Kettlebells – Ready to Swing?


A kettlebell. Present in so many fitness centers, gyms and studios that it’s becoming rarer NOT to see them.

So many great exercises and activities to be done with them. A near universal favorite? The kettlebell swing.

But are your clients “ready to swing?”

The answer? “It depends.”

Issues of hip and ankle mobility, glute function and core activation are important considerations.

If there is an issue of hip asymmetry, adding the KB swing may create a series of other compensations (increased QL activity, lumbar tension and TVA/deep abdominal stabilizer dysfunction) that set your client back significantly AND put them at greater risk of injury.

In the case of asymmetry, either in stabilization or movement, or in the case of insufficient stability strength in the hips and core, I recommend having your client master the 1/2 kneeling position first.

The beauty of the 1/2 kneeling position is in it’s self-limiting and self-correcting aspects. In order to maintain the position, the client must create a stable base on which the “box” of the rib cage and upper body can rest without stress.

To accomplish this, your client will seek positions that take stress off the quads, which will fatigue quickly, and spread that work-load through the hips, glutes and abdominal stabilizers. In the right position, your client will be able to recognize that it’s tight hip flexors which create much of the workload issues in this position.

Once your client can hold the position for 30-45 seconds with minimal challenge, you’ll know you’re generating good stabilization strength. TIP: cue your client to drive the top of his/her head to zenith. A simple cue is “lift your head straight up so the top is flat against the ceiling.”

Once you’ve established that core strength, activation and control (more on that here:Core Strength, Control or Activation?) is positive for your client, you can ask the next important question: Can your client hip hinge well? What do RDL’s and Good Mornings look like?

If your client hip hinges well, KB Swings are likely to fit in their progression, IF their hip hinge works well and without mobility or motor control limitations. AND if they master one other important movement.

The Deadlift. Has your client mastered (not dabbled or PR’d in) the deadlift, including its variations? Bilateral, split, SL, Trap Bar and barbell?

Before letting them tackle a complex, dynamic movement like the swing, work to improve core strength/activation, glute function and mobility through deadlift mastery in all three primary training tempos (stability, strength and power) and in at least the sagittal and frontal planes.

Then, with some proper technique instruction and some individualization, your clients will master, and reap the enormous benefits of, the kettlebell swing.

Sure, it’s not the only great thing to do with a kettlebell, but the swing IS an essential one. The swing is a great activity for increasing hip and core strength, improving metabolic conditioning and providing a measurable, scalable way to challenge clients of nearly every fitness level.

Kettlebell Swings have crossover for virtually every sport and into hundreds of Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s.)

But before you start coaching your clients KB Swing, remember to coach up your client so those swings really matter – and really work!

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