How to Do A Kettlebell Swing

1 Arm Kettlebell Swing

It's been said that the kettlebell swing is better than 99% of all exercises for strength and conditioning - and I couldn't agree more.

When it comes to building strength and power in your legs, improving your work capacity, burning tons of body fat, and making you more flexible in the process - nothing delivers like the kettlebell swing.

As world class strength coach Dan John says, "the kettlebell swing is a fat burning, athlete maker."

The swing teaches you to hinge through your hips, move explosively and to use your lower body to generate power from the ground and transfer it into your upper body - the fundamentals of athleticism.

It's also the center of the kettlebell training world, the foundation from which all the other kettlebell lifts are built on.

Take the time to master it and you'll make the rest of your lifts better and get so much more out of your training.

Let's take a look at how to do the kettlebell swing and it's variations.

How to Do A 2 Hand Kettlebell Swing

The 2 hand kettlebell swing is the entry point into learning how to swing a kettlebell, it's where everyone starts their kettlebell journey.

Essentially, the 2 hand kettlebell swing is an explosive deadlift where your hip drive causes the kettlebell to float up to chest level.

The bottom of the swing looks the same as the bottom of a deadlift where your hips are back and your glutes and hamstrings are loaded, ready to explode.

The top of the swing is like a standing plank; you're standing tall with your legs locked out, glutes squeezed, abs braced and your shoulders pulled back and down.

  • 1
    Set up about 12 inches behind the kettlebell, feet shoulder width apart.
  • 2
    Keeping your chest tall and your back flat, push your hips back until you can grab the handle with both hands.
  • 3
    Keeping your head up and eyes on the horizon, take a sniff or air in through your nose and hike the kettlebell back between your legs, high in your groin.
  • 4
    Drive your heels into the floor and stand straight up.
  • 5
    Sharply exhale with a TSSS! as you snap your hips.
  • 6
    Lock your legs out, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down.
  • 7
    The kettlebell should float up to chest level from the power generated by your hips.
  • 8
    Hike the kettlebell back between your legs, high in your groin and repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • 9
    Park the kettlebell safely on the ground following a backswing.

How to Do A 1 Arm Kettlebell Swing

Once you've mastered the 2 hand kettlebell swing, it's time to move on to the main course - the 1 arm swing.

The 1 arm swing is one of the best lifts you can do, mastering it allows you to start training more advanced lifts like the clean, snatch, press and jerk as well as using chains and complexes in your training.

The Same, But Different

The 1 arm swing is basically a 2 hand swing with a couple small details to pay attention to.

First, obviously, you'll grip the kettlebell with only one hand.

There are 3 grip positions you can use, either with the handle parallel to you or turned slightly up or down towards the thumb, whichever is most comfortable for you.

Second, because the load is only in 1 arm, the kettlebell will pull on your arm and try to twist you - don't let it.

Keep your body square during the 1 arm swing, it's one of the best "core" exercises you'll do.

Finally, mirror the working arm with the non-working arm throughout the swing.

As you hike the kettlebell back with one arm, throw your other arm back behind you.

When you swing the kettlebell up, bring the other arm up to chest level, this will also help you stay square.

Other than that, the principles of the swing remain the same.

  • 1
    Set up about 12 inches behind the kettlebell, feet shoulder width apart.
  • 2
    Keeping your chest tall and you back flat, push your hips back until you can grab the handle with one hand.
  • 3
    Keeping your head up and eyes on the horizon, take a sniff of air in through your nose and hike the kettlebell back between your legs, high in your groin.
  • 4
    Drive your feet into the floor and stand straight up.
  • 5
    Sharply exhale with a TSSS! as you snap your hips.
  • 6
    Lock your legs out, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down.
  • 7
    The kettlebell should float up to chest level from the power generated by your hips.
  • 8
    Hike the kettlebell back between your legs, high in your groin and repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • 9
    Keep your body square, don't let the kettlebell pull or twist your body at the top or the bottom of the swing.
  • 10
    Park the kettlebell safely on the ground following a backswing.

How to Do A Hand to Hand Kettlebell Swing

You need to get comfortable with the hand to hand swing because it's how you switch hands for single kettlebell lifts and during kettlebell complexes and chains.

The hand to hand swing is just a 1 arm swing where you switch hands at the top of every swing.

Make sure you switch hands on the upswing, as the kettlebell floats, so you don't run out of time and lose control of the bell as it drops back down into the backswing.

