Guest Post By Chris Lopez, CSCS, SFGII
In today’s world we spend the majority of our days doing things in front of us with terrible posture.
We crouch over keyboards while our chests cave in and our hips shorten from sitting.
We drive with our arms in front of us while, again, we’re seated with shortened hip flexors.
We sit in “artificial wombs” (a.k.a. cubicles) for hours at a time not moving and making the front of our body even tighter.
And then we go home and slouch on the couch further tightening the front of our bodies
This overuse of the muscles on the front side of our bodies is called “anterior dominance” and it is plaguing our society.
Anterior dominance results in imbalances in our muscles causing us to move and perform at sub-optimal levels.
It compresses our lungs so that instead of taking deep long breaths into our belly like we were born to do, we take short, stressful breaths into our shrunken chests.
And because of our terrible posture – because our anterior muscles are shortened and tight pulling us forward – we give the illusion of being weak and un-confident as opposed to standing erect with our chins up.
It’s no wonder that we’re generally unhealthy compared to previous generations that didn’t live a convenience lifestyle in this information age.
There is hope, however.
And there is one exercise – that if you incorporate it into your daily routine – can easily combat the ill effects of anterior dominance and the Western Lifestyle.
The Kettlebell Swing is the perfect “anti-Western Lifestyle” exercise.
Once labelled “hard core”, kettlebells are now popping up in every gym, garage and backyard because of their portability and reputation for fast results.
They are the perfect portable, one-stop, biggest-bang-for-your-buck, piece of exercise equipment you’ll ever own.
And if boredom wasn’t an issue, the kettlebell swing is the ONLY exercise you would ever need to do in your entire life.
The problem is that the way most people do the kettlebell swing is DEAD WRONG!!!
Go into any gym and you’ll see inexperienced exercisers turning a swing into a front squat and shoulder raise exercise further tightening our hips, quads, chest and shoulders and just adding to the anterior dominance issue that I told you about above.
Simply put, improper kettlebell swing form just adds fuel to the already burning fire of postural imbalance.
A perfect kettlebell swing will work your posterior chain muscles (back, abs, butt, hamstrings) and combat all the ill-effects of our anterior dominant Western Society.
It is, in fact, a hinge and NOT a squat movement.
A hip hinge – like a deadlift movement – forces you to use those posterior chain muscles to move the kettlebell.
It will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you’ll develop the rear end of an athlete.
It will bulletproof your low back by creating an armored brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut.
And the kettlebell swing will force you to use all the muscles in your upper back, thus opening up your chest and forcing you out of the slouchy shoulder look that screams insecurity.
Yes my friend, the kettlebell swing is so good an exercise that…
“If You’re Not Doing The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing, You’re Destined To Stay Fat, Tight & Weak For The Rest Of Your Life”
The kettlebell swing can be summed up with 4 easy verbal cues…
HIKE – HINGE – ROOT – FLOAT
Every rep counts when you swing a kettlebell – from rep 1 to rep 20 – each one should look as fluid and as powerful as the very first one. This is where the “hike pass” is so important.
As opposed to starting your set of swings from the standing position like how you see most amateurs do it, the hike pass allows you to pre-stretch your lats – a powerful muscle in your upper body with a direct relationship with your glutes – and get more “juice” out of your swing.
Set your kettlebell up about 12-18 inches in front of you.
Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly.
Gripping the kettlebell with both hands, pull your shoulders into their sockets and fire your lats – the kettlebell will tilt towards you.
Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettlebell through your knees by contracting your lats.
This is how you start your swing.
Unlike a squat which is knee dominant, the HINGE movement is dominated by the hips.
When you push your hips back keeping your butt high and your shins vertical, you are hingeing.
When you hinge, you overload your hamstrings and glute muscles. This is good because most people today are hip flexor and quad dominant (your anterior muscles), so learning how to load and use your posterior chain creates a natural balance between front and back that will help in preventing knee and hip issues.
The hinge is the foundation of the kettlebell swing. If you can’t hinge properly, you can’t swing properly.
The reason why the hinge is so powerful is because we load the hamstrings like slingshots. The further back we push our rear ends, the more stretch we get in our hamstrings. Our hamstrings act as explosive, thick elastic bands.
When you drive your butt back, you load elastic energy allowing your hamstring to explosively snap back as you get into the…
The ROOT is the finish of the swing.
Think of the root as a standing plank where you are tightening every muscle in your body from your shoulders down…
Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot.
Pull your knee caps up into your crotch (“flex” your quads).
Squeeze your glutes like you’ve got a $100 bill between your butt cheeks and someone is trying to yank it out.
Brace your abs like you’re about to take a punch.
And pull your shoulders as far from your ears as possible contracting your lats.
This is your ROOT position and this is your goal.
If you break down the kettlebell swing, it simply is just a series of high speed HINGEs to ROOTs.
You move explosively from hinge to root to hinge to root throughout our set. You don’t worry about what the kettlebell is doing. It will react accordingly and give you feedback, letting you know if you are performing the exercise correctly.
Just remember that when you’re in the ROOT, your goal is to get to the HINGE as quickly as possible.
When you are in the HINGE, your goal is to stand up and get to the ROOT as explosively as possible.
The FLOAT is what happens to the kettlebell when you do the swing correctly. It ensures that your energy is focused on your glutes and not on your trying to “muscle” the kettlebell up to a certain height.
When you go from HINGE to ROOT, the harder you contract your glutes, the higher the kettlebell will FLOAT.
The higher the FLOAT of the kettlebell, the more rest you get between reps
FLOAT is what the kettlebell will do while the rest of your body is in the ROOT.
HIKE – HINGE – ROOT – FLOAT …it really is that simple.
Getting proper instruction from an expert so that you can MASTER THE KETTLEBELL SWING is the best thing that you can do for your training regardless of your goal.
If you want to build strength, kettlebell swings will forge a grip of steel and will add pounds to your deadlift & squat.
If you want to boost your athleticism, kettlebell swings will make you more powerful and add height to your jump and shave seconds off your sprints.
If you want to pack on muscle, swinging a heavy kettlebell will build an intimidating upper back & set of shoulders.
And if you want to shed body fat, swings will incinerate blubber like butter melting in an iron pan.
There really is no downside to adding this exercise into your arsenal – provided you know how to do it correctly.
Make sure you do by learning to avoid this critical error.
Find out HERE
Chris Lopez is a Strength Coach, SFGII Kettlebell Expert and a husband and father of 5 kids (all with the same woman). Check out Chris’ video on the #1 Mistake You’re Making When You Swing A Kettlebell HERE.