This is great because the KB swing is an incredible exercise… If you think about it, explosively taking the hips from a flexed position to an extended position correlates to so many movements, not only in sport but in day to day life.
However, the vast majority of the time when I see people performing the KB swing on their own, during personal training sessions or even during kettlebell classes, people are simply not performing a “true” KB swing.
The exercise they are performing instead involves a full squat, keeping the back in a very upright position… Now there’s nothing wrong with performing this “squat swing”, we are still taking the hips through flexion and extension in a very fluid and athletic manner, which will not only strengthen the legs and core, but will also act as a very metabolic, conditioning exercise. However, performing this exercise with a squat will result in the knees tracking forward, emphasising the load on the quadriceps… Again not a bad thing, but it takes away from the “true” aim of the lift. (A lot of lower body work we do turns out to be very quad dominant… We want to get the posterior chain working!)
During a “true” KB swing we want to take the hips through flexion and extension whilst emphasising the load on the posterior chain (muscles to the rear of the body), specifically the glutes… We want to utilise a full hinge of the hips, allowing the chest to drop forward whilst maintaining a neutral spine (Vertebrae unbent and untwisted) . We want to maintain straight legs (soft knees/slight bend), allowing the kettlebell to achieve a good “back swing” between the legs. This will load the posterior chain and allow us to emphasis the work on the glutes (contracting them hard to drive us into extension).
There are two main variants of the KB swing:
Russian Swing – Kettlebell swung up to chest level
American Swing – Kettlebell swung overhead
The Russian swing is my style of choice… This is down to two facts:
- Once the kettlebell has been brought to chest height, we have already achieved the aim of the exercise – Explosively bring the hips into extension.
- Swinging the kettlebell overhead is putting the shoulder joints at risk of injury… With the risks far outweighing the benefits of that section of the exercise (There are far better ways to train similar movements).
Simply put, the Russian style swing achieves huge amounts, with little risk of injury… If done correctly of course.
Train Like an Athlete… Eat like a Nutritionist!