Fix Your Swing

photo credit: Jalbus Photo

The kettlebell swing is a complicated exercise, and to do it well requires many steps, many reps and much coaching. Well…usually.

This set of secret, simple, somewhat naughty cues can instantly morph a sad, squatty-looking swing — you know the one I’m talking about — into a much more skillful one. The cues involve Reese Witherspoon.

But first, let’s talk about what’s probably going wrong, and what should be going right.


Unsuccessful SwingerThe Unsuccessful Swinger…

  • does a squat instead of a hip hinge.
  • sinks the kettlebell handle below the knees at the bottom of the swing.
  • rounds the back (possibly).
  • raises the kettlebell in front of herself using the muscles of the shoulders.
  • has squishy guts in the top position.
  • is usually sporting a slightly baffled expression.

 

Successful Swinger
The Successful Swinger:

  • hinges from the hips, sticking dat ass out.
  • uses her hips to move the kettlebell.
  • maintains the natural arch of her back throughout the exercise.
  • has rock-hard abs in the top position.
  • keeps the shins vertical.
  • appears to be having a good time.

 

 

Now, let’s recruit Reese for further coaching help. If you’ve ever seen the movie Legally Blonde, you’re no doubt familiar with the “bend and snap” maneuver for attracting attention. And while it may do that, it also works like a charm for fixing a squatty swing.

I invite you to watch the following clip, and try to picture these women holding kettlebells. (Look at that hip hinging!)

The bend and snap analogy has a 98 percent success rate at fixing a squatty swing. The hardest part is to get everyone on board with playing this role (shy people and macho men occasionally balk, for some reason). But if you can swing them….

Cues to Use (You Flooze)

Push your butt back: Chase your rear toward the wall behind you with your hands.

Keep your chest big: I want to be able to read the words on your shirt throughout the entire movement. Yes, even at the bottom.

The Swing Triangles

Shove your hands into your crotch: Keep the kettlebell’s triangle high in your triangle, if you know what I mean. (If you don’t, the handle of the kettlebell — the first triangle — should always stay above your knees. The second triangle is the space between your thighs, up to your business — see my illustration at right and never mind that it looks like I created it in the Draw Something app.)

It’s worth noting that your triangle should be even smaller than pictured, in my opinion. Meaning, your forearms should be allllll up in your yoohoo at the bottom of your swing. I want you to scare yourself a little. Or a lot.

Make it look dirty: More bend and snap. Drive those hips back. Only bend your knees as much as you need to in order to keep your back arched. Squeeze your glutes and abs at the top position, hard.

Make it look even dirtier: Seriously. Amp it up.

Allow me to demonstrate.

If you prefer more professionalism, you might consider these cues instead:

  • Think about the swing as a deadlift motion in fast forward.
  • Hike the kettlebell up and back, as you would a football.
  • Push your hips backward.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and maintain that position.
  • Keep your shins vertical throughout the movement.
  • Drive your hips forward forcefully, making the kettlebell float to shoulder height.
  • Form a plank with your body at the top of the swing. This means bracing your abs and creating a straight line from head to heel.
  • Repeat.

Saucy or straightlaced, swing on.

A version of this post originally appeared in Molly Galbraith’s guide “12 Basic Exercises You’re Screwing Up.” To receive the full guide, sign up for Molly’s email list at www.mollygalbraith.com

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Author:Jen Sinkler

Fitness writer and editor, workout connoisseur, meditator, proponent of spandex, former rugby player; never, ever without lip gloss.

35 Responses to “Fix Your Swing”

  1. January 7, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    This article is AMAZING. Seriously. Wow. I grabbed my kettlebell as soon as I read it (actually during) and lo lo lo! my swingin’ feels much stronger this way! I’ve been a bozo for so long…

    • January 7, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      Hurray! That sort of energy and fun is exactly the desired effect!:) Thanks, Anna.

  2. January 7, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Great points on technique! The KB swing is a staple in our volleyball training and the girls usually pick it up quickly once the hip hinge is taught. For rapid hip extension, I like to include resistance bands. This positively influences their vertical jump without even leaving the floor. Great exercise when performed correctly. Thanks for your expert input, Jen!

  3. Justin
    January 7, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I take it this is the same for single arm swings.

  4. January 7, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Excellent piece, short, sweet, and effective.

  5. nikki
    January 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Great article! When I went through my KB Cert. Dan John told us to “Aim for our junk”. It really stuck with me & helps me explain bell placement:) Congrats on all your recent success!

