Some exercises need little introduction, and the same can be said for the Kettlebell Swing. It is one of the best BJJ-specific exercises that you can do; one that will improve your hip strength and explosiveness – which will transfer directly to the mats!
However, even though it’s seemingly easy to execute, there are still a few things that you need to keep in mind. Let’s take a look at them and improve your form with Laurence Griffiths!
PICK THE RIGHT WEIGHT
Laurence starts off by saying that the first thing you need to keep in mind is choosing the right weight you’ll do the Kettlebell Swings with. As the group of muscles which is engaged when you perform this exercise is the strongest one in your body, if you choose a sub-optimal weight then you won’t get much out of it.
Therefore, Laurence advises to pick a weight that accounts for roughly 20-25% of your bodyweight.
For the sake of body mechanics, Laurence points out that you should – if the situation allows it – do the exercise barefoot. If not, then put on a pair of shoes with as straight of a sole that you can find.
If you do the Kettlebell Swings in running shoes or any other shoes that have the heel a bit elevated, then you’ll be risking injury; not immediately, but across the many reps you’ll do, you surely are.
THE KETTLEBELL SWING IS NOT A SQUAT
One of the major mistakes that athletes make when performing this exercise, Laurence explains, is that they don’t actually do a swing; but they bend in their knees excessively, doing a Squat as a result.
Kettlebell Swings are a hip-hinge movement, they are not Squats! In other words, you’re not supposed to lead the entire movement by bending at your knees; yes, they need to bend towards the end of the movement, but not throughout the entirety of it.
HINGE AT THE HIP!
That leads us to the Laurence’s fourth tip: you need to hinge at the hips. The way you’ll make sure you’re doing this right is by first placing your little fingers into the hip bone and then folding over them. This will give you a sense of how the movement should look like when you’re performing the actual Swings.
USE YOUR GLUTES
However, when doing the hip hinge, don’t just push out your backside; if you do this, the majority of the load will go onto your lower back. This is a big no-no if you want to stay injury-free.
Instead, Laurence says that your glutes need to be activated and that your pelvis should be tilted up; just as if you’re trying to drive it up to your face. Keep this tightness throughout the movement and the majority of the load will go to your glutes; which is how it’s meant to be!
KEEP YOUR ARMS LOOSE
If your arms and if you’re lifting the kettlebell up, then you’re doing Shoulder Raises, not Kettlebell Swings! Laurence points out that your arms need to be loose; you’re not driving the weight with them, but they’re there to – basically – just keep the kettlebell in place.
Once you get to the top of the movement, you need to sort of „snap“ your pelvis up; in other words, you should tighten up your abs as if someone’s going to punch you in the stomach.
And what about breathing as you do the Kettlebell Swings? It’s simple: Laurence says that you should exhale at the top of the movement (through your nose). This will go hand in hand with that tightening of your abs from the previous point.
Don’t run away from the kettlebell as it comes down! Instead of driving your hips back too early, Laurence demonstrates that you could „play chicken with the kettlebell“; as it comes down, wait as much as you can before you pop your hips back.
DRIVE THROUGH YOUR HEELS
Laurence points out that you need to drive through your heels! Take a notice at how, as he demonstrates the Kettlebell Swings, his toes lift off the ground a bit. That means his weight is where it should be; in the heels.
POSTURE AND PICKING UP THE KETTLEBELL
When you’re getting ready to do the exercise, stand straight with your shoulders back and with your chin tucked in. From there, engage your glutes, squat down, grab the Kettlebell and rotate your elbows back.
Then, as you pick the Kettlebell up, you need to hike it forwards, after which it will come back; and, as it does, use the momentum to start doing your Swings.
Lastly, Laurence points out that the height your Kettlebell gets to as you swing it isn’t terribly important; don’t try to get it higher with your shoulders! There’s no point in that, as all of the power needs to go through your hips.
Listen to more of Laurence’s details on the Kettlebell Swing on the video below:
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