Kettlebell Swing Mistakes And Fixes (part 2)

I’m going to cover another common mistake with the kettlebell Swing and how to fix it in today’s article; but first, a quick personal story that I think illustrates really well the idea (covered in part one of this post series) of learning a skill correctly the first time:

During my football career, a typical ‘work’ day in the off-season consisted of a workout, a no-pads practice/ walk-thru type session, and maybe watching a little film – we were done for the day by one or two pm.  I had more free time on my hands than I do these days – so a few times a week, I’d fill my afternoon by playing golf.

Since I started working ‘for real’ (although I still don’t consider what I do for a living ‘real work’) about six or seven years ago, I haven’t played much golf at all.  But business is good, my systems are getting dialed in and I’m starting to get a little extra free time to actually do some fun stuff – so I’m getting back into it.  And this time, I want to learn the right way.

That being said, I decided to take a few lessons – and it turns out my golf swing is totally jacked up.  By learning the wrong way and developing bad habits the first time around, it’s going to take much longer to fix than if I had taken the time to learn things right from the beginning.

Point is – if you’re still at this beginning learning phase (like I am in my golf game) with your kettlebell training, do yourself a favor and take the time to learn the right way now – you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort in the long run.

Now – on to Kettlebell Swing mistake #2:

This mistake involves a Squat and Front Raise Pattern – vs. the correct ‘hip-driven’ Swing where the arms account for maybe 10-20% of the movement.

Here’s a video where the demonstrator is attempting a kettlebell Swing (although they’re actually using a dumbbell) – but from a movement perspective, it’s a great example of what not to do (sorry man, I don’t know you, no offense – your Swing instruction just kinda sucks 🙂 ):

So, to fix this:

1. Think of ‘hike passing’ the ‘bell behind you as it comes back

Instead of squatting down and raising the kettlebell up in front of you, think about hiking it back and snapping it up. The bottom of the ‘bell should actually face the wall behind you or pretty close to it when the KB is hiked back.

2. Think of the arms like ropes

The lower body is what drives the movement; the arms, in a way, are just ‘along for the ride’. A good drill to perfect this is the towel Swing from Enter The Kettlebell. You just do your two handed Swings with a towel wrapped around the horn of the ‘bell and grabbing the ends of the towel; to maintain tension on the towel through the entire movement, you have to use your hips and direct energy efficiently to the ‘bell. It’s a great drill because it’s very self correcting.

Remember, learning a new skill the right way the first time around will save you a lot of wasted time and effort in the long run. This applies as much to the kettlebell Swing as it does to any other skill; and one of the most common mistakes with the kettlebell Swing is the Squat and Front Raise error. Take the tips in this article to correct this common flaw – and I’ll see you next time with the final installment of the ‘Kettlebell Swing Mistakes And Fixes’ series!

Forest Vance, Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certified Instructor

P.S. My new monthly kettlebell workout membership program is almost finished – the first month’s workout is written up and filmed, and we’re putting together all the final touches right now to make sure the program is even better than advertised. Keep an eye on your email inbox for details – and make sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter if you haven’t yet to get first news of when we open the program up to the public!

Kettlebells Leaving Your Wrists Bruised? Here’s What To Do

Here's A Few Tips To Avoid Bruised Wrists

Sore wrists – especially when you’re first learning how to train with kettlebells – is an unfortunate fact of life.  However, if you slowly increase the volume and intensity of your workouts and you take the time to learn great form from the beginning, you can keep the wrist pain and bruising to a minimum.

Here are a few tips to help you save your wrists and forearms in your kettlebell training:

1. Slowly increase the intensity and volume of your workouts

I know it’s tempting to try all kinds of crazy moves with your new kettlebell (because I’ve made that mistake myself), but if you’re looking to save your wrists and forearms, slowly ramp up the intensity and volume of your workouts.  Don’t do 100 Cleans the first day you learn them.  Do just a few reps of a new exercise each day when you’re first learning it – your form will improve fast, your wrists will get conditioned, and you’ll stay relatively pain free.

2. Perfect your technique

The kettlebell exercises where you have the highest chance of bruising your wrists are the ones where the ‘bell flips over your hand and/or rests on your wrists – like Cleans, Snatches, Presses, and Get Ups.

And as your form gets better, you’ll be able to more smoothly get the kettlebell around your wrist, as well as sit the KB more comfortably in the crook of and/or on the side of the arm.

This video gives a couple of good tips on improving your Clean form – which should go a long way in helping you prevent from bruising up your wrists:

3. Bring your hand and forearm to the ‘bell (instead of the other way around)

The goal on the Snatch is to get the ‘bell to almost float in the air and then quickly bring the hand around and meet it in the air to lessen the impact.

The same goes for the Clean – you want to think about bringing your hand to the kettlebell instead of just letting it come around and plop down on your arm.

4. Loosen your grip

You want to grip the kettlebell just hard enough on the Clean and the Snatch.  The tendency when you’re learning the move is to squeeze the hell of the handle as it comes around your wrist to slow it down; but this in fact increases the impact.  Loosen your grip a bit and see if you lessen the impact of the ‘bell on these exercises.

