7 Common Kettlebell Swing Mistakes

Kettlebell swings are a great bang for your buck exercise. They challenge your core, help develop power and strength, build cardiovascular strength, and pull grip strength. 

While swings are great, when not done properly, you put yourself at risk for injury. It’s important to make sure the setup of your swing is correct. In case you missed it, check out some of the common swing set up mistakes

Here are 7 mistakes that I commonly see with kettlebell swings and how to fix them:

Mistake #1: The Lean Back
At the top of your swing, you should be in a tight plank. By leaning back, you are not using your core and you are putting extra strain on your low back. 
The Fix: Practice a hardstyle plank. Get into a plank position and give a long exhale pulling elbows towards the toes and squeezing your butt. Hold your plank for one exhale and then relax for a few seconds before your next plank. Practice this hardstyle plank 3-4 times and then go back into your swing focusing on holding that plank at the top of your swing. 

Mistake #2: Hips Don’t Follow Through
Power from your kettlebell swing comes from the hips. If you don’t get your hips all the way through you will not be able to get the maximal about of power.
The Fix: Think about being that plank at the top. If that doesn’t help, practice a vertical jump. If you don’t push your hips through on a vertical jump, you will barely go anywhere.

Mistake #3: It’s Squatty
The kettlebell swing is based on the hinge. You will be able to get the max power from this position. It becomes squatty when your knees come forward and torso stays more vertical.
The Fix: Don’t be afraid to let your chest go towards the ground. You can practice one swing at a time too. If that doesn’t help, practice your hinge with dowel/stick. Place the stick vertically down your back making sure it touches your head, upper back, and butt. Push your butt backwards keeping your knees “soft” and all three points on the stick. You can also stand with the backs of your legs touching a chair. When you do your hinge make sure your lower leg stays in contact with the chair. 

Mistake #4: Shallow Hinge
Like I mentioned, power in the kettlebell swing comes from the hips and you get that in your hinge. If you don’t get enough depth in your hinge, you are missing out on a power.
The Fix: Make sure you have a good bend in your knees, but they aren’t coming forward. Then think about touching the kettlebell to the wall behind you. You can even have someone stand off to the side behind you and hold a piece of paper a few inches behind you. When you hinge, aim for the kettlebell to tap the paper. 

Mistake #5: Favoring Toes or Heels
Movement starts from the ground up. If you don’t have a solid base, it will be really hard to be in a tight plank at the top.
The Fix: Remove your shoes. It’s harder to balance on a big fully pillow when compared to a hard floor. Our shoes are like giant pillows. They can be harder to balance and even guide you onto your toes/heels. Think about clawing your feet into the ground. This will help those toes from coming off the ground. You can practice your hinge. As you begin to stand up exhale and press though your feet. 

Mistake #6: Early Hinge
When you hinge too early the kettlebell will drop below your knees, which will pull on your back.
The Fix: Think about playing chicken with your hips. Wait until the last second to hinge. You can also think about keeping the kettlebell as high as you can on your legs as you hinge back. 

Mistake #7: All Arms– As I mentioned before, the power from your kettlebell swing comes from your hips, not the arms.
The Fix: Think about your arms as noodles and your hands as hooks. You can also try going to a heavier bell. At a heavier weight you will not be able to use your arms to lift the weight.  If you need a little more help than that, grab a towel. Thread the towel through the horns of the kettlebell. The horns should be perpendicular to you. Tilt the kettlebell back. The towel should be at the top when tilted back. Hands should be as close to the towel as possible. (The above picture is just a visual, hands should be closer to the kettlebell.) The towel will help prevent you from using your arms. 

Key points for a good swing:
1. Good set up.
2. Deep hinge.
3. Exhale and squeeze you butt at the top of each swing creating a tight plank.
4. Arms are noodles handles are hooks.
5. Power comes from your hips. 

Bumps in the Road to Success

We all have experienced bumps in the road. This is especially true when working towards our health goals. Whether your goal is fat loss, building muscle, feeling better, or performance based, it is sure to come with its own set of obstacles. 

At the beginning of 2018, I made the decision to become a “Beast Tamer.” In the kettlebell world that is being able to perform the following: a one-arm overhead press, pistol squat, and pull-up using a 48 kilogram (106-pound) kettlebell. No easy task. What drew me to this challenge was the fact that only 1% of certified kettlebell coaches are official “Beast Tamers.” I wanted to take on the challenge and new it wouldn’t be easy.

I am fairly certain that the pull up is the biggest obstacle of the three lifts for those attempting. This past year of training has proven that true for me. From frustration due to slow progress to lack of a systematic plan, to elbow pain, I have experienced a few bumps.

When these bumps arise, it can be easy to quit. I have not quit and am getting through my final bump before completing the “Beast Tamer.” 

How have I not quit even after a few bumps in the road? 

I hired a coach. This was one of my smartest moves. When I started training at the start of 2018. I had someone to hold me accountable if needed. I had someone on the outside helping me. It is easy when you are in the middle of a massive project to lose sight of the end. 

I had my coach  create a step by step plan for me.Random workouts and programming don’t work. You need a thought out program. This is when my progress really started to kick in. After 11 months of work,  I completed a pull up with a 44 kg kettlebell. (Only 4 kg away!)

I adjusted my plan when needed. I finally felt I was making great progress towards my goal then my left elbow had enough and it became inflamed. I couldn’t continue to train the same way. I needed to adjust my plan by adding in extra recovery time, increase my RAMP, and ice. 

I remembered my why. A year doesn’t seem like a long time in the grand scheme of thing, but when you are working towards one goal, it can feel like forever. It’s hard to stay dedicated and focused for that amount of time. Let’s face it, I don’t wake up every day excited to work out. There are days when I need to follow my plan, but just don’t have the motivation. That’s when I have to take a step back and remember my driving force.

I harnessed my growth mindset.The ability to fail and learn rather than quit because the path is not an easy one is to have a growth mindset. When I plateaued, I switched things up. When I got frustrated, I took a day off from my program to keep things fresh. When my workouts were weak, I became more dedicated to sleep and nutrition. 

What goal are you working towards? What bumps in the road are you experiencing? Have you let a bump in the road turn into an unsurpassable mountain? Everything can’t come easy. Imagine the joy and satisfaction you have once you reach your goal especially one that has been filled with quite a few bumps.  I know when I complete my “Beast Tamer” I will be proud and celebrate my accomplishment and use that momentum to quickly come up with my next challenge!