4 Common Kettlebell Swing Errors Made by CrossFitters

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by ROB EXLINE, RKC II

4 Common Kettlebell Swing Errors Made by CrossFitters
The kettlebell is a common tool in the CrossFit arsenal. Every box has a collection of them, and I suspect any garage CrossFitter has a few lying around as well. After all, they are a “hand-held gym” with many versatile options. Sadly, this ancient strength tool and its common exercises are often overlooked, underestimated and quite often sloppily performed. The most widely used kettlebell exercise used in CrossFit is the swing. Unfortunately, however, the swing is very often performed inefficiently, which limits the benefits and ultimately can lead to serious injury. Many CrossFitters and CrossFit coaches quickly see the complexity of Oly lifts, but consider the swing to be a simple movement. However, as they say in within the RKC Community, the swing is an inch wide and a mile deep.

Many CrossFit boxes and coaches use American swings as their default kettlebell movement or exercise. While much has been written about the safety and/or validity of this exercise, for the purposes of this article, I will not get into that debate.

The problem with only introducing the American swing is the lack of proper progression. The coach or athlete is missing out on prerequisite movement which the athlete should be able to perform: a proper KB Deadlift first, proper Russian swing second, then proper Hybrid swing (which is a forehead high swing).
From a coaching perspective, the athlete has mastered these swing progressions before they progress to the American swing. And of course, that is provided they can demonstrate good thoracic mobility and proper core stability.

Below are some common mistakes with corrections that can be applied to any swing variation.

Quadzilla Swing

Quadzilla Swing

[M]any CrossFitters will turn their swings into a quad dominant, “squatty” swing. The quads are secondary movers in the swing.
The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge just like a deadlift. It is maximal hip flexion with minimal knee flexion. The squat is maximal knee flexion and minimal hip flexion. However, many CrossFitters will turn their swings into a quad dominant, “squatty” swing. The quads are secondary movers in the swing.

We must load the glutes and hamstrings for a proper powerful swing. To correct this common error, regress back to the KB deadlift to groove the hip hinge. Or you can do a wall reach: stand with your back to the wall, then shuffle forward an inch or two. Reach your hips back to the wall and just touch the wall with the butt. Shuffle farther forward and repeat, making sure to keep your feet fully planted for each wall touch performed.

Happy Feet Swing

Power begins with connection to the ground. Many athletes, when swinging kettlebells, do not properly “grab” the floor with their feet. The resulting visible errors are the toes and/or heels coming off the ground. Perhaps even worse, the feet may physically move around.

To correct this, envision driving your feet flat into the ground. Your heels, toes and balls of the feet should be connected to the ground. You should feel like you are going to leave footprints an inch deep on the mat. Create a much more powerful and efficient swing by “jumping” into the ground.

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