In summary, a little forearm pain and bruising is inevitable when you’re first learning how to train with kettlebells, but these tips will help you keep it to a minimum.  Keep training hard!

Forest Vance, RKC

P.S. I’m currently putting together a monthly kettlebell workout membership program and, since you’re a reader of this blog, I wanted to make sure you’re the first to know.  Membership to the program will feature a new kettlebell workout every month, including detailed video instruction, a printable workout manual detailing the workout, how to do all the exercises in it, tips to get the most from it, and much more.  Stay tuned for more details soon … and get first news of when the program opens by signing up for my weekly newsletter if you haven’t yet!!

Kettlebell Swing Mistakes And Fixes (part 1)

The industry standard research that experts refer to with regards to motor learning comes from a 1991 book called – you guessed it – Motor Learning by Doctors Richard Schmidt and Craig A. Wrisberg. In this book, Dr. Schmidt states with a flurry of charts and studies that it requires approximately 300-500 repetitions to develop a new motor patternConversely, once bad or inadequate habits are already in place, he states it takes about 3000-5000 repetitions to erase and correct a bad motor pattern.

Interestingly, it seems that folks who are starting from a blank slate with kettlebells – who’ve never touched one in their entire life – are actually easier to teach proper technique to than folks who’ve been training on their own for a while and have learned some of the basics incorrectly.  I’ve observed this ever since I seriously started using kettlebells in my training practice – and the above research confirms this fact.

The moral of the story:  Spend the time to learn your Kettlebell Basics right the first time around, so you can spend more time training and making progress towards your fitness goals than practicing and correcting your technique and trying to avoid injury!

I’m going to take the next couple of posts to address some common mistakes folks make with the exercise that forms the foundation of our HardStyle kettlebell training – the Kettlebell Swing – and how to fix them.

For part one of this Kettlebell Swing Mistakes And Fixes series, start by watching the video below:

The mistake we’re talking about in the video above is lack of full hip extension.  If you’re making this mistake, you’re not getting a full application of the power that’s being generated by the lower body during the Swing.  Not only will you be weaker, but doing this puts the stress on the wrong muscles and wrong areas of your body.

Here are a few good cues to help you correct this issue:

1. Stand as tall as possible

If you think about standing up as tall as you can at the top of the movement, this will help you fully extend the hips and get full glute activation and application of power.

2. Pinch a coin

Tighten the glutes as hard as you can at the top of the movement.  Another way to think about this is at the top of your Swing as the weight comes up, if someone were to kick you in the butt, it would be rock hard, not soft.

A lot of folks have what we call ‘gluteal amnesia’ –  they’ve forgotten what it even feels like to activate the glutes.  So this ‘body hardening drill’ – where you actually have a partner kick you in the butt while you do a Plank or Sumo Deadlift – is a great way to get a feel for proper glute activation.

3. Pull the knee caps up

Instead of thinking about locking out your knees, you’re going to tense your quads and pull your knee caps up. This will help you again to bring your hips through and effectively transfer that force to your upper body from the lower body.

Remember, it takes roughly 300-500 repetitions of a new motor skill to learn it properly, but it takes 3000-5000 reps to correct it if you learn it wrong.  So take the time to learn the Kettlebell Swing right the first time around.  This being said, 99% of the technique mistakes people make with the HardStyle Kettlebell Swing can really be boiled down to a select few.  Lack of glute activation and full hip extension is a big one – so if you’re guilty of making this mistake yourself, take the tips in this article and fix your form.

P.S. Don’t forget – my Kettlebell Basics Swing Manual covers tips like these to help you perfect your technique and become a true Hard Style Swing master over the course of 12 weeks. To learn more about it, click the image below:

How Hard Do You Really Need To Train With Kettlebells?

Even though this workout video doesn’t feature kettlebells … it’s inspiring and an awesome example of truly hard training! (Make sure to stay tuned all the way ’till the end)

For whatever reason, my kettlebell training facility tends to attract a certain breed of workout enthusiast; we get a percentage of folks (which is probably a higher percentage than you would get in a traditional gym setting) that want to puke during workouts.  That want us to completely obliterate them and walk out destroyed every time

So this begs the question:  How hard do you really need to train to get great results and reach your kettlebell training goals?  That is … do you have to train so hard you puke, that you’re left in a pile on the floor after your workouts? Or is it enough to just train hard … but actually feel better when you’re finished? 🙂

Looking back at my own training background and experience, I can tell you that generally speaking, the harder I’ve worked, the better shape I’ve been in.  And this holds true for folks I’ve trained that have acheived dramatic physical changes.  I can’t think of a single client I’ve worked with that’s gotten great results and hasn’t worked their butt off.

That being said, I don’t think you need to go to failure every time, to throw up, to get injured, to make progress.  As a general rule of thumb, you should feel better after you’re done with your workouts, not worse.  It’s okay … in fact, it’s good … to occasionally push yourself super hard.  It can actually spur some significant progress if you program it correctly into your overall training scheme … in my kettlebell boot camps, we do a challenge workout once a month (if you’re interested, you can check out an archive of all my challenge workouts here) … and I think that’s a reasonable frequency for workouts like this.  Just know that you don’t have to puke and pass out every time to get good results.

That it for this week … keep focused and keep training hard!


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