learning the kettlebell swing; step 1/4

The kettlebell swing is a wonderful exercise and should be in everyone's toolbox. When done safely.

It is a ballistic movement i.e. it is an expression of power and is thus fast. You cannot jump slow. Send me a video.

It is a hinge movement i.e. your hips are going to do the heavy lifting. But remember, your body is one piece, and any weak link will fail you regardless of how powerful your hips are.


Here's what my swing looks like. It is a lot better than where it was when I started. I didn't know to hinge. While we did do drills like the PVC pipe deadlift and barbell deadlifts, I did not really understand to push the hips back meant to push the hips back on the swing. After every class (back in 2009), my back would hurt a bit and I'd go to my car and do back-bends using my car's perfectly curved trunk. 5 minutes of chatting from that pose with my gym buddies and I'd be good to go.

I see a lot of bad technique on the kettlebell swing via the internet. Either you are going to miss out on a lot of good and W-T-H effect from the swing, or get hurt doing it wrong. While locked down, I thought I'd make a couple of videos and put it out there and hope it helps.


There's two kinds of kettlebell swings. One is a great exercise that allows you to work on power generation, and delivers incredible strength, endurance, and fat loss. The other is a fad you hear about, and you do 50 swings with a balloon. Thankfully, balloons weigh very little.

If you try to do it with more weight, you could pull something on your back. And from what I've seen, it will happen. It's not fun. But it happens. Which means you get scared, and abandon this. What you need to know is,

Kettlebell swings do not hurt your back, or injure it. The way you do kettlebell swings hurts your back. - Dan John

There are different schools of legitimate kettlebell swings. My preferred method is the hardstyle kettlebell swing.


the what

First, get to a 2-minute plank; elbow or pushup.

Photo Courtesy: The Quad

Alongside, practice the following 3 drills, for 3 sets of 20 repetitions each. They are

  1. toes-elevated hinge; to get the hinge pattern
  2. face-the-wall squat; to learn to keep a tight back and proud chest
  3. glute bridge; to wake our glutes up.

Be patient. Let's start by doing these 3-7 times a week. Try it out for a week. If you are already familiar with kettlebell practice, these are perfect for your warmup. If you want to get the most out of the kettlebell swing, take the few extra weeks to get the fundamentals right. You did hear the story about the tortoise and the hare, right.

Once you get to the 2-minute plank and have had at least 10 sessions of practice with the above, we will move on to the next step. You should also put together the elbow plank, bracing, and these drills.

Practice until that makes sense a wee bit. I'll also try to say it better.

Your "what" is clear, or at least I hope so. Now, you have to do. As Seth says,

Go go go
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