  6. January 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Oh yeah, nice article and very effective

  7. January 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Awesome article Jen! Definitely sharing ;)

    Looking forward to some shared kettlebell fun in March. Promise to keep it dirty!

  8. KrisR
    January 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    And here I thought I was getting too close to ‘my junk’. :)

    Love the post.

  9. January 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    So great! Perfect and dead on. For my client who will not stop the squat (a few of my male clients have trouble with the snap), I’ll send them this post and encourage them to “keep it dirty!” ;) Really though – solid article! Thanks, Jen!

  10. Cody
    January 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Jen, as a dude, the way I think of it is, i wanna feel a nice breeze on my boys. Me and the kettleball should almost know each other in the biblical sense…

    Great article!

  11. January 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Thanks, all! :)

  12. January 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Its about time someone made public dirty cues. I’ve been using them for years and they are wonderful.

  13. Elaine
    January 8, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    Very helpful article & entertaining, too! Thanks for sharing this, & thanks to Marianne Kane at MYOMY.TV for linking to it so that I found it.

  14. Kim Heaslip
    January 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Thanks for the great tips! I LOVE your writing style and sense of humour! :D

  15. DOS
    January 16, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    One of the best KB ‘tips’ vids I have seen!

  16. January 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    This is my first time here (via Marianne Kane) and is just what I am working on improving this week! Very funny. I like the Reese version best. I will be bending and snapping in the morning.

  17. Shelley
    January 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Brialliant tutorial! And SO much fun! My clients will love this…

  18. Brunette
    February 7, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Well, whaddaya know. I’ve been squatting. I just did it the ‘dirty’ way and can feel the burn in my glutes and abs. :-D
    Thanks to Marianne Kane for the awesome link!

  19. Theresa
    February 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Fantastic. Great article. It made me laugh and think. I will definitely be bringing this advice to my next KB class. I practiced the move and yes, it scared me a little. OK, a lot. :) Good stuff. Thank you!

  20. Kat
    April 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks for this article! I’ve been doing a lot more work with Kettlebells and I love it. I have one question, sometimes I feel almost a popping in my wrist, like it’s being pulled out too hard. Is this a form issue, and how would you recommend I can fix it?

  21. Mike M
    April 19, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Jen, This is awesome, this is exactly what I have been preaching to my clients! I ask those ladies to Pop those pelvices at me, LOL

  22. Karintha Marshall
    June 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    “I’m in love with a Stripper” playing in the background = me lmao. Fantastic. I’m a fan, thanks for the tips!

  23. Katherine
    August 12, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    My trainer explained it to me as trying to hit your butt with the kettlebell…..lol that cue worked for me!!!

  24. Matt
    August 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    HILARIOUS! I have always told my clients to “make it dirty.” I find that advice works with nearly every move, kettlebell or otherwise!

  25. October 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I’ve been using this piece as a reference point for anyone asking for advice on doing a proper KB swing… but how in the world did I not notice the music the first time through??? Just. So. Good.

  26. November 14, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    You are perhaps the coolest person ever for referencing the bend and snap. Hilarious! I often use dirty cues in my coaching (esp the cue to not look like a stripper when coming up from a backsquat). But I feel my coaching will reach a whole new level with the inclusion of the bend and snap when teaching KB swings. Amazing.

  27. January 22, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I just want to thank you from the bottom of my triangle (no, no not like THAT!!)! I knew I didn’t have it right. I didn’t want to cause potential complications with an incorrect form, so I have put off for some time kettle bell training. This is what I needed, thank you, thank you! I’ve got it! So happy and grateful. It needs to be simple, so it can be passed on…you’ve accomplished that beautifully.

    I found this by Googling; kettle bell swings. I’m going to check out the rest of your site. I used to lift / train quite seriously (never competed) with free weights. Lost it all and have done nothing for the past 7 years! Sold all my equipment from moving too often and knew kettle bells would be the answer… just don’t know or understand ‘em like free weights, …been intimidated by them. Feeling confident in my swing goes a loooong way to changing that. :)

  28. Michelle
    February 27, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I always use the stripper cue for swings to get people to push their hips back. Of course my naughty kettlebell ladies have turned that into “do it like a hooker.” Sigh.

  29. May 28, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Wow, amazing comprehensive article! Really nice set of cues as well – I’ll be keeping these in mind next time I coach the swing.

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