“It’s been said that a properly executed kettlebell swing is better than 99% of all strength and conditioning exercises. I respectfully disagree. I believe it is better than 100% of all strength and conditioning exercises. I challenge someone to find a better movement”. - Mark Reifkind.
The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation of ballistic kettlebell training. It provides immense muscular, cardiovascular and endurance conditioning and is also an exercise that increases strength and mobility in the hips, lower back and shoulders. It will carry over to all other kettlebell skills and will help build you a base of incredible work capacity and resilience. It is also a very safe exercise when taught effectively and efficiently from a StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor.
Kettlebell Swing Technique:
1. Set Up
- Stand about a foot behind the kettlebell.
- Hip Hinge and grip the kettlebell with your fingers.
- Tilt the kettlebell towards you so that it forms an extension of your arms and body.
- Keep your arms straight and relaxed.
- Engage the lats to “connect” the arms and shoulders to the body.
- Keep your eyes 7-10 feet in front.
2. Hike Pass
- Brace the core and maintain a strong setup.
- Hike pass the kettlebell back behind your legs and up towards your groin.
- In the Hike Pass, the kettlebell handle must be kept above your knees.
- Aim to place the forearms against the inner thighs.
- Aim to place the upper arm to the rib cage.
3. Stand Tall
- Explosively stand to attention after finishing the hike pass.
- Drive with your hips and allow the kettlebell to freely move forward.
- The arms and shoulders act as levers, they guide the bell to a level somewhere between your belly button/stomach area and nipple line/chest area.
- Do NOT swing it higher.
- Remember; in the kettlebell swing, it is a projection of energy forward, not upward. 4. Lockout
- At the lockout, your body must stand tall in a straight line.
- Imagine standing with your back against a wall. This is your lockout position.
- Your body is locked with tension from your neck down.
- Feet driven into the floor, knee caps pulled up and thighs tensed, glutes squeezed hard, core braced as if accepting a punch.
One of my favourite drills for practicing the kettlebell swing with the beginner is the towel swing. This unique drill quickly teaches the timing and rhythm required for the perfect kettlebell swing technique.
- Feed a small towel through the kettlebell handle.
- Tilt the kettlebell towards you so it forms an extension of the arms.
- Keep your arms straight, engage your lats.
- Hike pass the kettlebell between your legs, then quickly stand up to attention.
- Allow for the kettlebell to pendulum forward. (Forward, not up).
- Keep your glutes tight and guide the kettlebell back with your lats.
- Hinge with your hips and then explosively stand to attention.
Fionnbharr Toolan has an extensive background in the kettlebell world. He is the Irish, European and World Kettlebell Champion. He has continued education and association with StrongFirst as a StrongFirst Level 1 kettlebell instructor, StrongFirst Level 2 kettlebell instructor, StrongFirst Barbell Instructor.