I 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 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 starts with the swing
It’s the center of the universe, the foundation that all the other kettlebell lifts are built on.
And if you want the strength, power, conditioning and mobility benefits that come along with kettlebell training, it starts with learning the swing.
At first glance, it’s a pretty simple exercise.
But while it only takes a few minutes to learn, it takes a lifetime to master.
The first step to mastering the swing is to learn the 3 key positions.
The Setup/park Position
The setup/park position is how you start and finish every set of swings.
Getting it right is important.
If you get sloppy here, your swings are going to suck and you’re asking to get hurt.
So make sure you dial in your setup/park position.
First, set your stance
Start about 18 inches behind the kettlebell.
Your stance should be about shoulder width apart, maybe slightly wider if it’s more comfortable for you.
You also want to turn your feet out a bit to give your hips some room to move.
No more than about 30 degrees though.
Next, get into a strong posture
Hinge back into your hips by keeping your chest tall and your back flat as you push your butt back.
Think about pushing your hips back, not squatting down.
Imagine you’re trying to touch a wall 3 feet behind you with your butt.
Let your knees bend slightly as you sit back.
And remember to keep your chest tall, your back flat, your chin up and your eyes on the horizon as you sit back into your hips.
Keep hinging back until you can grab the kettlebell
Grip the handle and angle the kettlebell towards you.
Contract your lats by squeezing your armpits and pulling your shoulder blades back and down.
You should still have your chest up, back flat, head up and eyes on the horizon.
This is the setup/park position – it’s where you’ll start and finish every set of swings.
The Hike Position
If you’re familiar with American football, you know the center hikes the football between his legs to the quarterback to start each play.
The kettlebell hike is the same idea – you’re hiking the kettlebell back between your legs on every swing.
To 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.
Every swing starts with a good, strong hike
A good hike loads your legs and hips instead of your lower back.
And it helps you generate more power in the swing.
Ok, so how do you get into the hike position?
Initiate the hike with a sharp inhale
From the setup position, take a quick sniff of air in through your nose and push it down into your belly.
This pressurizes your core and protects your lower back during the bottom of the swing.
Plus, it helps you increase power in your swing.
As you inhale, hike the kettlebell back
Be strong with the hike – like you’re trying to throw it through the wall behind you.
And hike the kettlebell high in your groin.
This keeps the weight off of your lower back and loads your legs and glutes for maximum power.
If you imagine a triangle connecting both of your knees and your groin/zipper area.
On every swing, hike the handle of the kettlebell into that triangle. Never let the kettlebell drop below your knees.
Maintain a strong posture during the hike
You want to keep that good hinge position you got into during the setup.
With your hips back and your knees slightly bent.
Your chest tall and your back flat.
And your head up and your eyes on the horizon.
That’s the hike position.
When you do it right, you’re loading your lower body up for a powerful swing.
The Standing Plank Position
The standing plank is the position at the top of the swing.
Where you’re standing tall and the kettlebell floats up to the top, just before you throw it back down into the hike position.
It’s called the standing plank because you’re squeezing every muscle in your body, like you’re doing a plank exercise for your abs.
Why do you plank at the top of the swing?
Well for one, it generates more power.
You’re recruiting as much muscle as possible to explode the kettlebell up to the top of the swing.
More importantly though, planking helps you stabilize all that power so you don’t get hurt.
When you fire every muscle in your body at the top of the swing, you protect your lower back and keep the kettlebell from dragging you across the room.
So how do you get into the plank position?
You’re already in the hike position; hips back, kettlebell high in your groin, knees slightly bent, chest tall, back flat, head up and your eyes on the horizon.
From there, explosively stand straight up.
Drive your heels through the floor, straighten your legs and snap your hips forward.
Like you’re trying to jump as high as you can, but without actually jumping.
Now turn into a plank!
Stand up tall through the crown of your head and squeeze everything.
Push your heels into the ground and pull your kneecaps “up” to lock your legs out.
Squeeze your glutes hard.
Tense your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down.
Every muscle in your body, except your arms and your face, should be engaged.
Let the kettlebell float
All the power you create with your lower body summates when you lockout in the plank.
That causes the kettlebell to swing up to the top of the swing.
Keep your arms relaxed as it “floats” up naturally to its apex – about shoulder height.
That’s the top of the swing.
From there, just hike the kettlebell back down into the hike position and explode back up into the standing plank.
That’s Really All There Is To The Kettlebell Swing
Remember, it takes just minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.
Start by mastering the 3 key positions
- The setup position
- The hike position
- The standing plank position
Keep practicing and your swings will improve dramatically.