Fixing Your Clients’ Kettlebell Swing


Kettlebell swings are among the most destroyed, misunderstood and yet, most popular, exercises there is.

Part of the reason why the kettlebell swing is so butchered by so many people, though, is because of us – the fitness professional.

Everyone wants to incorporate kettlebell swings, and kettlebell training in general, into their workouts.  The problem is that we don’t want to take the time to actually learn HOW TO TEACH IT to others.

Being able to do it, and being able to teach it, are two entirely different things. If you aren’t SFG or RKC certified, then you’d better be doing some serious self-education if you’re going to incorporate kettlebell training with your clients.

You owe it to them. Don’t be that trainer who’s telling their clients to “do a squat and swing the kettlebell with your arms through their legs and then up to your eyes as you stand up straight.”

The reason so many people are doing kettlebell swings wrong (among many other exercises), and f#*%ing up their lower backs, is because they’re not being taught the most basic movement that constitutes a kettlebell swing – the hip hinge.

Our hips are the most powerful joint in our bodies … or at least they should be.

If you don’t know what a hip hinge is, it’s time to stop training clients and begin learning your craft before you end up with a lawsuit from an angry client with severe back pain.

Before we go into what a kettlebell swing is, and what it should look like, let’s first establish what a kettlebell swing is NOT:

  • A kettlebell swing is NOT a new version of the squat where we swing a weight up and down with our arms
  • A kettlebell swing is NOT a shoulder or an arm exercise
  • A kettlebell swing is NOT an overhead exercise (contrary to what CrossFitters may think, try doing this same move with one hand and you’ll understand why)

So What IS a Kettlebell Swing?

The kettlebell swing is mainly a lower body conditioning exercise, though it does recruit the core, lats and forearms when performed properly … and it can also be used to strengthen the posterior chain.

In its most basic form, a kettlebell swing is a hip hinge with a ferocious and violent thrust of the hips to generate enough power to pull the kettlebell through and “push” it out in front of your body … that’s it.

Teaching Cues For Your Clients:

Starting with the kettlebell arms length out in front of you, push your hips backward while reaching forward to grab the kettlebell, and then …

  • “Hike” the kettlebell high between your thighs
  • Maintain “big chest” throughout the movement, even at the bottom
  • Shins remain upright, knees only bend to allow hips to go backward
  • Use hips, NOT arms, to drive kettlebell up and out in front

As the kettlebell reaches its apex, it will be weightless for just a split second.  Then use your core and lats to pull it high though your thighs again to load up the hips … and repeat!

When Should You Do Kettlebell Swings?

Aside from the mass mis-education of the kettlebell swing, this is probably the most frustrating part.  Knowing when to plug kettlebell swings into your workouts comes down to one question:

What are you looking to accomplish with your workout?

Typically, kettlebell swings should be performed AFTER all of your major lifts & strength work.  The exception to this rule is if the entire workout is based around conditioning, in which case there’s more freedom on where they can be placed.

In rare occasions, we use low-rep heavy kettlebell swings to prep the central nervous system prior to deadlifts for clients who need a substitute for plyometric exercises such as box jumps or broad jumps.

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