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:

12 thoughts on “Kettlebell Swing Mistakes And Fixes (part 1)

  1. B.J.

    Forest. Thanks for the swing video! I’ve been using a kettlebell since mid Oct. (2010) and had no problems until a month or so ago after I attended a workshop (HKC instructor). Ever since I have been obsessing with back positon, too much arm, etc. I use my arms as “hooks” but you have to be using some arm, don’t you? It seems you have to use a little arm on the hike snap in order to get your momentum going. I never had any back discomfort until after attending the workshop. Now, I get some lower left back and a little upper discomfort (muscle, never had any other back pain). Also, I used to get winded (huffing and puffing) after a set of 30 swings. By comparison, I barely get my heart rate up now. I try to lock out and hip snap, so I don’t think I have a problem with that. I do have stiffness in my right knee (due to squats) which also got much worse after the workshop with the HKC. I am so confused that quitting kettlebell’s entirely isn’t out of the question. Sorry for the vent, but…
    I know your book is on the swing, but it would seem that video help is needed. What can you tell me about your book?



  2. admin

    MIke –

    ‘Pull your knee caps up’ is kind of anther way of saying lock out your knees – but the idea is you don’t want to hyperextend them, just think about flexing the quads and straightening them. Hope that helps!

  3. admin

    B.J. –

    Glad the video was helpful!

    That’s unfortunate to hear – and puzzling.

    Yes, you do have to use your arms a little – maybe 10 – 20 percent. Think of the very last thing to complete the movement as the arms.

    The Swing Manual is basic – and it covers how to do the Swing in detail. If you feel like you’ve got the basics down – and you’ve attended the HKC workshop – then it may be a lot of info you know already. But, who knows – there also may be some insight in there that’s helpful for you.

    And yes, I actually use PayPal as the payment processor for the book.

    Also, I have a monthly kettlebell workout membership program that I’m working on right now that might be helpful – I’m going to include instructional video with every workout.

    Good luck and keep training hard!


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