Kettlebell Foundations: The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Foundations: The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing

The Most Comprehensive Kettlebell Review Ever Reading Kettlebell Foundations: The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing 7 minutes Next Building Your Arms With Kettlebells

Our previous posts with Doug Fioranelli have been building towards the Kettlebell Swing. Even though the swing is one of the movements most people are familiar with, you actually should build up to it with the deadlift and the squat in order to prepare your body for the kettlebell swing, rather then going right into it.

By Doug Fioranelli

As we continue this Hardstyle Kettlebell Series for Kettlebell Kings we have built up our strength and proper movement patterns by learning the deadlift  and then the squat; which are foundational for what we are covering now: The Kettlebell Swing.

The kettlebell swing is truly the unique movement primarily associated with the kettlebell itself which cannot be optimally performed using any other equipment. From top athletes to the new trainee, the kettlebell swing has numerous training benefits which include strength enhancement, power production and endurance.    

Kettlebell Swing: Proper Set Up and Patterning

Like the Hardstyle Deadlift, the kettlebell swing is a hinge pattern which primarily utilizes the muscles of the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes). It’s important to start with a good ground connection which is essential for stability and power production; a flat sole shoe or barefoot is preferred when performing swings. After establishing a solid ground connection, here are the steps to take to perform a proper Hardstyle 2-Arm Kettlebell Swing:

  • Set up in an athletic stance with two hands on the kettlebell which is directly in front of your feet making a triangle position.
  • Tip the handle of the bell back towards you and lock your lats into place where the biceps are connected to the ribcage thus creating back tension; think shoulder blades in back pockets.
  • To start the backswing; hike the kettlebell through your legs by hinging your hips (not squatting).
  • When you feel your hamstrings stretch; squeeze your glutes and drive your feet into the ground to move the kettlebell upward through the legs.
  • Make sure the hips and knees always finish (get the hips fully underneath your body and lock your knees); this not only ensures proper technique but also saves your lower back from injury. You want to properly propel the kettlebell upward (not forward) using your hips.
  • No leaning back; you want a tall body posture at the top of the movement with the arms extended and the kettlebell parallel to the floor.
  • When performing the backswing; wait for the kettlebell to almost hit you before you hinge. The kettlebell should be above the knees and the biceps should connect to your sides just before you hinge. Hinging too early will result in a lack of strength and may cause a sore lower back or an injury over time.

Some other details of the kettlebell swing include:

  • Have a good grip on the handle during the swing so the bell does not flop at the top or during the end of the backswing. This excessive movement will make it difficult to keep your body stable.
  • A slight elbow bend in the arms is allowed during the swing, however do not actively bend your elbows and pull the bell in towards you to assist the bell up to the top of the swing.
  • Traditional hardstyle breathing is one breathing cycle per swing where you inhale through the nose or mouth during the backswing and then a tight exhale (don’t let all your air out) during the upward motion of the swing.

Once you feel comfortable with the 2-arm swing you can start practicing with some of the swing variations that will then help you build the foundation for other kettlebell movements like cleans and snatches.


2:1:1 Kettlebell Swing

I like this swing because, not only is it fun to do, it works well to learn a proper 1-arm swing. I constantly tell my trainees the goal for this swing is to make the 1-arm swing look and feel exactly like the 2-arm swing. When starting to learn the 1-arm swing there is a tendency to lift the bell using your arm (like a front raise) instead of using the posterior chain. This could be due to the weight being too heavy, weak grip strength and or not having proper technique for the 1-arm swing yet.  

Take a kettlebell that you can comfortably use in a 2-arm swing; one weight lighter to accommodate for the 1-arm is advised. Set up and start swinging the bell using the 2-arm version. When you ready, let go of 1-arm at the top of the swing and perform a 1-arm swing. At the top of the next swing switch arms and then go back to your 2-arm swing after that.

A tip to make the transitions smoother: make sure you swing your free arm while performing the 1-arm swing with the other. This will not only make your swing more fluid by relaxing your body it will also make the hand-to-hand transition much easier.

Alternating Kettlebell Swing

A great way to get good at the 1-arm swing is to take the 2-arm away and alternate arms only. This will train the 1-arm to get stronger without consistently repeated repetitions; you will get slight rest as the other arm is working. As you get better you can start stringing a few reps in a row on one side before you alternate to the other arm.  

Grab the handle with a slightly off-centered grip so you can easily grasp the kettlebell with the free hand during the transition.

1-Arm Kettlebell Swing

You now have all the tools needed to perform a proper 1-arm swing; all you need now it to practice the consistent repetitions. If you get tired or your form breaks down, switch arms. If you get tired after that set the kettlebell down, rest and do another set later. Once you have the swing technique down, it’s time to learn cleans and snatches which we will cover in future Hardstyle articles and videos so stay tuned.

Please check out the video below for all the complete details discussed above.


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Doug’s Bio:

Doug Fioranelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training® where he uses personal, progressive programming to increase his athletes’ performance and reduce their risk for injury. Since 2001, he has assisted many people with their strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation including; adult clients, police, fire, military professionals, and athletes from middle school to the Professional level.

Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at his website and receive two free eBooks and browse through numerous training articles and videos.

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