The Dos and Don'ts of a Perfect Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell workouts have taken the world by storm. From CrossFit boxes to HIIT fitness classes, kettlebells are a favorite among fitness addicts, and for good reason. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that the average person burns 400 calories in 20 minutes while performing kettlebell movements. Not too shabby!

Before you set out to thrust, lift, or flip that piece of ancient Russian farming equipment, know this: skill is involved in executing a perfect kettlebell swing.

Ready To Swing It?

Use your next trip to the box to slow it down and work on kettlebell swing form by applying these four tips:

1. It's all in the hips. To the untrained eye, a kettlebell swing appears to be an upper body move. It's not! In fact, relying on upper body strength alone to perform the movement sabotages the benefits of the exercise and sets you up for injury.

A kettlebell swing is not a squat with a front raise, it’s a "hinged" movement and it's all about the hips. Think of your legs as a wall (solid, unmovable) and your hips as the hinge that allows the door (your torso), to swing open.


2. Let your lower body do the work. It’s called a kettlebell swing, not a kettlebell pull. With that in mind, avoid puling the kettlebell up with your arms. Rather, sit your hips back, stretching your hamstrings and explode through the hips to send the kettlebell swinging upward from your quads.

3. Lock and load. At the top of a kettlebell swing get ready to lock and load. That means knees are locked, feet rooted into the ground, core is tight, and glutes engaged. The lock is important for generating explosive power at the top of the swing and for protecting your lower back. 

4. Let the weight do the work. As the weight descends, let the kettlebell do the work as you prepare for next rep (no pulling!). With your weight in your heels, allow the kettlebell to ride back between your legs. Lock and load and do it all over again!

Tip: If your lower back hurts, pay attention to your form. Avoid rounding your back (engage your core!) and retracting your shoulder blades. 

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