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Kettlebell swings do not place a lot of emphasis on the arms and shoulders.
Learn the proper way to perform the kettlebell swing and simultaneously improve your strength, explosive power, coordination and general conditioning. There are several variations of the swing and each offers unique advantages. The movement involves swinging the kettlebell back between the legs and then up and forward without placing a large amount of stress on the arms and shoulders. The force is generated by the legs and hips.
After a general warm-up involving low-intensity exercise, the hip hinge movement is a great warm-up for the kettlebell swing. Stand with your chest lifted and begin to push your hips back. Keep the spine neutral and avoid rounding the lower back. Simply push your hips back as far as you can while keeping your chest lifted. Extend the hips forward, moving them back in line with the rest of your body as you contract your gluteal muscles. Perform three sets of 15 reps to start.
General Technique and Safety
Stand above the weight with the kettlebell between your feet. Perform the hip hinge movement and reach down slightly, bending your knees. Grab the kettlebell with both hands and lift, allowing the weight to hang at arm's length. Place your feet slightly wider than the shoulders. Swing the kettlebell back between the legs while performing the hip hinge from the warm-up drill. Explosively extend your hips and knees, moving the torso quickly to an upright position. Let momentum carry the weight up and forward. Follow the weight back down. Use the hip hinge movement to absorb the momentum of the kettlebell and the explosive hip extension to direct the momentum back up and forward. If you feel fatigue in the shoulders and arms, you are probably using too much effort from the upper body.
You have the choice of two styles of breathing for kettlebell swings: anatomical breathing and paradoxical breathing. Anatomical breathing is classified by exhaling as the weight swings down and inhaling as the kettlebell swings up and forward. This style is more useful when using the swing for endurance and conditioning improvements. Paradoxical breathing is inhaling as the weight swings down and exhaling as the weight swings up. It is is the most useful when using this exercise for increasing maximum power.
Variations of Technique
Aside from the breathing differences, there are other variations in technique. This exercise can be performed with one hand or both, or alternating. You have the choice to swing the kettlebell up to a position above the head or to shoulder height. According to Greg Glassman in Crossfit Journal, some athletes prefer the overhead swing because there is greater power development with each swing. Traditionalists prefer swinging to shoulder height because you can perform more swings per minute and the shoulder height technique provides a better foundation for learning other kettlebell exercises such as the snatch and clean.