Craig Fingrutd: RKC, AKC, MKC
Izzy Barish: AKC
Swing – BASIC TECHNIQUE
The Swing is the basic of all ballistic techniques. The key point is to move with your hips at the beginning of the movement through to the completion of the swing. The form is a loose to tight protocol. You start by swinging the kettlebell down between your legs and then swing the bell up to chest level by exploding with your hips while tightening your core by locking out your knees, pull up your thighs, tighten your gluts and your abs. Then swing the kettlebell back down between your legs and repeat. Learning the proper form of the swing is key in performing the other ballistic techniques.
The swing can be performed several different ways. Two of these ways are the Hard Style and the Soft Style. The main difference between hard and soft style is in the expression of the form. The hard style is explosive and is can be very exhausting very quickly. Think of this as a punch where you tense your body at the last second of the punch and transfer the power of your tension from your core out to the end of your punch. In the hard style you inhale as you swing down and exhale at the top of the swing. This breathing pattern adds to the explosive power at the top of the swing. In the soft style you are trying to do as many repetitions as you can, possibly hundreds of reps at a time. To do this, you change the way you breath as you do not want to generate the same explosive power. For the soft style you exhale on the down swing and inhale at the top of the swing. This is called matched breathing where you naturally exhale when your lungs are compressed and inhale on the expansion of the lung. All the other things are the same as the hard style except you do not create tension at the top of each swing. This will allow you to perform hundreds of repetitions at a time. The soft style is used in the competitive Girevoy sport of kettlebell lifting. For our own practice we lean toward the hard style because we enjoy the explosive power generated by tension throughout the body. We practice the soft style from time to time as well as other ways to perform with the kettlebell.
BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT THE SWING - You need to know how to safely pick up and put down the kettlebell. To practice this, stand with a box or chair behind you. Your feet should be "on rails" meaning your legs should be in line with your shoulders, your feet are flat and pointed straight ahead. Sit down by first sitting back with you hips, then bend your knees. Your hands should be hanging down in front of you between your legs. Your back should be straight or arched, do not round your back. When you are bending down or coming up, your knees should not go further then your toes, and your knees should track in line with your feet. Now stand back up by pushing through the heals of your feet, through your thighs and hips. Again keep your back straight, knees tracking in line with your feet and knees no further then your toes. At the top of the movement when you are standing straight, push through your hips and tighten your gluts, abs and thighs. Your knees are straight, hips are forward, and the back straight. Now you are ready to move on to the swing.
Preparing for the 2 Hand Swing - Stand with the kettlebell between your feet. The kettlebell should be positioned with the handle going left to right between your legs. Using the form described above, bend down and pick up the kettlebell by the top handle with both hands. Your fingers should naturally wrap around the handle with the back of your hands pointed to the wall in front of you. Stand straight up. The kettlebell should be hanging down the center of your body. You are finally ready to start the swing. This is one of the the easiest and safest ways to learn how to prepare for the swing. There are others ways to prepare for the swing. The differences are how the kettlebell is taken off of the floor. One is where a short back swing is performed right from the floor as you stand up into the swing. The other is where the kettlebell is set far back between your legs so no back swing is necessary and you swing up right from the bottom. We use all of these prep techniques depending on the size of the kettlebell and the technique being performed.
The 2 Hand Swing - Move your hips back and let your arms swing backwards and the kettlebell will swing back between your legs. You are not swinging the kettlebell down and up with your arms. Your arms should act as a pendulum only and not push down or pull up the weight. This is not a weight lifting technique. It is a swing that focuses on your core, not your arms. As you do this back movement, take a inhalation breath. You should not be bending deeply with your knees. The knees do bend but the focus is through the hips. As you swing the kettlebell backwards the inside of your forearms should touch the inside of your thighs and let the bell swing backwards. You should have a relatively loose grip on the kettlebell. Now explode or 'pop' your hips forward. Snap the hips by contracting the gluteus explosively simulating the action of a vertical jump without the jump. Project the kettlebell straight ahead with the power of the hips. Exhale your breath with force at the top of the swing. Time it so you exhale explosively while tightening your core all at the top of the swing. Your back should be straight. Do not pull back with your shoulders, do not lean back and do not pull the kettlebell up with your arms. You will only develop bad form and could potentially hurt yourself. Let the power come from your hips, not your upper back or arms. Now relax the tension and inhale while you let the kettlebell drop backwards between your legs. Use your hips to start this backwards movement. If you are performing the swing correctly, meaning at the top of the swing your body is straight and upright, your knees are straight, thighs pulled up, gluts tight and abs tight, then you should have a vibration that will shake through your legs. This happens when you have the right tension. If you do not engage the tension correctly you will not have this vibration in the legs.
Initially on your first few swings might end with the kettlebell below your waist. As you continue to swing, keep swinging higher until you reach shoulder height. The height of the kettlebell can vary to anywhere from your waist, chest, or above your head. Because the explosive style described above you will become exhausted very quickly. This is not uncommon when performing the swing correctly. You will build overall strength and endurance performing the swing.
