Last week I saw the excellent video below on Facebook, posted by my friend Andrew Read.
If there’s one exercise I see consistently coached poorly and executed horrendously on the gym floor, it has to be The Kettlebell Swing. As an exercise, it has potential to be hugely beneficial in developing an athlete’s posterior chain muscles (glutes and hams in particular) and ‘hip drive’ into extension… but it also has the potential to cause injury if performed badly.
Andrew’s step-by-step tutorial in this video is excellent. Whether you’re a coach or athlete, it’s worth a watch!
Important: Keep an eye on the athlete’s knees during the KB swing towards the end of the video. Her knees tend to lock-out very aggressively. This would be my only major criticism of Andrew’s video. This is certainly something to watch for when coaching the KB swing. Control of knee extension is important for all athletes.Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.
Excellent video of Andree Reads on the Kettlebell swing. However, watching her snap her knees back in the final swing set makes me cringe.
Thanks for commenting. I think I do need to add a note to the blog post right beside the video. You’re right – her knees do lock-out aggressively. This would be my only major criticism of Andrew’s video. This is certainly something to watch for when coaching the KB swing. Control of knee extension is important for all athletes.
I agree that the knees could be an issue but done right there should be no problem there. If the aim is to “stand tall” and “push the feet into the floor” then the knee will be naturally extended, whereas if the knee are pushed back (and similarly it the hips are pushed forward) then problems could arise. The swing should create a great deal of power but the power needs to be directed into the feet rather than backwards into hyper extension of the knee. For me the demo is good.
As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I would say that she accomplishes this exercise at great cost to her spine and breathing. Every time she does a pull or a lift, she pulls her head back and down, contracting the top of her spine. She is also pulling low back in and narrowing across her ribs and upper back. She would do herself (or anyone attempting this sport) to slow down enough to learn how to move the kettlebell while keeping the length in her spine, not contracting the neck and head relationship, and keeping her back wide with room for her ribs to breathe.
Firstly, the is no issue with joints being locked. They are designed to do so. If there is a problem with a joint expressing full ROM at lockout why is there no outcry when a joint is fully flexed? This is mindless fear mongering from people,schooled in a bodybuilding mindset of needing to keep knees soft and keep continual tension on the muscles.
Secondly, she doesn’t focus on locking her knees. That is incidental. The action of the swing is hip extension, with zero focus on the knees at all. I can understand with people unfamiliar with the movement that what ton see is knee extension, but it isn’t. The knee extension occurs as a result of full hip extension from a hip and knee flexed position. Think of jumping rather than standing.
Finally, when Stu McGill ticks off the way we teach kettlebells and says its the safest way to lift to protect the spine you may want to get out of the dark ages and realise that your training knowledge is at best outdated, and at worst dangerous.
Should you really do this with no shoes on? Sorry to be picky 🙂
Yes. You know the benefits of doing some drills barefoot to help your running? Well, the same thing happens in a gym. The mechanoreceptors in your feet are rich with information that your brain needs. That includes everything from how to set the rest of your structure to how much load you’re lifting. Dulling that message with soft, squishy shoes puts you at risk. There’s also the heel issue to contend with – most normal running shoes push your weight forward onto your toes. This makes it harder to push through the heels like you need to for swings – it is a posterior chain exercise after all – and driving through the balls of your feet makes things more quad dominant.