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Bulletproof your body with the Kettlebell Swing

I want to share a story on how the kettlebell swings have forever changed my life. When I was 13 years old, in the 8th grade, I remember that collision....

I want to share a story on how the kettlebell swings have forever changed my life. When I was 13 years old, in the 8th grade, I remember that collision. It was twilight, I was in a football scrimmage, BAM, I collided to block a player, my spine froze up (or at least the muscles around it locked). My neck couldn’t turn, and I was in excruciating pain. Upon further review, I had a hairline fracture in my L4. Luckily I had a great physical therapist that focused on strengthening my core, allowing me to return and compete in sports at a top level from then through college. But, that back pain would linger for years after. It wasn’t until I discovered kettlebells, that the pain would completely subside. Maybe it’s the unbalanced loads that leads to unpredictability, alongside the contractions at the top. I blame this specific move, the Kettlebell swing, for helping me achieve a pain free life, and making me a better overall athlete!

I will introduce 3 different kettlebell swing variations that all have their merit in any strength and conditioning program. With the balanced 2-Hand Swing, to the unbalanced Single Arm Swing, and finishing with the bear Double Kettlebell Swing.

2-Hand Swing

Swing is king! And this move is the foundation to most of the kettlebell ballistics you will do (swing, clean, snatch). The 2-handed swing will increase both your strength (if you are a lifter) and also your endurance (for you marathoners). It is a movement on producing maximal power, and if performed correctly, you will move up in bell sizes rather quickly.


2-Hand Swing steps for success:

  1. Set the kettlebell about an arms length in front of you (fingertips should be able to graze the handle).
  2. Set your feet into the earth firmly at a slight angle outwards based on your hips.
  3. Keeping the back and neck neutral, with the neck slightly extended, descend the hips back into a hinge.
  4. Pack your lats down, tilt the bell back as you break the handle of the kettlebell in half (like a pencil).
  5. With an inhalation, hike the bell back, having the kettlebell handle passing above the knees on the backswing.
  6. With an explosive (violent) motion, fully extend your hips, while locking your knees and glutes into place, with a quick and outward snake breath of tssssst.
  7. The body forms a plank position at the top, with the arms locked out/slightly bent. With that lats active, the bell should be around chest height and weightless.
  8. On the descent, the hips extend back at the last possible moment, before repeating the pattern.
  9. Park the bell safely at the same angle you went to back swing, while maintaining hinge structure.

Quick Note for all variations: Knees should never come forward at the top and glutes should be completely contracted (like you’re pinching a penny between your butt cheeks).

choose_the_right_kettlebell_size-Kettlebell Kings

Single Arm Swing

The Single Arm Swing can cause serious contraction and large increases in muscle recruitment. This variation is great for reducing asymmetries, and creating strong cross-lateral core work. By swinging the kettlebell on one side, your job is to hold a symmetrical structure while tension is maintained on the unloaded side.


Single Arm Swing steps for success:


  1. Set the kettlebell about an arms length in front of you (fingertip should be able to graze the handle).
  2. Set your feet into the earth firmly at a slight angle outwards based on your hips.
  3. Keeping the back and neck neutral, with the neck slightly extended, descend the hips back into a hinge.
  4. Pack your lats down and tilt the bell back.
  5. With an inhalation, hike the bell back, having the kettlebell handle passing above the knees on the backswing.
  6. With an explosive (violent) motion, fully extend your hips, while locking your knees and glutes into place, with a quick and outward snake breath of tssssst.
  7. The body forms a plank position at the top, with the arms locked out/slightly bent. With that lats active, the bell should be around chest height and weightless.
  8. The free hand can make a fist (helping to contract the non loaded lat) or go outwards at the top, while never touching your leg on the back swing.
  9. On the descent, the hips extend back at the last possible moment, before repeating the pattern.
  10. Park the bell safely at the same angle you went to back swing, while maintaining hinge structure.

Double Kettlebell Swing

Ready to see how much power you can create? The double kettlebell swing will produce the most amount of power for each swing, as this allows you to move higher volumes. With heavier weight, you will see the most amount of glute contraction, along with a really powerful hip drive.


Double Kettlebell Swing steps for success:


  1. Set the kettlebells about an arms length in front of you (fingertips should be able to graze the handles).
  2. Set your feet into the earth firmly at a slight angle outwards based on your hips (may be slightly wider depending on your height).
  3. Keeping the back and neck neutral, with the neck slightly extended, descend the hips back into a hinge.
  4. Pack your lats down and tilt the bells back.
  5. With an inhalation, hike the bells back, having the kettlebell handles passing above the knees on the backswing.
  6. With an explosive (violent) motion, fully extend your hips, while locking your knees and glutes into place, with a quick and outward snake breath of tssssst.
  7. The body forms a plank position at the top, with the arms locked out/slightly bent. With that lats active, the bells should be around chest height and weightless.
  8. On the descent, the hips extend back at the last possible moment, before repeating the pattern.
  9. Park the bells safely at the same angle you went to back swing, while maintaining hinge structure.

After improving my swing form, and achieving higher weights in all of these variations listed, I credit this move for getting me completely out of lumbar spine back pain. In fact, every year I’ve been able to improve my lifting numbers, and I truly blame this dynamic movement that is the kettlebell swing. SWING IS KING!


Author:

Alex Karu, SFG 1 & 2, SFB, CPT

The Formula Fitness LLC: https://www.theformulafitness.com/

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