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Master the Art of the Kettlebell Swing

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Step 1: Positioning

Before you even pick up a kettlebell, get set up correctly. Once you have the proper weight selected, set the kettlebell slightly in front of you, so that your legs and the kettlebell form the three points of a triangle. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, draw your shoulders back, and keep your chest up. Engage your core, keep a flat back (no rounding here), and hinge your hips back so you can wrap both hands securely around the handle with thumbs resting gently against your fingers.

Common Mistake: When you grip the kettlebell, lower your upper body by hinging your hips backward, just like you would in a deadlift. Falamas says it's common for beginners to lower down into a squat and push through the quads instead of the glutes. "You're definitely still working muscles when that happens, just not the right ones," she says. "You need that hinge to contract your hamstrings, which you use to fire up the glutes for the second part of your kettlebell swing."

Step 2: The Backswing

Most people forget this step and start with a dead hang before swinging the kettlebell up. But doing that is a big no-no, as it's the backswing that stretches and engages those hamstrings, providing the power to propel the swing forward. So treat it like a pendulum. Once you've got your grip, thrust the weight backward ever so slightly and squeeze your glutes. Tilt your torso to about a 45-degree angle (remember to keep your chest up to avoid rounding your back) and then begin your upswing.

Common Mistake: That 45-degree angle is an important one if you want to avoid injury, says Falamas. She notices people bringing their chest almost parallel to the floor, which is too far and can hurt your lower back.

Step 3: The Upswing

Immediately after your backswing, propel the weight up to eye level (or go above the head for an American-style swing) by driving your hips forward and squeezing your glutes at the top. That last part is important, as the whole point of the kettlebell swing is to work your butt muscles. So if you don't give 'em a good squeeze at the top, you're missing the point.

Common Mistake: "I see a lot of people try to hold the weight at the top of the swing, when it's at eye level, so that they're using their arms and shoulders too much," says Falamas. "This isn't about using your upper body to hold up weight—you want to focus on maintaining a fast, efficient pace with your glutes and hamstrings—so you should only have about a one-second pause at the top before you let gravity bring the weight back down to starting position."

 

Samantha Lefave

Samantha is a writer who is living, eating and sweating her way through NYC. You can find her running half-marathons like it's her job, Instagramming her favorite food and fitness finds or, let's be honest, eating peanut butter straight from the jar.

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