There’s a lot to love about swinging kettlebells and I’d say there’s even more to love about teaching others how to swing kettlebells. It can be especially fun and gratifying to go a little heavy when everyone is ready.
How do you know when you (or your client) is ready to “go heavy”? Simple: the person in question is regularly doing great basic kettlebell swings with moderately sized kettlebells. Their feet are staying flat on the ground, they’re engaging their foot to actively GRIP the ground. The swing starts with a STRONG backswing from the ground and a powerful hip thrust. The hips are powering the movement. The knees are staying back and safe. The glutes are contractly strongly at the top of the swing to protect the back. The swing is hinged – and not squatty. The arms are not “lifting” the kettlebell up. The kettlebell feels weightless at the top of the swing while the abs are rock solid.
Until the form is locked in on the swing, don’t go heavy. It’s not worth it. At best it may mold a bad habit, at worst, there’s a risk of injury.
General Tips for the first few “heavy swing” sessions:
1. Safety first always… Go outside or somewhere else safe where you can bail out and jut let the thing fly without hurting anyone or incuring damage. If you want, demo what happens if you lose grip, etc. Make sure you (or the client) knows to let go of the kettlebell. Don’t compromise the body to “save” an impossible to hurt hunk-o-iron. It might get a scratch or two, no biggie… Also understand that a newbie might lose grip on the backswing–the area in front of AND behind the person swinging heavy need to be clear of people, pets, grandma’s crystal figurine collection, etc. If you can, go outside.
2. Keep sets short, keep overall number of reps low-ish. Once you find that you can go heavy it’s hard to keep from overdoing it. At first, there’s a risk of making compensations to keep going–don’t do this! Not worth it. End on a high note (just like training dogs!)
3. Don’t worry about swinging high, especially at first. It sometimes helps to think “belt height” not “chest height” even though you may end up at chest height at some point anyway. This is a great way to work through a mental block.
4. Reinforce great movement patterns at every corner, revisit the dowel “three points of contact” drill in the video below.
5. Use your glutes glutes glutes and more glutes. Get a tailor on call. I’m serious.
Today is all about swinging heavy and about how heavy swings when you are ready for them can really let you know if you’re being honest with yourself. Also point out any flaws or weak points in your swing.
How To Swing Very Heavy Kettlebellsinstagram, and youtube, and websites–very mainstream outlets–you’ll see people doing really sad kettlebell swings with teeny tiny little kettlebells, especially for the women’s workouts and you’ll see this overextension of the knee bugging out forward on the swings. Fix the form first! [00:01:50.20] Here’s what it should look like again. [00:01:59.26] Take your time with these. Find where you are with them, and you can use your whole foot. Make sure your heel stays in contact with the ground at all times. But remenber to use your whole foot, you don’t want to have the foot rocking back and forth on the ground. Sometimes you’ll see people come up on their toes, you want to make sure not to do that. So notice how all three points of contact are staying the same. I know I have this in other videos, but honestly, we can’t talk about it enough. So, that is the same basic move as we have in all of our kettlebell swings, regardless if we’re swinging with this one (10kg) or this one (48kg). [00:02:41.03] The first thing to think about is, one if your form is good–and you will know quickly if it is not–you don’t need to get the kettlebell as high as you’re used to. So, don’t necessarily think of gettng the kettlebell chest height right away. It might get there it might not. What matters is that you’re able to generate the power from the hips to propel the kettlebell up. if that ends up being here, that’s fine, or if it ends up being here that’s fine, if it ends up being here, great, but don’t think to get it here (chest height) from the begining because what you’ll find with most people, they’ll compensate somewhere just to focus on that one singular goal instead of focusing on the movement. Hope that makes sense. [00:03:21.08] The other reason I have the tiny kettlebell out here… it’s cute, it’s also going to keep us honest. It’s an interesting mental challenge to go from swinging something extremely heavy like 48kg or 106lbs down to 10kg or 22lbs. It takes a little bit of thinking to make sure this 10kg kettlebell doesn’t get into orbit! [00:03:43.11] The 24kg is kind of my default kettlebell. If I want to do between 100-200 swings for that session, I’ll just grab the 24kg. So I will get started there. It’s also fun because this 24kg kettlebell weighs half of the 48kg “Beast” weighs. So here I’m pulling back. Everything is tight. I’m like a loaded spring right now. So I am throwing this back and I’m going to stand up forcefully. …I’m going to force my sunglasses right off my face! You can see I am getting the kettlebell up to chest height, I’ll do this from the side for you too. [00:04:34.06] When I swing the 10kg kettlebell I’m in a similar mental space, but if I’m used to this kettlebell and it’s still light for me, I need to still keep it under control. It can even become almost like an isometric during parts of the swing. [00:04:54.23] You’ll notice that I treat all the kettlebells the same, regardless of their size. I want to build good habits. I don’t want just throw this 10kg around because I can. [00:05:02.22] So, this is a 32kg kettlebell. Again, same setup. Throw it back and stand up. [00:05:28.10] If you’ve never swung the “Beast” before, and you’re comfortable with these other sizes, and you’re comfortable with your swing form–no knees bugging out, no heels coming up. I’m going to just think about getting the kettlebell belt-height. It may get chest height eventually, but in my mind, I’m just going to here. The other thing you’ll notice. I’m about 135lbs today. That’s 106, so If I have 106 pounds out here you may see me lean back a little bit. But unlike right now, I won’t be leaning back from my lower back, I’m actually leaning back from my ankles. You’ll see that a lot of times with smaller people. So if you see a picture and someone is kind of like this and they’re not leaning from their lower back, it’s still totally legit. So, same setup. [00:06:29.22] And there we have it! Good luck and be safe when swinging heavy!