How to master the kettlebell swing
Kettlebells are the piece of exercise equipment of the moment - they're easy to use, affordable and they're a great piece of kit for a full-body workout. But learning to master the perfect kettlebell swing is tougher than you might think - the power to perform the swing actually comes from your legs, not your arms. Kettlebell swings can help to build power, balance and strength as well as boosting your cardiovascular stamina; that's if they are performed correctly.
Our handy step-by-step guide will show you how to engage your core, legs, glutes and hips to master the kettlebell swing and minimise your risk of injury.
Do the hippy shake
You know how salsa dancing is all in the hips? So too is the kettlebell swing. Think of your hips action as a hinging motion. Imagine your legs are a solid wall, your hips are the hinge and your torso is the door, travelling through a range of motion that is controlled by your hips and legs. A light grip and loose arms allow you to swing the kettlebell from inside our quads up to chest level. To onlookers, it might appear that you're using your upper body strength to perform the swing - but that's not the case.
In fact, mastering the kettlebell swing means using your posterior chain muscles including your hamstrings, lower back and glutes, to get that kettlebell in motion. These muscles are capable of burning loads of calories and lifting a large amount of weight.
Don't think you can get a full-body workout with just one piece of fitness equipment? Buy a kettlebell and prepare to be amazed. One study carried out on the effectiveness of kettlebell training stated that "kettlebells provide a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time" (1).
So, you're ready to get stronger, fitter and enjoy a full-body workout with your new kettlebell? Well then, step up and let's get to swinging.
Choose a kettlebell that allows you to perform a perfect swing but still challenges you - it's a good idea to use a very light kettlebell to start with, until you have perfected your form.
- Stand over your kettlebell with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down and back and chest up. The kettlebell should be lined up with the middle of your feet.
- Squat down and grip the kettlbell with your palms facing you and your thumbs loosely wrapped around the handle.
- Stand up tall whilst still gripping the kettlebell. Your arms should be long and loose, core engaged and shoulder blades retracted. Keep your knees soft as you shift your body weight into your heels and lower your butt backwards and down towards the wall behind you.
- Drive through your heel in an explosive movement from your hips, to send the kettlebell swinging upwards from your quads. You're aiming to reach chest height, with your arms extended. To get there, you'll need to contract your core and squeeeeze those glutes!
- As the kettlebell descends, let the weight do all the work. Shift your weight back into your heels, hinge at the hips and load your glutes and hamstrings, ready for the next rep. Allow the kettlebell to ride back between your legs.
Practicing perfect form will minimise your risk of injury. Avoid bad swings with these tips:
Lift from the legs
Always drive from your hips and legs, not your arms - it's called a swing for a reason!
Your back shouldn't hurt after a kettlebell swing. It could be that you're guilty of rounding your back and failing to brace your core. Make sure you start and finish your swing by loading, firing and hinging at the hips.
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