A Tip for Mastering the Kettlebell Swing

October 3, 2006 01:22 PM

The Swing is one of the key drills in kettlebell training. Without proficiency in this fundamental drill, a trainee will never master the Clean, the Snatch, or any of a multitude of other drills.

Yet many people, when they first come to kettlebell training, have trouble with the basic Swing. The motion feels foreign to them. They either simply bend over, rounding their back, or they just squat down, bending their knees far too much and sticking them out in front of their feet. They can't seem to make the mind/muscle connection needed to thrust out their butt with their back straight and shins vertical.

Based on my experience, I think this problem is fairly common. Of the first eight people I taught the Swing, four of them couldn't move their lower bodies correctly at first. When I had them place their hands in front of their hips and try to "fold over," they couldn't do that either. Their hips automatically responded by pushing back against their hands, and they just stood there, getting frustrated.

I realized I needed to find a way to get them to do the motion without trying to. Here's what I did. Try it if you have a trainee with this problem.
  1. Have the trainee hold the kettlebell behind them in both hands, the backs of their hands resting on their butt.
  2. Have them lock their knees, then break them slightly, and hold them fairly stiff.
  3. Have them fix their eyes on a point on the horizon, or if indoors, at eye level directly in front of them.
  4. Then have them slowly push the kettlebell back as far as possible with their butt. When I teach this, I tell the trainee, "Keep your knees fairly stiff, keep your eyes locked on what you're looking at, and just push the kettlebell back slowly with your butt. Don't do anything else, just push the kettlebell back as far as you can."
Every single person I tried this with immediately performed the initial Swing motion correctly. [This has the added benefit of keeping their shoulder blades back as they go down.]

Have trainees do several of these "push backs." Then have them duplicate the motion without the kettlebell [arms still behind the back]. Then with arms hanging in front. Then holding a kettlebell in front. Then have them try a Swing. Chances are good they will now do the initial motion correctly [and be quite pleased with themselves to boot].

Bruce Bonafede, RKC can be reached at bbonafede@dc.rr.com.