Kettlebell Swings: The Foundation of all...
The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation drill of all Kettlebell Exercises. The Kettlebell Swing is the one exercise that alone can build strength, melt fat, condition and tone the body, train the heart and lungs, and develop a strong will. It is also the exercise that all other Kettlebell movements are based on.
This Hub is going to show you how to Swing properly, safely and effectively. The Internet is filled with "How To Swing a Kettlebell." Some are right on the money. Others, not so much.
So let's take a look real quick at what a Kettlebell Swing is and what it is not .
In Pavel Tsatsouline's book, The Russian Kettlebell Challenge , Pavel classifies the Swing under a group of exercises labeled "EXPLODE." The Kettlebell Swing has also found itself in a category of Kettlebell Exercises known as "Ballistics." These two words alone should be enough to set the stage for how the Swing is to be performed.
In Enter the Kettlebell , Pavel writes, "The Swing is exactly what its name implies: a swing of a Kettlebell from between your legs up to chest level."
The Swing derives itself from the "PULL" side of weightlifting. Think deadlift. The Kettlebell Swing is not a squat. There is no squatting in the Swing. What's the other side of pull? Push, right? Or press. A Squat is a push or press. Just visualize the two and you'll see what I mean. So the Swing has it's roots in the deadlift.
The Swing will help you develop the strong back of hard working Americans from days of yesteryear. Back when we plowed fields instead of plowing through Excel spreadsheets. The Swing will aid in your quest for a tight core. You will also learn how to use your hips again. Something that we've lost from sitting in a car and at a desk all day instead of walking or riding a horse to get where we need to go. The practice of the Swing will firm your lower body and you will have a well conditioned cardiovascular system to go with it. If you smoke and are looking for an easy excuse to stop or need a way to re-condition yourself, Kettlebell Swings will definitely get you there.
Before the Swing
Find a Kettlebell you can manage with relative ease. For Men just starting out, a good rule of thumb is to start with a 16kg Kettlebell. For Ladies, 8kg is a good place to start. However, use your best judgment when picking a Kettlebell and always err on the lighter side when getting started.
Also, if you have even the SLIGHTEST concern about your current state of health and conditioning or haven't exercised in a while, be smart and go touch base with your doctor. The Subtitle to The Russian Kettlebell Challenge is "Xtreme fitness for hard living comrades." Kids, it's no joke. Train smart and safe.
Allow me to quote Master RKC, David Whitley here: "Push yourself, but don't be stupid."
How's that for a release of liability?
As I mentioned, the Kettlebell Swing is no joke! It's some hard work. Prepare your body. There's a few ways to get the blood flowing and heart pumping without getting fatigued. My suggestion is to warm up with some joint mobility drills. Why this is a really good idea is beyond the scope of this Hub, so for now just take my word for it, but in a nutshell, stretching a cold muscle is like trying to stretch a rubber band that's been in the freezer. Joint Mobility drills will prepare the body for the work to come, stimulate the synovial fluid, and get the heart rate up a little bit.
Also, before you start swinging, make sure you have a good command of the following drills.
The Face the Wall Squat
The Sumo Deadlift
The Hard Style Lock
- Dr. Mark Cheng's Kettlebells Los Angeles: The Hard Style Lock
Study This and learn it proper. This is your opportunity to get more out of your Swings than 99% of the people you see demonstrating on T.V. Learn This!
-Wall Squat 3 sets x 5-10 repetitions
The Wall Squat is one of those "self correcting" exercises. If you don't do this right, you'll know right away. Stand a few inches away from a wall with your feet slightly more than shoulder width and begin to squat by sitting back, like you would in a chair. Soon you will need to push your chest out and arch your lower back. This is what you're looking for. Take your time and focus. Pull yourself down and work towards a half squat. Notice that the knees should not pass the toes. When you're confident, move closer. The goal is to pick up your Kettlebell with your tootsies touching the wall without doing damage to yourself or the wall.
