The kettle bell is the ultimate tool for developing fitness. This cannonball with a handle, as many call it, delivers extreme all around fitness results. Whether it’s all-around strength, staying power and endurance, fat loss, or incredible conditioning, the kettle bell is the right tool for the job. The kettle bell will even help to improve and develop flexibility.
As an added bonus, the kettle bell can be used anywhere. It’s portable and you need very little space to get in a great workout. Finally, you can do all this in only one to two hours per week of training. So yeah, you can have a life outside of your intense training sessions.
Many people will tell you, including Pavel Tsatsouline, the man most responsible for the popularity of the kettle bell in America, that there is no better overall exercise than the kettle bell swing.
So what is a kettle bell swing? Exactly what it sounds like! You swing the kettle bell between your legs and back up in front of your chest. The arms stay straight out but loose. You are not pulling the kettle bell from between the legs to chest height with your arms.
All the power of the kettle bell swing is generated by the hips. Kettle bell swing form is very similar to that of a vertical jump or broad jump. However, instead of jumping, the power generated through the hips is used to swing the kettle bell out in front of your body.
Now let’s get into proper kettle bell swing form so you can get the most out of the exercise.
You’ll take a comfortable stance, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Your toes will be slightly turned out, not straight ahead. The kettle bell is on the ground in front of you, between your feet.
While keeping your back flat, sit back as if you were going to sit on a chair. You’ll keep your arms out, and by extending your knees and hips, will pick the kettle bell up off the ground. This is your starting position.
Understand that proper kettle bell swing form is all about the hips. Good athletes generate power and movement through the hips, not the knees or back. This is safer and makes athletes more powerful and explosive as well.
If you’re not sure about how this works, try the hip hinge. This is the key to proper kettle bell swing form. Stand straight up. Now take the edge of your hands and find that crease at the top of your legs. Push your hands hard into this crease. Bend forward from this and stick out your butt. Your weight should remain firmly on your heels. As you bend further forward your knees will unlock or even bend, but very slightly.
Hang your arms down. Everything is done at the hip, the back stays flat. On the way up, it’s in reverse. The power comes from the hips as you drive them explosively back to the starting position.
This explosive hip hinge is what lifts the kettle bell. The arms are just a lever, they don’t lift the kettle bell. Because of the hip drive, the glutes and the hamstrings do most of the work, with a slight assist from the quads. It’s possible, after your first intense kettle bell swing session, that you have sore hamstrings.
When starting with the first swing, move the kettle bell back through your legs with your arms and then explode forward with the hips. When the kettle bell comes forward and reaches chest height, let it fall back and through your legs before reversing direction once again by exploding forward with the hips.
Make sure to stay tight in the waist but keep the arms loose. Keep your shoulders tight in the socket so your arms don’t get too far out in front of you when swinging the kettle bell up. The arc of the kettle bell should be short and small, not big.
Keep your head up and sit back, rather than down. Extend the hips and the knees forward at the top of the swing. Your body needs to become a straight line. The kettle bell is simply an extension of your arms.
If you struggle with the initial sit back, work on the hip hinge and the idea of sitting on a chair by performing a box squat with your arms out in front of you. Hinge at the hips, stick the butt out and keep pushing it back. The knees will bend automatically but slightly.
Master the kettle bell swing form and you’re well on your way to great fitness results.