The Russian kettlebell swing (a two-arm swing to the chest or eye-level) is the original, or foundational, kettlebell exercise. The American kettlebell swing (a two-arm swing overhead) that is more common in CrossFit is merely a progression of its Russian counterpart. Common errors in the foundational movement, if left uncorrected, will hinder your progress in learning more advanced kettlebell movements and could possibly lead to unnecessary muscle strain or injury.
I’ve traveled and trained all over the world and study how people move. I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to human movement, we all tend to make the same errors. The good news is that these errors are preventable and correctable through good practice and training. For best results, seek out a qualified coach. Everyone needs a coach, including myself. Young or old, there is no substitution for good coaching.
The purpose of this article is to increase your awareness and ability to identify some of the most common errors in the Russian kettelbell swing. Hopefully, this will pique your interest and motivate you to pursue a deeper study of kettlebell lifting.
Always focus on technique—not intensity—when learning new movements or exercises. Proper technique allows you to use your strength more efficiently. If you strive for perfection then the result will be excellence.
ERROR #1: A ROUNDED BACK
Picking up or putting down the kettlebell with a round back is a great way to injure your lower back.
Reason: Failure to understand and apply the correct mechanics of the deadlift.
Corrective Measure: Practice deadlifting the kettlebell with correct body mechanics. Master the deadlift first, then you can safely increase the intensity of your hip drive and start swinging the kettlebell.
ERROR #2: SWINGING TOO LOW
Reason: Weight is too heavy or there’s a misunderstanding of proper body mechanics. Swinging too low puts unnecessary stress on your lower back.
Corrective measure: Cut the depth in half. Instead of finishing the back swing elbow deep, strive to keep it just a few inches about your wrist.
ERROR #3: HITTING YOUR BUTT
Reason: Keeping the hands too high in the crotch and not sitting back or deep enough.
Corrective Measure: Keep the weight on your heels, back straight and sit back a little deeper allowing the wrists to slide a little further past the inside of your upper thighs. The direction of force from the kettlebell should follow the angle of your arm.
ERROR #4: LIFTING WITH THE ARMS AND SHOULDERS
Reason: Not generating enough power through the hips.
Corrective measure: Practice deadlifts, keeping the shoulders back and down, arms straight and relaxed. Practice standing vertical jumps to increase hip drive. Focus on keeping the shoulders relaxed, letting the hips drive the weight instead of the arms lifting the weights. This is not a front delt exercise.
ERROR #5: MUTED HIPS
Reason: Not fully extending the hips.
Corrective measure: Hold the top position of a kettlebell deadlift, concentrating on keeping straight legs and hips and maximal gluteal tension. Practicing a few standing vertical jumps will also help connect the practice of full hip extension and driving through the heels.
Attention to detail and mastery of the fundamentals are key to minimizing risk of injury and maximizing athletic potential. The difference is always in the details.
The key to avoiding injuries is to practice correct technique.
WHEN IN DOUBT:
• Master the basic lifts (virtuosity)
• Always stress quality movements over quantity
• Never sacrifice form for time or reps
• Terminate sets before form starts to deteriorate
• Treat each workout as a practice session
• Limit yourself to one or two crushing workouts a week
Photography by Be You Images