The Kettlebell swing is a short and brisk posterior chain exercise. While it looks pretty straightforward, it can easily be done incorrectly. It also has two variations: Russian (eye-level) and American (overhead), you may even see a hybrid between the two. Depending on the athlete and ability, one method may be better than the other.
The set-up and mechanics for both variations are the same; where they differ is in the finish position or what we call the apex of the swing.
— Feet are shoulder width apart, toes slightly turned out
— Stay grounded. Do not go up onto your toes or fall back on your heels. Feet should be planted firmly on the ground and drive through your entire foot
— Closed grip on the kettlebell with straight arms, forearms against inner thighs
— Slight flexion of the knees (no more than 20-degrees)
— Hips pushed back
— Maintain a neutral neck and lumbar curve throughout the entire movement
— Start each swing with the kettlebell just below the groin and above the knees
— This is a hip-hinge movement in which the power of the swing is generated from the hips
— To initiate the movement, push the hips back, bend the knees slightly, and allow the shoulders to hinge forward while keeping the spine in a neutral position
— Aggressively extend the hips (squeeze the butt) and straighten the knees (engage the quads) — this will elevate the kettlebell. Brace the core and engage the lats by actively pulling the shoulders away from the ears.
— During a Russian swing, the kettlebell is swung to chest level – approximately a 90-degree angle to the torso.
— With an American swing, the apex of the swing is completely overhead. The kettlebell should be stacked directly over the ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles.
— During the descent, let gravity do the work. Do not try to fight it back down to your starting position.
— At the bottom (set-up position) do not pause; instead, continue to initiate the movement by generating momentum from the hips.
If you do choose to do an American style swing, the most important thing to remember is to not overextend your lumbar spine. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need adequate thoracic/shoulder mobility, and midline stability and coordination to successfully achieve the finishing the position. You should be able to raise your arms straight overhead with a braced core and completely neutral spine.