You've heard kettlebell fanatics tell the story about how they lost 100 pounds while gaining enough muscle strength to lift a Prius -- but all you ever seem to get out of it is a sore lower back or shaky knees. Fortunately, the problem isn't with you: it's with your technique. You can improve your kettlebell swing by perfecting your body position, posture and muscular coordination.
Set up in a "hiking" position to begin your swing. You should resemble a center about to hike a football, with your legs spread slightly wider than your shoulders, your hips high and your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Avoid rounding your spine by keeping your head and chest up, as if you were staring at the wall in front of you. Starting in a squatting position rather than in a hiking position can put too much stress on your knees and lower back.
Plant your feet firmly on the ground. Your body weight should be on your heels for the duration of the swing, with no rising onto the toes or the balls of your feet. Traditionally, kettlebell swings are practiced barefoot to allow you to grab the ground with your feet. While swinging around a 35-pound cast iron weight with no shoes might make you nervous, wearing shoes with too much cushion can throw off your balance. If you do wear shoes make sure they have little to no cushion or support so that the full weight load of the kettlebell can be distributed through your feet and into the ground.
Initiate the swing by pushing your hips backward. The power of the kettlebell swing comes from your hips, not from your arms or knees. Once you have started the swing, pop your hips forward and straighten the knees, until your glutes and hamstrings are all at full extension. This "hinge" motion of your hips drives the kettlebell up as you thrust them forward, and down as you push them back.
- Avoid yanking the weight up with your arms, as not only is this made unnecessary by the power of your hips, but it can also lead to shoulder and upper back pain.
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