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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.