Teaching the Kettlebell Swing

Tonight I was having dinner after a fitness business conference and a trainer asked me how I teach the kettlebell swing. Of course, I was happy to take him through it.

If you are new to teaching the swing, I know it can be frustrating when your client is having a hard time getting it straight away.  Since being a certified kettlebell instructor since 2010, I have used a lot of drills and cues to get the client to learn the swing.  Different cues work with different folks. If one cue or drill doesn’t do the trick the first couple of times, then quickly move to another.

I’d like to share with you a few cues and drills that I use on my clients.

First and foremost, the client should have has a movement screen and health history prior to their training.  As the great Dan John says, the number one rule is to “do no harm”.

Drills:

  1. Butt to wall
  2. Stick hinge
  3. Plank
  4. Hip Thrust
  5. ½ kneeling hip flexor stretch
  6. Stop and Pop
  7. Hover and pendulum
  8. Hike and and Park
  9. Power Swing
  10. Towel swings

Verbal Cues:

11.  Don’t let your knees go over your toes.

12. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings

13. It’s a hinge, not a squat

14. Don’t do the tippy bird

15. Let me see the numbers on your shirt

16. Feet are firmly planted to the ground (Shoes off or flat soled shoes is best)

17.  Break the handle

18. Take the slack out of the back

19. Stand Tall

20. Come at me bro

21. Standing plank

Nonverbal Cues:

22. Put a stick or your hand in front of(but not touching) their knee.  (They should not touch your hand or stick when they hinge back)

23. A little “tough love” to their glutes, quads, lats, and abs.

24. Be able to demonstrate a proper swing yourself.

25. Video the client so they can see what they are doing.

26. Alternate the swing with a drill above.

When teaching the swing the instructor should always start by teaching the movement pattern called the hinge with NO WEIGHT.  It doesn’t matter how experienced, strong or amazing the client is or thinks he is.  Injuries always happen when the ego of the client or trainer gets in the way.  When I have a new client, I treat them like they have never picked up a kettlebell before.  It’s just the best and safest way to go about it.

So here is it: Start with the hinge pattern (drill 1 and 2), then place a bell between their feet and have them hinge to touch the handle (but not picking it up). When that looks good, it’s time to deadlift the bell.  Use cue 16 and cue 17,  press through their feet and stand up.  Notice I didn’t say, “Pick up the bell”, because people tend to round their backs when they hear that.  At the top, use cue 16, 20, and 21.  A little tough love goes a long way here.  To put the bell down,  just have them reverse the movement.  Now they have the deadlift, you can progress them into the swing.  Start with 8, then 7 , then 9 and finally 5-10 reps of swings at a time.  More than 10 swings when a client is first learning is not a good idea.

Always start with ahealth history and movement screen before teaching the kettlebell swing.   You will want to use a light weight because you can always progress up in weight as their form gets better.

You should always be asking the client how he or she is feeling.  You don’t want any pain or discomfort in the lower back or neck.  If this happens, regress quickly to one of the first six drills.

If you need any further information or instruction, I’m happy to help.  Just call 314-875-9669 or email me from my website at www.flexologyfitness.com

Stefanie Shelton, SFG2, RKC, FMS