Building Your Swing Part 1: The Kettlebell Deadlift, The Kettlebell Hike, and The Pendulum Swing
The kettlebell swing is a powerful skill to own. This one exercise can be your conditioning, improve your power output, improve your strength of your arms, lats, grip, core, and glutes. With all these benefits it makes you ask, “Why isn’t everyone doing it?” For one it’s fairly technical and most people aren’t doing it effectively. For another it’s hard and uncomfortable.
I’m going to address the first obstacle with this blog. Let’s talk about how you can build and develop your kettlebell swing. Before we begin, let’s cover some safety and ground rules.
- Make sure you have a safe space to work in. You need a corner of space that is about 6ft by 6ft of clear floor space.
- Make sure that when you’re swinging that there are no pets or children in the space or able to wonder into the space while you’re working
- You need a kettlebell -maybe 2. I recommend women buy a 12kg and a 16kg. Gentlemen a 24kg and a 28kg.
- Always keep technique as your first priority. If it starts to hurt, or you just can’t seem to make it work for you, seek out a coach. You can find a top notch coach at www.strongfirst.com or here at www.ironmonkeystrength.com
Here are 3 starter drills for you to practice. You can work on these for a day or two before moving on to the next 4. If you do choose to move on to part 2 remember that it’s always a good idea to go back to the earlier drills for clarification or if you’re having trouble.
First Drill -The Kettlebell Deadlift
Use the larger bell that you have available. This can be a 16kg, but probably a 24 or larger will be best. Stand over the bell, feet a little wider than shoulder width, so that the handle lines up with your shins and the body of the bell rests between the ankles of your feet.
- Getting Into The Hinge
- Keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Imagine your back was fused to a straight rod of iron.
- Push your hips back, keeping the chest big, and the spine straight. Focus on moving the hips back, and only bending the knees as necessary to maintain your balance.
- You should have your hips a little lower than your shoulders, and look like a Silverback Gorilla.
- Grasping the Handle
- Grab the bell with both hands firmly. Try to bend or break the handle. You should feel your shoulders draw away from your ears, and the muscles under your armpits tighten up.
- Focus and Head Alignment
- Look forward to where the floor meets the wall. You should be looking through your eyelashes with your chin only slightly lifted with only a minor amount of extension in your neck.
- Lifting the Bell
- You want to feel as if you are wedging yourself between the weight of the bell and the floor.
- There should be more tension in your butt and back of your thighs. Not so much in the knees or front of the thigh.
- The shin should be almost vertical.
- Now, push with your legs and hold on with your arms.
- Try not to think of lifting up with your back. Just keep it straight and tight. Focus on pushing your butt through your feet and the ground
- At the top of the lift you want to be stacked: feet, knees, hips, ribs, shoulders and head. You want to be in a standing plank position. Abs and butt tight.
- Returning the Bell
- Send your hips back, keeping your spine iron rod straight.
- Push the bell and your hips back, bending the knees only as necessary to keep the shin vertical and maintain balance.
- The bell should end up where it started. Inline with your ankles.
- You can now do another rep or park the bell and take a break.
- Practice this for 3 sets of 10
Second Drill -The Kettlebell Hike
The Kettlebell Hike is how you will start and park the bell when you perform most kettlebell lifts. This is a safe and effective way to begin and finish, and it’s a pretty tough exercise in it’s own right.
- The Start Position
- You will position yourself behind the bell. You will hinge your hips back like you did for the deadlift and reach your arms forward. You should just be able to hook your fingers around the handle of the bell, and have to tilt the bell in order to stay in your hinge position. If this isn’t the case, stand up, move back a little farther from the bell, and try again. The bell should be an extension of your arm.
- The Hike
- Keeping your chest up and big, then drive the bell back between your legs so that your forearms, just below the elbow, slams into your inner thigh. If you find yourself being pulled down -you’re doing it wrong. Try again and do not let this happen. Keep your chest up. Your hips should NOT pop up.
- The Park
- Allow the bell to swing forward on its own. Your only job is to counterbalance the invertia of the bell so that it lands softly and quietly on the floor where it started.
- Sniff in through your nose as you hike, and breath out as the bell swings forward and parks.
- Repeat this 10 times for 3 sets.
Third Drill -The Pendulum Swing
Same setup and execution as the Kettlebell Hike. The only difference is instead of parking the bell you let it swing forward, and then push it back between the legs. So you hike it, let it swing forward, and as soon as you feel it reaches the end of the forward swing, you push the bell back between the legs and then allow it to swing forward once more. The point here is to really get a sense of how the kettlebell swings naturally like the pendulum of a clock or playground swing.
- Keep your hips lower than your shoulders in that silverback gorilla position.
- Don’t allow the hips to pop up and down. They should stay at the same level the whole time.
- Your body should naturally rock forward and backward, counter to the movement of the bell. Let this happen and find the balance between you and the bell.
- Keep your breathing the same as the kettlebell hikes.
Perform 10 pendulum swings for 3 sets.
Here is a video I did of all three of these drills.
Watch the video, reread this material. Try the drills, then watch and reread. Email, comment, or stop by the gym if you need more help. Power to You!