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Should You Screen Before Doing Kettlebell Swings?

kettlebell training

Whenever I get asked about different types of screens, my answer is typically the same…”don’t screen unless it is going to change something you do!”

Many coaches end up screening just to say they screened someone, but it never impacts what they were going to do in the first place. That is a waste of time, however, it doesn’t mean screening is a waste of time itself. People often misinterpret screens, they aren’t to diagnose problems, they do provide information about risk factors.

If you have high blood pressure, for example, it doesn’t mean you have heart disease or guarantee you will have a heart attack. It is a screen though to suggest that you are more at risk. That SHOULD be the way we look at screens in exercise as well.

So, is it crazy to screen people before we have them perform an exercise like kettlebell swings? Funny enough, I never did screen clients when I taught kettlebell swings, well, not at first. Like probably many of you, I went from teaching how to perform a kettlebell deadlift to teaching kettlebell swings.

From a technique perspective, I could get people pretty darn proficient fast! However, I started to notice something as time went on. I would have clients, who had good form, come to their next training session complaining of how their back was sore. Of course my defense mechanism kicked in and I wanted to blame something they were doing for this issue. Sadly, I probably did that too often until it kept happening and something else started to pop up.

kettlebell swings

I was the first certified kettlebell instructor in Arizona, so I would get quite a few fitness professionals coming to me to watch their technique with kettlebell swings. Another reason they came to me is that they too were having issues in their low backs from kettlebell swings. The first thing that would pop into my head is, “their technique must be off!” However, in many instances, the form was pretty good. In fact, I got really intrigued when I would get people who just came from kettlebell certifications coming to me saying their low backs bothered them too!!!

It wasn’t until I was teaching a DVRT course in Seattle when a coach who was very kettlebell focused (she had gone to all the certifications) asked me if I could watch her because SHE was having low back discomfort. Her form looked great, so in my head I wanted to see something. Since her form was so good I asked if she was open to performing a few pelvic control screens for me. she had agreed and to my shock, she was pretty terrible at every one of them.

kettlebell swings

That is when the lightbulb went off, there are a lot of people doing kettlebell swings that probably just aren’t ready for them yet. Sure, they can learn the technique, but their body isn’t ready for the demands the swing requires. Listen, kettlebell swings are great, IF you are ready for them. What makes kettlebell swings great is also what requires us to have built up a lot of functional fitness qualities first.

Not only do we need to know how to hinge, but we need reflexive core/pelvic stability, we need the strength not just to produce great force, but to absorb it as well, we need proper motor control, and more! That’s what made me start to want to put together a simple series of screens, not to diagnose any issues, but to help coaches see if their clients (maybe even themselves) are ready for kettlebell swings. Like what?

I broke them down into three sections. The first is proper mobility of the body, the second is foundational stability and motor control, the third is strength and power development needs. So, what are some examples? Here is one from each section pulled from our new PKM Swing Course…(don’t forget you can save 30% on the course for this week only HERE with code “swing)

Mobility (this is only one of the screens)

Stability/Motor Control

Power Development

What we have created were some simple and quick screens you can use to see someone’s readiness for kettlebell swings. Honestly though, you can use the same screens to look at anyone’s preparedness for higher power training drills. Take a few minutes using these screens and properly communicating their value to the client can help you problem solve and progress people so much more easily!