  • 1
    Perform a 1 arm swing, switching hands at the top of each swing.
  • 2
    Make sure to switch hands on the upswing, to give yourself enough time to transfer hands.

How to Do A Double Kettlebell Swing

The double swing is the final destination when it comes to swinging kettlebells.

Because it's generally better to swing a single heavy kettlebell than two moderately heavy ones, the double swing isn't usually trained on it's own.

However, once you get to higher level programming like double kettlebell complexes, it becomes a lift that you need to be familiar with.

The double kettlebell swing is similar to the previous swings with a few small tweaks.

First, because you're swinging two kettlebells between your legs, you'll need to get set up with a wider stance.

The wider stance will change the mechanics of the lift a little and might feel strange at first, but it's better than hitting your knees with a pair of kettlebells.

Second, there are a couple different ways to grip the kettlebells.

I prefer a pistol grip, where the handles are parallel to each other.

You can also use a barbell grip, where the handles are in a straight line, or an inverted V grip, where the handles are turned up slightly toward the thumbs.

Experiment and find out what grip works best for you.

  • 1
    Set up about 12 inches behind a pair of kettlebells, your feet will need to be wider than shoulder width apart to make room for two bells.
  • 2
    Keeping your chest tall and your back flat, push your hips back until you can grab the handles with each hand.
  • 3
    The handles should either form a straight line, be turned slightly up toward your thumbs or parallel to each other.
  • 4
    Keeping your head up and eyes on the horizon, take a sniff of air in through your nose and hike the kettlebells back between your legs, high in your groin.
  • 5
    Drive your feet into the floor and stand straight up.
  • 6
    Sharply exhale with a TSSS! as you snap your hips.
  • 7
    Lock your legs out, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down.
  • 8
    The kettlebells should float up to chest level from the power generated by your hips.
  • 9
    Hike the kettlebells back between your legs, high in your groin and repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • 10
    Park the kettlebells safely on the ground following a backswing.

Coaching Points

The kettlebell swing appears simple but, like most things that are valuable, the devil is in the details.

Here are a few coaching points that will improve your kettlebell swing.

The Kettlebell Swing is a Hinge, NOT a Squat

The swing is a hip dominant movement, meant to be performed by keeping your back flat and pushing your hips back to load up the glutes and hamstrings.

It's not a squat, your hips should move back and forward, not down and up.

Imagine pushing your butt back, trying to touch the wall 18 inches behind you while keeping your chest tall - that's the swing.

Form a Standing Plank at the Top of the Swing

At the top of the swing you want to turn your body into a plank, every muscle from your shoulders down should be engaged.

Drive your heels into the ground, lock your legs out, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs, pull your shoulders blades back and down and stand tall.

The more tension you can create, the more power you'll generate.

Don't Use Your Arms to Lift the Kettlebell

The power in the swing comes from the lower body, not your arms.

The only thing your arms are doing is keeping the bell from flying away from all the power that your hips generate.

Relax your arms (not your shoulders) and let the bell float weightlessly at the top of the swing.

The hips drive and the arms guide.

Wait Out the Backswing

The kettlebell handle should never go below your knees during the swing.

If you imagine a triangle formed by both of your knees and your zipper, that's where the kettlebell should enter into the backswing.

Avoid hinging too early and letting the kettlebell drop below that triangle.

Keeping the bell high in your groin keeps the stress on your glutes and legs, where it belongs, instead of your lower back.

Power Breathing

Power breathing is a style of breathing that will make your swings stronger and more explosive while also creating tension in your abs and protecting your back.

For power breathing, push your tongue against the roof of your mouth and keep it there.

As you hike the bell into the backswing, take a big sniff of air in through your nose.

Then, as you snap up and lock your hips out, sharply exhale through pursed lips, compressing the air with your tongue.

It'll make a TSSSS! sound, similar to a pressure relief valve, and cause your abs to contract hard.

When you swing, sync your breathing rhythm with your body movement - hike, sniff in, snap up, TSSSS!

Wrapping Up

The kettlebell swing is one of the most valuable exercises you can do to improve your strength and conditioning.

Of course, that's assuming you're doing it correctly.

So follow the steps and cues above and start practicing your swings regularly.

Master each swing variation before progressing to the next - the loading may change but the principles remain the same.

And remember, the kettlebell swing is simple to learn but will take a long time to perfect - enjoy the process.

In Strength and Health,

Dave

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