Coach’s Corner: Troubleshooting The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a great exercise to teach runners how to develop explosive power while strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles. Sometimes this exercise is performed with the kettlebell swinging up over the head of the runner, but in this article/video, we’ll discuss the Russian Kettlebell Swing (where the kettlebell finishes at chest height).

The timing of both knee and hip extensions are key to getting the swing of the swing (pardon the pun). Also, some runners use too much arm muscles to actually lift the kettlebell upward rather than swinging it upward via a forceful hip snap. Lastly, some runners perform a squat-style swing rather than a hinge-style swing – with the former putting more stress on the back.

To learn the timing of a Russian Kettlebell swing, make use of a rope attachment or two single handle cable attachments.

Thread a rope or handle attachment through the handle of the kettlebell. Females should start with 12-16 kg bells while males should start with 16-20 kg bells. Place the kettlebell roughly 2 feet in front of you. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees bent and back flat. Grab the handles or rope attachment and pull the kettlebell into your groin, as if you’re a quarterback taking a snap in football.

Simultaneously extend your knees and hips and swing the bell upwards. Focus on snapping your hips forward, as this is the powerhouse behind each and every swing.

Stand tall while bracing your butt, quads and abs. Your chest should be up with your shoulders down. Do not lean back at the top of the swing as you may compromise your lower back.

Do not use your arms to lift the kettlebell. Let your arms act like ropes. Your arms, though, will control the height of the bell, which should be roughly chest level. Breathe out slightly at the top of each swing. Let the bell float down and receive it by hinging at your hips. Return to the hike-pass position and perform the next repetition.

Over time and after several workouts, get rid of the rope or handle attachments and perform the kettlebell swing with just the bell. The goal is to have the same timing as you did with the attachments – they are used only as a teaching tool.

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About The Author: 

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS is a runner, strength coach and owner of JKConditioning in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon specializes in strength training distance runners and is currently in the middle of preparing a strength training resource for runners. Stay in touch by checking out www.StrongerRunner.com and www.JKConditioning.com.

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