Kettlebell on rocks by sea

Why Kettlebells?

It is a question I get asked a lot, because I make no apology for my love of those beautiful cast iron arse kickers. On a personal level, I have found them to be a great tool in helping address weaknesses in my own training and improve my knowledge on coaching as well as movement, and clients here at Kirby’s Personal Training and Fitness are falling in love with them too.

I’m not saying I only use kettlebells (as my clients will tell you), but in a small studio space, I find them invaluable tools to get the desired result.

The wonderful thing about kettlebells, is that they are a gym in your hand. You can cover the five basic ‘must do’ movements in your exercise programming. You carry, hinge, squat, push and pull with them.  You don’t need lots of space, you don’t require a designated gym and you can get a fast, heart pumping workout in a short space of time.  What you do need, though, is correct instruction.

It is often said that the Swing is the centre of the Kettlebell world, (proven by the new Strength Matters Kettlebell Level 1 cert, where the opening test is a 200 single arm swing 20 min test……with a 32kg bell for you gents, and a 24kg bell for us ladies), but I often see the swing performed incorrectly and often dangerously.  So let’s break the swing down:

10429486_884274578282782_1958123334728585074_nThe swing is NOT a squat. The Swing is a hip dominant exercise meaning the hip is the hinge in use not the knee. The knee is going to bend slightly, but the degree of crease at the hip should be much greater that that in a squat. Here is a great picture of Jeff Sokol SFG level 2 showing the correct position in the bottom of the swing:

The knees are soft but not the dominant part of this exercise.  The hips are hinged, the body at an approximate 45 degree angle and the buttocks are back, loading the hamstrings ready to fire through to a standing position. The posterior chain is loaded ready to explode forward to give the bell it’s momentum. At no point should there be a squat in this movement. The bell powers back through the legs by the movement of the hips, as you let the bell float upwards to chest height. Here you should stack the whole body in one straight line, shoulders stacked over hips, hips stacked over ankles, knees locked, squeezing through the buttocks so everything is tight. Allow the bell to float momentarily at the top before it swings back down, hinging back to repeat the swing.

While there is scope in the kettlebell world for the American Swing (the one you see where the kettlebell is overhead), most people don’t have the mobility in the spine or shoulders to do it without causing injuries further down the line. It’s always wise to do the swing as safely as possible and be guided by an instructor that has a RKC or StrongFirst background.

The swing is a wonderful exercise, combining strength and cardio. It really is a great tool to add into the arsenal, and when used correctly and with good form, improves strength, stability and mobility throughout the entirety of the body. If you have back pain when you swing your kettlebell…put the bell down and give me a call.

Recommended reading to help you further your knowledge with the kettlebell swing:

Simple and Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline

The Swing, Tracey Reifkind




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