Most people have tremendous difficulty with the hinge, and this is because they spend most of the day sitting. The inability to hinge is linked by our culture of sitting to the reason many of us suffer back pain, knee pain, and weakness. Not being able to hinge means not being able to properly engage the posterior chain of the body, par- ticularly the glutes. Without hinging, the same muscles that help you run and protect you from back weakness during many activities are now inactive. Instead, modern people and even some athletes are unintentionally using their knees and lower backs to do all the work their butt muscles are supposed to do. This leads to overuse and misuse of other areas of the body, and this leads to knee pain and eventual knee and ankle injury, as well as back pain, which can then lead to shoulder and neck injury.
The kettlebell swing is all glutes, all of the time! When you swing the kettlebell correctly in any swing variation, you engage the posterior chain, fire the glutes and hamstrings, and strengthen the areas that have been weakened or deacti- vated by day-to-day sitting. If you have any of the pain or imbalances associated with not being able to hinge, the kettlebell swing is a perfect weapon to use to wage a war on them.
More reasons to love the swing!
As we learned in our kettlebell anatomy, the swing is a ballistic motion. Not only does this posterior chain hinging motion help us complete a hinge in our training and balance out our body, but it also teaches us to fire muscles and help us cor- rect muscle imbalances in our favorite sports and activities. The kettlebell swing is also an incredible and super safe metabolic conditioning tool. It can help burn triple the amount of calories burned in a more one-dimensional training regimen!
You might not get it right away, and that’s okay. I find that it can take students one to three class sessions or DVDs after initially being taught the swing to get it, so be patient with yourself. Remember that these are muscles and movement patterns that have not been worked in a while. Once they begin to work, you are now firing your glutes and hamstrings and reactivating them, or teaching them to work and pitch in during simple motions like walking, running, jumping, kicking, lunging, and squatting.
So, let’s swing!
As discussed, the swing is the basis of all kettlebell ballistic movements. It starts with a hinge, not a squat—this is very important. In a hinge, the bend in your hips comes before the bend in your knees. Hinging also means you should bend your knees to a lesser degree than that of your hips. Do not squat! You will be swinging the kettlebell from behind your knees, with your grip above your knees. Remember to bend more at your hips with a slight bend at your knees and a straight and strong back. You will be incorporating your posterior chain and momentum to generate the power of the movement. As a result, the kettlebell should feel almost weightless when it comes up to the terminal position of shoul- der height. Squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion, you should be stand- ing straight and upright with hips forward and knees straight (there should be no overarching of the back) at the end of the motion.
The kettlebell should swing between and behind your legs and up to shoulder height in a nonstop, repetitive motion.
tradItIonal double-Handed Kettlebell SWIng, SteP–by–SteP
1. With both hands, pick up the kettlebell by the handle and sit back in a hinge, bending first and more deeply at the hips, then at the knees.
2. From the hinged position, swing the kettlebell back and behind your knees.
3. Swing the kettlebell up to shoulder level with your arms straight as you thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back into the standing position.
• Make sure your butt muscles are engaged by squeezing your glutes together tightly.
• Do not raise the kettlebell with your arms. Your arms and the kettlebell should feel weightless through the entire motion.
4. At the top of the swing, remember to keep your arms straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell no higher than chest level as you rise to a standing position.
• Do not bend back at the top of the motion.
5. Continue without stopping back down into your hinge and repeat steps 1–4. Create a nonstop fluid motion of the swing, with the kettlebell going behind the knees and back up to shoulder level.
The first thing to understand with kettlebells is that you must link your body together into one strong chain of action. This principle ensures that you will not be placing too much pressure on any one joint or muscle. Additionally, it will secure the total-body principles on which kettlebells are built. Link your body by applying proper form, checking your alignment and center of gravity, and executing each move with a flow of motion.
Stay rooted into the ground. Never explode out with the kettlebell and find your heels or toes off balance or off the ground. In swinging motions espe- cially, keep yourself rooted and remember to engage the glutes.
In your swing, do not squat! Generate power with your hips by pushing your hips back toward the wall behind you (not by squatting to the floor) and then snapping your hips forward.
Do not hyperextend or bend your back into a backward bend. Your glutes must squeeze together before you can even attempt a backward bend.
Aim to squeeze your glutes before the kettlebell reaches face level—as it does, pop the hip forward and consciously let the kettlebell fall back behind the knees.
At the hinge, the kettlebell falls above and behind the knees. At the standing position, it comes up to face level and no higher.
Speed comes from making sure your force and body drop the kettlebell down, not letting gravity do all the work.