Learning the Kettlebell Swing

A lot of clients come in with a goal of swinging the kettlebell; maybe they saw it online and it looked cool, or maybe it’s just one of those mysterious exercises that draws people’s attention.

Before we teach this exercise, we always have to ask why is it important to them to learn this movement, what will they gain by adding this movement to their program, and are there any risks to this client performing the movement? If we don’t lay down the proper foundations first, we risk injury due to lack of stability, mobility, or coordination.

Set yourself up for success in the swing by nailing these movements first:

  1. Kettlebell Deadlift

First up, we need to really own our hip hinge – a swing is just a moving hinge, with a weight flying around, trying to pull you off balance! With the kettlebell deadlift, start with the handle right in line with your shoelaces, core set, shoulder blades tucked into our back pockets, and neck neutral. Keep this tension through your body and drive the floor away, squeezing those glutes as you stand up tall.


2. Kettlebell Hike

Once you’re confident in your deadlift, it’s time to try out the hike. This duplicates the starting position and back swing, and helps to build our core stability – keeping us grounded when the bell tries to pull us around. Start 1-2 steps back from the kettlebell, in your hinge position, with shoulders still tucked into your back pockets (so they pull the handle towards you, rather than reaching to the bell). Hike it back like a football, shifting the load to the hips, and trying to keep your back neutral until tapping back at the start position.


3. Kettlebell Dead Swing

Step three of our swing progressions is the dead swing. This lets us reset between each swing, so that we can focus on our technique before stringing them together. We set up just like in the last step, and hike the kettlebell back again – but this time we drive the floor away to stand tall (like in our deadlift!), using our hips to power the movement. The arms serve only as long pendulums and don’t do any lifting!

At the top of the swing, there will be a moment that we feel the kettlebell float (or feel weightless) before it starts to swing back. We hinge back down, catch the bell in our hike position, and tap the bell to the ground in front of us. Repeat as desired!


4. Swing your heart out!

Now that we’ve built up all the bases – swing away! The set up and execution will be the same as the dead swing that you’ve already mastered (right?!), but instead of tapping to the ground between each rep, we use the hips to stand tall again after each backswing. Keep thinking all about that big hinge back – don’t let it turn into a squat – and keep the core braced throughout to avoid putting pressure into the low back.


We know it can be tempting to skip steps and jump right to the full swing, but if you really nail each of the progressions above, it will be much easier to master the kettlebell swing!

More questions about the swing? Reach out and let us know!


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