched and safe position. You should be loading the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings in order to power the kettlebell forward. As the kettlebell is powered up, you should be engaging your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and abs. That tension should be maintained until the forearms make a connection with the body as the kettlebell travels back down into the hinge position.
3. Use the proper breathing patterns.
During any exercise, you want to make sure that your breathing patterns are correct so that you don’t lose tension at any pivotal moments. During the kettlebell swing, you should be inhaling as the kettlebell travels back behind the body, and exhaling as the kettlebell reaches chest height.
This will allow for the athlete to maintain core tension at the top position and to effectively load the glutes and hamstrings in the backswing.
Try implementing the kettlebell swing into your training in order to build strength, increase your cardiovascular efficiency, and work your body efficiently with one movement!
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com