The kettlebell swing is quite frankly one of the biggest learning curves for beginners to understand. The kettlebell swing requires a total body check-in and there are a lot of moving pieces to perform the movement correctly. In this article, we are going to discuss 5 common mistakes during kettlebell swings and how to correct them so you can stay safe!
This is one of the MOST common mistakes during kettlebell swings where the individual squats during the descent instead of hinging at the hips. Hence: the squatty swing.
Let's be clear, once you have a solid kettlebell swing foundation, you can play with different variations. There are different variations of the kettlebell swing and there is a variation where the descent is primarily squatty mechanics. However, I urge my clients to be very self-aware and comfortable with their hinge before playing around with squattier versions.
To build a solid foundation, practice hinging at the hips, work on good morning stretches and work on stiff-legged deadlifts. Once those are built, you can begin to incorporate your kettlebell and begin practicing the kettlebell swing.
I have a really good video on how to practice distinguishing your hinge from your squat over on my Instagram page.
Using your Arms
Using your arms to lift the bell is a common mistake during kettlebell swings. Many folks believe that is what drives the movement, but the reality is that the momentum generated from your hips is what exudes really the power to drive the bell forward and up.
Muscling the kettlebell up with your arms is a real quick and easy way to hurt your lower back. It's also going to tire you out quicker and slow down your progression in weight. I guarantee you can swing far heavier using your hips versus what you can lift with your arms. This is why many people can go far heavier than they realize and its going to burn more fat and sculpt a better butt. Just remember that next time you go too light in your weight. I constantly mention this to my clients to lift HEAVY because kettlebells are different, they're endurance-based in ballistic movements more than strength-based.
Swinging Too Light
That brings me to the next common mistake during kettlebell swings which is swinging too light. If you choose a weight that is too light for you, I guarantee it will cause problems, especially in your lower back.
Swinging too light is really going to force you to use your arms because the light being so light tricks you into feeling like the kettlebell isn't coming up far enough. That's simply because the hips generating momentum don't have to fight against a heavy object to lift. So, you think, your arms have to do the work when in reality, you just need to lift a heavier kettlebell. I guarantee you that the majority of naturally healthy women can start out swinging a 20-25 lb kettlebell. Men should be able to easily use a 25-30lb once they understand the mechanics.
Swinging out too far is a common mistake during kettlebell swings
This mistake is going to really twinge your back if you are swinging the kettlebell out too far from your body. What I mean by this is, that sometimes people throw the bell way on out there and it throws off their balance and pulls them forward. Additionally, as they descend, they tend to allow the bell to fall to far away and it ends up pulling them forward.
I want you to think about making sure your feet are firmly planted into the ground, both heels and all ten toes. As you swing the bell up, you can maintain straight elbows or a tiny bend in the elbows, but keep that arm position locked in and your midline tight.
As the kettlebell comes down, I tell my clients "thumbs to bum" because I want that kettlebell to come down and stay above the knees. Your bell should be coming as close to your crotch as possible before you thrust your hips forward again and generate the momentum to lift the bell back up.
I am happy to create an additional video on this. This one might help and comment below if you need something with a deeper breakdown of what I mean.
Lastly, lock your shoulder blades in the back, pull them together, and push your shoulders down out of your ears.
The last of the top 5 common mistakes made during kettlebell swings that I will touch on is rounding the back. Most often I see this when folks initially set up to hike the kettlebell from the start position and as the bell descends.
If your back is rounding during the initial start position, I want you to set your stance, roughly 1-2 feet behind the bell. If you have shorter limbs, you'll need to be a bit closer to your kettlebell. Hinge your hips and grab onto the kettlebell handle, tilt the bell towards you, think about breaking the handle to engage your lats, push your shoulders down your back, and pinch your shoulder blades together.
Now as you descend, remember the points we discussed earlier in this blog article. Keep that bell above your knees, eyes forward, shoulders down, core tight, shoulder blade pinching together.
Nothing beats in person training with a coach. If you are local and looking for fitness classes nearby or kettlebell training, I'd love to have you come join one of my classes! And if you have questions, please drop a comment or send me a message.