Monday, February 3, 2014

Taken for Granted: Kettlebell swings

Some movements seem so simple we hardly think about them. They're so easy that they're often use in high reps. One of these moves is the kettlebell swing. Here are the big three problems I see regularly:

1) It's a hip hinge.

And by that I mean that it's not a squat.

The kettlebell swing most closely resembles the deadlift in the shape you create with your body. Your shins stay vertical, your hips push back, and your back inclines accordingly. The difference is that you're explosively pushing into the ground with a weight near your hips, causing it to be flung forward.

I could rant about the bent arm kettlebell swing and how what you're really wanting to train is the kettlebell snatch, but that's a chip on my shoulder for another day.

2) This isn't a club, don't booty pop.

Where your lumbar spine connects to the sacrum isn't the sort of joint meant to move under load. So often I see people let their low backs go either during the back swing (usually because they want to keep their chest up) or after they pop the kettlebell forward because they aren't maintaining tension in their tush. That excess movement is going to make your back mad, mad, mad.

3) Stay within your shoulder range.

We have a love for the overhead swing in CrossFit. But just because Games competition athletes are expected to have their shoulders reach 180 degrees of flexion, you don't need to force it. Face it, most of us have been hunching over a desk since kindergarden, and our shoulders aren't ready for that. Only swing the kettlebell as high as you can while maintaining tension in your butt and abs.

1 comment:

  1. My cues for the KB swing (hardstyle)

    To correct the hip hinge (and prevent squatting the bell, aka “squinging”)
    - The Overspeed Drill. Smack the bell and push it straight back repeatedly, yelling “hit me!” This will get more explosiveness (because you’re loaded them eccentrically) and get them thinking about their hips instead of their arms.
    - Don’t Touch the Hand. Place a hand in front of the knee and say, “don’t touch my hand.” This keeps the shin vertical.

    To correct booty pop:
    - The Gut Check. Smack them in the stomach (or pretend to) at the top of the swing. This will get them to light up their anterior core and keep that booty in check.
    - The Silverback. This is a drill where the client places the bell very far in front of them and just hikes it back behind them, maintains a straight spine, then places the bell in the same place. Aka, “the hike pass.” Once they get the hang of of a neutral spine, we “stand up quickly” and voila, they’re swinging.

    To stay within the shoulder range (and this is for the Hardstyle swing, but I bet there’s carryover):
    - The Plank. Have the client perform a push up postion plank, turning everything on as hard as they can. Kick them lightly. Try to push them over. Maybe even pick up their feet like a wheelbarrow. Now tell them to stand up and get in the same position with their arms. Place your arms under their’s and tell to them push down on your arms as hard as they were planking before. “That’s the top. See how you’re under tension? Now do that at the top of the swing.”
    - “Your arms are ropes.” This cue works well for the people who wanna muscle the damn thing with their arms.
    - The Ultimate Fix. When people are swinging and going well outside their shoulder range of motion, there is no fix I know better than telling them to get a bell roughly twice the size. When it comes to swings, there’s not much that more weight doesn't clean right up.