I’ve said it for years, my introduction to kettlebell training back in 2002 really opened my mind to even thinking and researching the concepts that would end up being DVRT. Of all the kettlebell drills that were of interest to me, the kettlebell swing was the most unique and foreign. I fell in love with the kettlebell swing quickly, but back then, there were many people that thought it was a dangerous movement.
They weren’t completely wrong, the kettlebell swing can be a problem if we don’t know what we should focus upon in teaching and performing the movement. The qualities that make the kettlebell swing so effective can also make it an issue if we don’t take the time to know how to build a great kettlebell swing.
Most think it is as simple as going from a deadlift with the kettlebell right into our kettlebell swing. While it is possible to do this, it is like taking the longest route to success and also increases our risk of having problems like our low back. I see it all the time on social media and when I visit gyms around the world where fitness pros are trying to teach their clients how to perform the kettlebell swing correctly.
What are the most common causes that people struggle with learning their kettlebell swing? Over the past 20 years I have found these to be the most important!
The Feet Are Our Foundation
One of the most important ideas I wish I could share with coaches is to not look at how you see an exercise when you are teaching, but try to look through the eyes of those you are teaching. While you might know all the components of a great kettlebell swing, when people first look at the exercise you have think about what they see. For many, they see a lifting with the upper body of a weight out in front of them. That is why you can see people with what looks like a really odd shoulder front raise when they are performing the kettlebell swing.
That is why we have to teach people about the feet first. “Rooting” is a martial arts idea that helps practitioners learn how to balance and create power. As the Tai Chi Notebook site explains…
“It’s often said in Tai Chi that your feet want to grip the ground. This is achieved by slightly raising the arch of the foot so the toes perform a clawing action that affords you improved stability, balance and grip.”
Before we teach how to root one’s feet we should first look at the surface and the type of shoe one is using. I have found people really struggle to teach and learn the kettlebell swing on surfaces that have give, that are uneven, when we need one that if flat and firm to learn how to create stability into the ground. Then we need to ensure we aren’t wearing shoes that we can’t engage with the ground properly and cause us instability.
Any rocking our instability of the feet leads to not just power being lost in the swing, but also a higher risk of injury.
Jumping Progressions Too Fast
Yes, the deadlift should proceed any teaching of the kettlebell swing, but there is A LOT more we can work on before we get to the swing from the deadlift. For one, learning to create power is a big deal for a lot of people and the kettlebell swing can make this very challenging because of the long lever arm that is created (which is also the unique benefit for the kettlebell swing). We can actually begin to learn how to teach how to express force through shortening our lever arm with high pulls and cleans.
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There are SO many progressions we can use in teaching the qualities that make up a great kettlebell swing. The idea is we don’t have to use overly complex ideas, we don’t have to hammer our head against the wall drilling the movement over and over again because the kettlebell swing isn’t the training, the training uses the kettlebell swing to achieve a goal. So, that is why we are going to discuss how we make learning and benefitting from the exercise so much more effective.
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