-Sumo Deadlift 3 sets x 5 repetitions
The Sumo Deadlift will teach you to hinge at the hips. Remember how I had mentioned that a swing is more deadlift than squat? Straddle your Kettlebell, hinge at the hips. Like the squat, pull yourself back and down. Again, sit back as you would in a chair. Keep your heels on the ground and your weight centered. Your back is straight, not vertical, but straight. Remember the wall squat? Grip your bell with both hands. Stand up, driving from the heels and make a straight line with your body. Drive with the heels, tighten the knees, squeeze the glutes together, brace your stomach, keep your shoulders down. Reverse and repeat.
-Hardstyle Lock 3 x 10
The Hardstyle lock came to me via KBLA (Kettlebells Los Angeles) and is a signature teaching technique of Dr. Mark Cheng. I've learned a lot about Kettebells and myself from Dr. Cheng. Stand with your feet slightly past shoulder width. Toes facing forward. Your heals should be solid and driving into terra firma. Pull your knee caps up. Squeeze your glutes. Tighten your midsection as if bracing for a punch, flair your lats and keep a long neutral spine and neck. That's the Hardstyle lock. To get there, sit back, as you did in the wall squat. Keep your shins vertical, weight on the heels. It's OK to lean forward. Pry your feet (spread your feet with the ground), pry your knees out, and pry the hips. Go down about parallel and come back up into the Hardsyle lock!
Dr. Mark Cheng Demonstrates
How to do it propper
Now it's time for the real deal. The Kettlebell Swing Hardstyle. Stand behind your Kettlebell. Sit back like you did in the Wall Squat and Deadlift. Grab the bell with both hands and make sure to keep your weight on your heels. You're going to rip the bell behind you as if you're hiking a football. Now drive forward with the hips. At the top of the swing, finish tight and strong as in the Hardstyle lock. "Finish crisp," as Pavel puts it, "like a Karate punch."
Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale through the nose on the way down and exhale at the top. Keep the tension in your core by exhaling sharply. You can make a sound like "HA" or "Tssst." to keep tight.
Your Practice Session: 10 Minutes to Success!
OK, time to work! Go get a stopwatch or Gymboss timer. Set it for 10 minutes. Your mission should you choose to accept it: Complete as many sets of 5 swings in good form for 10 minutes.
Notice, I'm calling this a practice session. You're not working out here. You're learning. You're working on perfecting your technique. Stay in that frame of mind. Increase the volume because you're confident in your ability to Swing a Kettlebell properly and let the conditioning, strength, and resulting body composition arrive all on it's own as a consequence of your quest for perfect repetitions and strength.
Once you can do 15 sets of 5 really clean repetitions (75 Swings) in 10 minutes, start at sets of 8. At 12 x 8, it's time to do sets of 10. Your ultimate goal and challenge is 200 really clean near perfect Kettlebell Swings in 10 minutes. That's 20 reps on the minute 10 times.
There is no rush to get there. Take your time, enjoy the pain and the process.
Can you do it? Will you accept this challenge? If so, post your results...
Other Links of Note
- Dr. Mark Cheng's Kettlebells Los Angeles
Here's Doc Cheng's blog. If the Hard Style Lock got you salivating for more, tune in here for all things Hardstyle. Martial Artists will want to follow this one...
- Rifs Blog
This is the blog from Master Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor Mark Reifkind. Mark knows a thing or two about how to swing a kettlebell. Spend some time on this blog and learn the finer points of Swinging.
- Tracy Reifkind's Transforming Thought, Body and Food
This is Mark Reifkind's wife Tracy. Kettlebell Swings helped her drop 100 pounds. Need I say more? Tracey has attacked Swings with 110% of her beings and is also a teacher at Girya, a Kettlebell Gym in California.
David R Bradley (author) from The Active Side of Infinity on June 02, 2010:
Thanks Anita, you're welcome to contact me with any questions about the Swing. I'd be happy to help!
Anita_Lumley from Springfield, MO on June 02, 2010:
Awesome hub! I've always had trouble with the kettlebell swing, and your hub has been very helpful. Thank you.
djb2 on June 01, 2010:
very nice! looks great! thorough!