The 1 Hand Swing - The 1 hand swing is performed the same way as the 2 hand swing. Other then the obvious difference that it is performed with one hand instead of two there is a minor difference that you can choose to perform on this swing. As you swing the kettlebell backwards between your legs you can rotate your hand 90 degrees so your thumb is pointing backwards. This will turn the handle so it is perpendicular to your body. Doing this, you will not have to open your legs wide on the back swing. As the kettlebell comes to the top of the swing, rotate your hand to the starting position where the back of your hand is facing up. We have performed the 1 hand swing with the hand flat while swinging as well as rotating the thumb backwards. Both work. It will become more evident as to why you would want to rotate your hand in the power swing.
The Power Swing - The power swing means you are swinging 2 kettlebells, one in each hand. The technique is performed exactly like the 1 hand swing. Now you will understand why we rotate our hand at the bottom of the swing. If we did not, we would have to take a wide stance to get both kettlebells between the legs. There is nothing wrong with performing it with a wide stance without rotating your hands, so try both versions. See which you like better.
The High Swing is just like the basic two handed swing except the kettlebell is halted over the head for a predetermined time period. In the Basic Swing the kettlebell is not stopped at its apex whatever height you are working at. This is not the case with the High Swing Overhead. Use caution on the down swing of the kettlebell. Bend your knees and flow with the bell. We do not advise this being done as a single hand swing, it is to risky. From the finished position with the kettlebell overhead you can add a squat keeping the bell overhead, do a press, body twists left and right, 180 turns on walking swings, or just keep swinging.
The High Swing Overhead
The High Pulls are a swing where at the apex of the swing you pull the kettlebell(s) back towards your shoulder. This relies on the scapula and the lats and is a perfect complement when doing presses as this is akin to a rowing motion. The kettlebell can drop directly back down to perform another high pull or can be thrust straight out as if punching someone with the bottom of the ball and then dropping down from the extended position. This is excellent for any martial artist that likes to punch. They are also known as Judo Pulls as it mimics the action used when grasping an opponents Gi top. This opens up the jacket while pulling the opponent in toward you to gain control over your opponent.
Various States of the Judo Hi Pull
The technique is the same as the basic swing except there is a stronger emphasis on the back swing instead of the up swing. Use extreme caution to not let the kettlebell throw you forward. You must control the action as there is more apparent weight from the forced downward motion.
The Bent Over swing is a swing performed without the explosive vertical push of the legs and the hips. You stay bent over doing the repetitions. You must stayed cored up at all times and pay attention to your lower back and hips. If you start to round your back, stop immediately, you will only hurt yourself. Also keep those shoulders packed down.
Seated Swings are done from a seated position. Be careful on what you decide to sit on. Make sure it is strong and stable. Also make sure there is clearance room for the kettlebell to clear going backwards on the down swing. Again, be careful of your back.
These are swings done while standing on one leg. Extremely difficult technique because of the balance issue. You need to use the leg that is in the air as a counter balance to the kettlebell. Look and see where the free leg is in the pictures below. To do this correctly you need have total concentration and keep the body as cored up as possible.
Swings done from a Horse Stance is the same as a basic swing except you are in a wider stance and there is no snapping of the knees. You do snap the hips forward at the apex of the swing.
This is actually a variation of a sling shot warm up where you bring the bell up into the opposite palm. The emphasis is on the upswing as the kettlebell comes into the open palm. Switch hands to work back and forth to the different palms. This can be done with a lot of force in both stopping the kettlebell as well as throwing the kettlebell away from the bottom once it has come to rest.
The swinging halo incorporates the basic warm up halo but is different in that you do not keep the kettlebell on the sides of the head but rather swing it from the side of the body around the head and return to the opposite side of the body. The amount of body twist at the end can vary from little twist to large amounts of body twist. This also can be done light and easy or with force on the down or upswing of the kettlebell as it goes from side to side.
The Diagonal Chop is performed by bringing the kettlebell from an overhead position with the body twisted to a lower position diagonally across the body. Then rise up to the other side to swing through the opposite diagonal. One can also repeat repetitions on the same side before going to the other side by just retracing the path. This can be done with little force or with great explosion on either the up or down swing.
The Golf swing is an opposite motion to the Diagonal Chop Swing in that it starts from the bottom lower just above the floor and then brought up high to the opposite side. Return the kettlebell through the same path. At this point you repeat on the same side or bring the kettlebell to the opposite side and perform the swing.
The Outside Leg Swing is very similar to the regular swing except the swing is done from the outside of the leg instead of between the legs. With your legs shoulder width apart pickup the kettlebell that is at your side from a dead lift. The kettlebell is hangingn at your side. Make sure the palm of your hand is facing behind you. Us the same back motion with the hips as in the swing and bend the knees while pushing your arm backwards along your side. As your arm starts coming forward so do your hips as you straighten your knees and swing while bringing the bell forward. The arm can stop at different heights as in the regular swing. This can be done with a kettlebell in each hand or even two kettlebells in one hand. Note: This technique could be considered a high risk move as you are much closer to you knees especially from the down swing, so pay extra close attention when performing this.