4 Common Kettlebell Swing Errors Made by CrossFitters

by cfwhrob | April 9, 2014 10:00 pm

4 Common Kettlebell Swing Errors Made by CrossFitters[1]
The kettlebell[2] is a common tool in the CrossFit arsenal. Every box has a collection of them, and I suspect any garage CrossFitter[3] 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[4], 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[5] and proper core stability[6].

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

Quadzilla Swing

Quadzilla Swing[7]

[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[8]. 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.

Meat Head Swing (Front Raise Swing)

Meat Head Swing (Front Raise Swing)[9]

The work of the kettlebell swing is the extension of the hips; once that happens, the bell then floats into place.
Early arms occur when an athlete pulls the bell upward prior to full hip extension. The arms and shoulders become too active trying to pull the bell to a desired height. You can also observe the bell drooping rather than being an extension of the hands. As we say in CrossFit, this creates a core-to-extremity violation. Understand that the hips drive the bell. The goal should be to extend the hips powerfully prior to the arms moving. The work of the kettlebell swing is the extension of the hips; once that happens, the bell then floats into place.

To fix this, delay your arm movement by keeping your elbows on your ribs through the hip extension. Imagine that your arms are tied to your trunk. And again, practice the kettlebell deadlift: place the bell between the heels, hinge hips keeping arms on your trunk, grab the bell and stand up without letting your arms come off your trunk.

Uncommitted Swing

All the power from the swings should come from the hips, making the full extension of the hips and knees critical. The hips and knees should not be soft at the top of the swing. Think of it as a vertical plank.

To fix, stand up hard by driving feet into the ground. Make certain that at the standup position the knees are pulled up, abs are braced for a punch and butt is pinching a penny. To help train this, do a kettlebell deadlift, making sure that you are standing tall and all the above are engaged. Commit to standing tall and strong.

Video yourself and see if you are doing any of these things in your swings. Apply these corrections and you will see that you can become more efficient and powerful, and you may just find that you could apply some of these tips to other movements as well. Remember that movements are an inch wide and a mile deep! Swing away!

Tags: Rob Exline[10], CrossFit West Houston[11], kettlebell[2], garage gym[12], RKC Community[4], thoracic mobility[5], core stability[6] 
Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/article_590_mx10.jpg
  2. kettlebell: http://www.tabatatimes.com/improving-your-kettlebell-swing/
  3. garage CrossFitter: http://www.tabatatimes.com/keeping-it-simple-assembling-your-garage-gym/
  4. RKC Community: http://www.dragondoor.com/workshops/russian_kettlebell_challenge_certification_requirements/
  5. thoracic mobility: http://www.tabatatimes.com/ask-the-doc-more-on-thoracic-mobility/
  6. core stability: http://www.tabatatimes.com/stability-and-mobility-do-you-have-both/
  7. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/article_590_mx9.jpg
  8. The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge just like a deadlift: http://www.tabatatimes.com/are-heavy-kettlebell-swings-better-than-deadlifts/
  9. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/article_590_kettle.jpg
  10. Rob Exline: http://crossfitwesthouston.com/2011/09/12/rob-exline-2/
  11. CrossFit West Houston: http://crossfitwesthouston.com/
  12. garage gym: http://www.tabatatimes.com/keeping-it-simple-assembling-your-garage-gym/

Source URL: http://www.tabatatimes.com/four-common-kettlebell-swing-errors-made-crossfitters/