Kettlebells are all the rage in fitness, and when used properly they are fantastic tool! However not everyone needs or should do all the exercises possible with a kettlebell and like all things a mastery of the basics is the necessary foundation for advancement. For the kettlebell that foundation is all about mastering the Kettlebell Swing.
The swing is a hip hinge movement NOT a squat! Most people do not know the difference which is the first challenge. The following shows an unloaded hip hinge using a dowel (can use a broomstick or anything light) to keep the spine in perfect alignment which is key!
Next drop the rod and pick up the kettlebell holding it to your chest and repeat the hip hinge – if you feel it in your back you are doing something wrong! See the picture below:
To insure you really feel the proper mechanics put toes/ball of foot up on thin board which forces weight into heels and repeat movement – you should really feel it now in hamstrings and glutes and be hinging NOT squatting! This should really help to lock in the right technique. See picture below:
Then progress to kettlebell deadlift – stand over kettlebell with bell between heels – hip hinge (do NOT squat) to grip kettlebell handle with arms straight and shoulder retracted. Stand-up squeezing glutes and drive hips forward but do not hyper-extend. Repeat until they have this movement grooved. See picture below:
Once you have mastered the deadlift you are ready to do swings! Start with kettlebell on the floor in position like you are going to hike a football then hip hinge with back flat, hips back knees NOT flexed forward with hands holding top of kettlebell handle in hook grip and head in neutral position. Head neutral shoulder back and down with lats tight like the picture below.
At end of swing replace bell in front of body in hike position THEN relax body and release bell – VERY important to keep hinge position and brace until bell is back in starting position. To see a great video on this progression click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYHbu2LRqD0 This video made by Mike Boyle is one of the best there is to teach a kettlebell swing progression.
Once you have mastered the swing movement begin to link your breathing with the movement: Inhale as you swing down and exhale sharply at top of swing. Remember to brace you core as you hit the bottom of the swing. Recommended starting weights are about 36 pounds for men and 25 pounds for woman or if you have access to kettlebells marked in kilograms use 12 for woman and 16 for men. Then slowly progress.
Once you have the movement do big sets of 20 – 40 reps and build to the point where you can complete 200 – 300 repetition in a workout 2 – 3 days per week. When you get here you and everyone around you will start to notice a difference!