Few exercises build muscle and develop power and strength in the posterior chain—mainly composed of your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back—like the kettlebell swing. But make any of the following mistakes, and the move will be downright useless, or, worse yet, you’ll end up injured. Refer to our list of five kettlebell swing errors and give yourself a form check.
- You squat the weight up. Think of the swing as a deadlift, in which you drive with your hips. When you bend your knees the quads take over, and this eliminates the main benefits of the swing. However, there is a carryover to the squat, as a proper swing loosens up your hips.
- Your setup is wrong. Don’t pick up the bell and start swinging. There’s a lot of benefit to generating force from a dead stop, and picking the weight up before swinging will reduce some of that force. To set up, begin with the bell a foot in front of you, grab it, and then throw your arms back as if you were hiking a football.
- You’re not going heavy enough. Using a bell that’s too light usually results in an overhead swing. This engages the wrong muscles, is a waste of energy, and is a telltale sign that you should be using a heavier bell. If you want to lift something overhead, snatch or press the weight instead.
- You bend your arms. Keeping your arms tucked in at your sides as you swing eliminates tension from your body and will result in a “soft” swing—meaning it’s not done with enough force. Your arms should be fully extended at the top of your swing with the bell reaching eye-level.
- You’re too weak. If you can’t hold a plank (which tests your core) or do a kettlebell deadlift (which tests your ability to hinge) with proper technique, then please do not attempt the swing. There are inefficiencies in your body that do not allow you to safely swing the bell. Instead, focus on perfecting those two exercises first.
Tip: If you’re not swinging a bell that’s heavy enough, you risk engaging the wrong muscles.