Teaching The Swing

It has been said that the kettlbell swing is an inch wide but a mile deep. Easy in concept but much practice is needed for mastery. Not a week passes where I don’t learn, feel, or see something different about this simple, yet amazingly effective exercise. Ambition Athletics has had a recent influx of people training in what we call our group classes. One of the priorities we have other than having each individual go through the Functional Movement Screen is to teach them the kettlebell swing in a one on one setting. In the past I have seen this as a difficult task not only for brand new clients, some who have never seen or tried a swing, but also for those who may have been training, and not yet exposed to the kettlebell swing.

We have recently come up with a specific sequence to teach this move and I am not afraid to say it, I think it has been going quite well.

Step 1: ½ Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: A simple drill to open up the front side and teach people to “tuck their tail under”. Most people have done this simple stretch but have not always been cued as to exactly what they should be doing how and how it should feel.

Step 2: Glute Bridge: Here I want people to “feel the burn Jane Fonda style” in their glutes. If that isn’t happening then I try and use some cues to change that and am sure to do a second or third set if needed. We have been using two yoga blocks most of the time when teaching people to bridge. One is placed between the feet and the other between the knees. This helps to prevent the external rotators from acting as hip extensors, keeping things more linear, especially for those with short hip flexors. I will usually alternate 2 sets of the stretch and the bridge.

Step 3: KB Deadlift: Using a competition size KB I will typically have women start with 16 kg and men with 20 kg. Going from what would be considered a swing stance, here I emphasize the hip hinge movement and keeping the shins vertical as the bell is lifted from between the feet. I try and remind clients that they want to use their hips and stay through their heels in a similar manner to the bridges done prior. This is usually performed for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps.

Step 4: Deadlift from Behind: After getting the individual comfortable with the deadlift I will have him or her typically perform 1 set of a more explosive deadlift with the bell starting on the floor behind the heels. This style was taken from Senior RKC Zar Horton, explained more in depth here. During this set I will most often drop the size of the bell down 4 kg but still use the taller/competition size ‘bell.

Step 5: Swingin’: Before I have a person actually swing I will show them what one looks like as well as describe where I expect their hips and the bell to be, emphasizing that the hip placement does not change between the deadlift done earlier and the swing done now. Only the position of the KB changes. At this time I will have the client use the same weight as in Step 4 but now using one of the smaller size Dragon Door ‘bells. That’s it. It’s show time from there.

Here is a great example of what a swing should look like:

-Mike Baltren

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