The Kettlebell Swing is the cornerstone of Kettlebell training. The more swift, smooth, yet ballistic and powerful the swing, the better all other exercises become. There are of course a few styles of swinging a kettlebell but I focus on the (labelled) hardstyle swing.
It stands out from other styles of swinging a kettlebell by being explosive with the aim of expending energy over short-duration ballistic sets rather than conserving energy for endurance sets. For reference, the standards of the swing are as follows.
The Brief: Swing a kettlebell in one hand / each hand back between your legs and then in front of you up to chest level.
- The back is neutral. the neck is slightly extended or neutral on the bottom of the swing.
- The heels, toes and the balls of the feet are planted and the knees track the toes.
- The shoulders are packed.
- The kettlebell handle passes above the knees during the backswing.
- The working arm / arms is straight in the bottom position.
- There is no forward knee movement on the upswing.
- The body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, the spine is neutral.
- The kettlebell forms an extension of the straight arm(s) at the top of the swing.
- The biomechanical breathing match. (power breaths, if familiar)
- The abs and glutes visibly contract at the top of the swing.
- The kettlebell floats momentarily on the top of the swing.
(This is NOT an instruction guide or a how to. To learn how to swing, get taught. Dont tempt fate, learn and practice and repeat.)
Too many words? Here is a great video demonstrating the swing and other key StrongFirst exercises.
A beginner learns how to hinge their hips first with either a deadlift or a wall drill to teach the correct movement before moving onto the swing. How quickly depends on mobility and other factors but when first learning the swing a beginner focuses on swinging a single kettlebell with two hands.
For many this proves fine for a very long time but for others who may want to progress to single arm swings with its many core strengthening benefits (cue Dr Stuart McGills Studies on the kettlebell swing and back health found here) there are a few adjustments to pay attention to.
- A single arm swing places great rotational stress on the torso.
- A single arm swing requires greater shoulder packing on the loaded arm.
- Grip strength is stressed more.
- Simply getting used to swinging single armed is unusual for a time being and a distraction to good form.
In my time teaching the swing there have been people who transition to swinging with a single arm without a hitch whilst others have struggled to maintain form even over a small number of swings. Whilst programming the single arm swing appropriately, mixing it between sets of 2 handed swings can help, for some the focus of holding the kettlebell with a single arm is a distraction.
So, without further babbling, here’s the Quick Hand Release kettlebell swing. I couldn’t figure out what to call it and I am sure others use it, but I have not seen other instructors broadcast its use.
The premise is simple. For a very quick moment release a hand from the handle at the top of a two handed swing, while it floats whilst maintaining a packed shoulder. Just as the float ends before descent, get the released hand back onto the handle and continue the swing two handed.
It’s quick, brief and a minimal stress, but I’ve found it help swingers get confidence holding the bell with a single hand.
Additionally, I’ve discovered it’s great way to get that hang-time, the float at the top of the swing that some rush. It’s also a simple way to get used to holding onto a heavier kettlebell for even experienced kettlebell swingers. My quick video shows me swing the 40kg with the QHR kettlebell swing which I would struggle with solely using a single arm swing.
Yeah, I’m sure others have discovered this drill. I found it by accident one session swatting a fly off my face but it has helped me help others swing better… so, smiley faces all round
Peace and smiles,