How To Master The Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

I First Started Training With Kettlebells In 2009

I’d read about them in an article and started doing some research. That led me to the RKC forum where I found a group of people who were using kettlebells to “develop all-purpose strength” and “forge a fighter’s physique”.

That’s All I Needed To Hear

I picked up a copy of the book everyone was talking about, Enter The Kettlebell, and started my journey. One of the points from the book that stuck with me was the “the swing is the center of the kettlebell training universe.” If you want to train with kettlebells, it all starts with the swing.

There Are A Ton Of Benefits To The Kettlebell Swing

It’ll help you develop full body strength, power and athleticism. It hits your lungs hard and improves your conditioning. And, when done with enough volume, you can hack off body fat quickly with just the swing. 

The Kettlebell Swing Gets Rave Reviews

World famous strength coach, Dan John, likes to say “the kettlebell swing is a fat burning athlete builder”. And another top strength coach, Steve Maxwell, once said, “the kettlebell swing is better than 99% of exercises out there.”

The Kettlebell Swing Is A Pretty Simple Exercise

It takes minutes to learn but a lifetime to master. The key to mastering it is to perfect the 3 positions that make up the kettlebell swing.

  • The Setup Position
  • The Hike Position
  • The Standing Plank

Let’s start at the beginning, with the setup position. 

The Setup Position

Kettlebell Swing - The Setup Position

Getting The Setup Position Right Is Your First Rep

The setup position is the start and finish position for each and every set of swings. Think of it as the first and last rep. You’ll start every set from a strong setup position. Then you’ll do your swings. And you’ll finish the set by parking the kettlebell in the exact same position as you started.

The Setup Is The Foundation For The Swing

That’s why you need to get it right. If you start off in a bad position you can’t expect your swings to be high quality. And of course, there’s always a chance you get hurt when you don’t set up correctly. So take the time to get it right.

First, Start With Your Stance

Stand about 18 inches behind your kettlebell. Assume a shoulder width stance, maybe slightly wider if it feels more comfortable. You want your feet to be turned out slightly.

Everyone’s body is a little different so you’ll have to experiment to see what feels best for you. But definitely don’t turn them more than about 30 degrees.

Next, You Want To Get Into A Good Hinge Position

Keep your chest tall and your back flat as push your hips straight back. Imagine you’re trying to touch the wall behind you with your butt. Let your knees bend slightly as you push your hips back until you can grip the kettlebell. Remember to keep your chest tall, your back flat, your chin up and your eyes on the horizon. 

Finally, Grip The Kettlebell With Both Hands And Angle It Towards You

Contract your lats by squeezing your armpits, like you’re trying to break the handle in half. Keep your chest up tall and your back flat. Your head should still be up and your eyes on the horizon. This is the setup position. 

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The quality of your kettlebell makes a huge difference in your training. You should always use the best. The only kettlebells I recommend can be found HERE

From the setup position, you’ll hike the kettlebell to begin your set of swings. So let’s move on and learn the hike position.

The Hike Position

Kettlebell Swing - The Hike Position

The Hike Position Is Pretty Much What It Sounds Like

If you’re familiar with football, you know the center hikes a football between his legs to the quarterback. The kettlebell hike is the same idea. You hike the kettlebell back between your legs.

A Strong Hike Makes Your Swings More Explosive

When you throw the kettlebell back into the hike position, it loads your legs and glutes so you can get maximum power. If you lazily hike the kettlebell back, your swings will lack power.

Every Swing Starts With A Strong Hike

When you start your set you’ll hike the kettlebell from the ground. For the rest of your set you’ll hike it from the top of the swing. Either way, the hike position is the same. Ok, so how do you hike the kettlebell?

The First Thing You Want To Focus On Is Your Breath

Focusing on your breathing during swings will help you maximize power and keep you from getting injured. You’ll initiate the hike with a sharp inhale through your nose as you hike the kettlebell back behind you. Just a quick sniff of air in through your nose and into your belly.

Then Hike the Kettlebell Like You’re Trying To Throw It Through The Wall Behind You

Make sure you keep that good hinge position as you hike the kettlebell behind you; chest tall, back flat, head up and eyes on the horizon. You should feel your weight shift to your heels as you hike the kettlebell back.

You always want to keep the kettlebell high in your groin. What does that mean? Get your upper arms against your ribs and your forearms touching high up on the inside of your thighs.

A Lot Of People Struggle Here, So Try This

Imagine a triangle that connects both of your knees and your groin/zipper area. On every swing you want to hike the handle of the kettlebell into that triangle. Essentially, you never want the kettlebell to get below your knees.

When you keep the kettlebell high in your groin, it makes it a lot easier to snap up into the top of the swing. The top of the swing is called the standing plank. Let’s look at how to do the standing plank.

The Standing Plank

Kettlebell Swing - The Standing Plank

The Standing Plank Is The Position At The Top Of The Swing

This is where you’re standing tall and the kettlebell is floating up to the top, just before you hike it back down into the triangle. It’s called the standing plank because you’re squeezing every muscle in your body, just like when you’re doing a plank exercise for your abs. Why do you have to squeeze every muscle?

That’s How You Create Maximum Power In The Swing

You want to use (almost) every muscle in your body to accelerate the kettlebell up.  Plus, the kettlebell wants to pull you forward. You need to be strong and stable to keep it from dragging you around. So how do you get into the standing plank position?

From The Hike Position, Drive Your Heels Through The Floor

Drive hard with your legs, and snap your hips forward like you’re trying to jump as high as you can. But without actually jumping. Imagine you’re trying to leave footprints in the ground from pressing so hard.

Stand Straight Up And Squeeze Everything

Drive your heels into the ground. Pull your kneecaps “up” to lock your legs out. Squeeze your glutes hard. Tense your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Only your arms and face should be relaxed. The will cause the kettlebell to float to the top of the swing.

Sync Your Breathing With The Hip Snap

In the hike position you took a sniff of air in through your nose. As you stand up tall and lock your hips out, let out a sharp exhale. Push your tongue to the top of your mouth and force the air out of a small opening. This is called power breathing and it’ll fire your abs and add power to the swing.

I Want To Go Over An Important Point With The Standing Plank

Make sure you’re standing tall through the crown of your head. A lot of people will lean back as they try to power the kettlebell up, don’t. You want to be standing ramrod straight with your abs tensed hard.

And That’s Really All There Is To The Swing

The setup, the hike, and the standing plank. Once you know those three positions, all you have to do is connect the dots and you’re swinging a kettlebell.

For Example, A Set Of 3 Swings Would Look Like This

  • Setup
  • Hike
  • Standing plank
  • Hike
  • Standing plank
  • Hike
  • Standing plank
  • Hike
  • Setup

Remember, The Setup Position Is How You Park The Kettlebell

From the top of the swing, hike the kettlebell back down into the hike position. Then just let it swing forward without standing back up. Now the kettlebell is parked and the set is over.

Don’t get sloppy here. Keep your chest tall and your back flat until the kettlebell is back on the ground. Your set isn’t over until the kettlebell is safely parked.

MUST READ BOOK

Pavel Tsatsouline is the King of Kettlebells. Check out his book for a remarkably simple program, utilizing the swing, for real world strength and conditioning. You can find it HERE

The Kettlebell Swing Is One Of The Best Exercises Out There

When done properly, you’ll see unbelievable improvements in strength, power and conditioning. The key to doing it properly is the master 3 important positions.

  • The Setup Position
  • The Hike Position
  • The Standing Plank

Once you’ve nailed those 3 positions down, your swings will improve dramatically.

In Strength and Health, 

Dave D’Ambrosio