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Kettlebell Help fix my swings

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
I’ve been doing heavy swings for about a year or longer, and I’ve known about my bad swing technique for a while now, and my back aches frequently after sets.

I can do sets of heavy swings with the 32kg bell (two hands, because my grip strength is poor enough that even 2H swings are enough to challenge it), but my work capacity with lighter weights is poor.

I took 3 videos of swings with the 24kg, this is the most recent, after reviewing my previous two videos and attempting to reduce back flexion. I decided to work with a lighter weight until my technique is solid. I think I've fixed my lumbar flexion, but I think my upper back is still flexing on the downswing.


You might see me feeling my back after I finish swinging, it's just me trying to feel if my back was flexed or not, my back felt perfectly fine (although it ached slightly after the first two sets)
Tell me where I need to improve (and how)!
 

LarryB

Level 6 Valued Member
Other’s will have more precise things to say, but the main thing i see is that bell smacking you in the rear every time . To me that means you aren’t catching the bell with your hips, but it’s merely being yanked at the end of your “rope”. I think you need more knee flexion and to hike pass the bell back rather than letting your arms crash into your pelvis. Like i said, others will see and say it better, but a big cue i have been working on is throwing the bell back between my legs, as well as getting more of a “squatty” hinge. The bottom of the bell should be facing directly behind you, not the ceiling.
 

Steve W.

Level 8 Valued Member
the main thing i see is that bell smacking you in the rear every time . To me that means you aren’t catching the bell with your hips, but it’s merely being yanked at the end of your “rope”. I think you need more knee flexion and to hike pass the bell back rather than letting your arms crash into your pelvis.
Yes, the bell flipping in the hole is due to a combination of not sitting back deep enough into the hinge and mistiming between the arms coming down, the hips moving back, and the torso coming forward. The hips finish early, then arms come down and crash into the pelvis, and then the torso continues folding forward. You want the arms to come down against the torso and then move with the torso into (and back out of) the hinge. You don't want the arms hitting the pelvis or inner thighs on the way down or being pushed by the pelvis or inner thighs on the way up. They should move together, without impact or pressure between them. Also, ideally your hips should finish moving back as the torso finishes coming forward, not hips first and then torso.

Your back position actually looks pretty good to my eye, and you are not overly thrusting your hips forward and leaning back or hyperextending your spine at the top, which is also a common cause of low back discomfort with swings.

To pattern your hinge, spend some time with the touch the wall drill and the KB deadlift:

To get the feel for sitting back into the hinge, use the touch-the-wall drill:
--Stand facing away from a wall with your heels a foot or so from the wall.
--Sit back into your hinge and touch your butt to the wall.
--Move a little further away from the wall and repeat.
As you move away from the wall, if you sink your hips straight down (squat) you won't reach back to the wall. If keep your legs too straight, you also won't reach back to the wall.

To get a feel for coordinating the timing of the hips and shoulders so everything starts and finishes together at the endpoints of the standing plank and full hinge, use the KB DL:

--Do sets of 20. You can use one bell or two, and one or two arms on one bell, but do sets of 20. I found that the second 10 in a 20 rep set is where my brain and body really start to feel things and figure things out, but you have to do the first 10 to get there.

--Start with the bell(s) back between your feet toward your heels, keep the arms in tight to the body and try to lower the weight to the same spot. The bells will want to drift forward, so you will have to really sit back and keep your arms in tight. Avoid any tendency to get squatty to keep the bell back. Do it by sitting back, like in the touch-the-wall drill; your hips will move down as well as back and your knees will bend (you're not necessarily trying to keep the hips high), but keep the hips above the knees and the shins relatively vertical.

--Focus on your timing. The tendency is to start lowering the bells by sitting back as far as possible and THEN continue to fold forward and bend the knees to reach the floor. So it ends up being a two-part movement. See if you can adjust your timing so that your hips, knees, shoulders, and the bell all start and finish together. This tends to happen naturally on the positive part of the movement, so see if you can reverse engineer the timing of the positive and apply it to lowering the bell.

--Focus on your rooting. Keep your weight evenly balanced over your whole foot and try to maintain that same weight distribution throughout the range of motion. I visualize the soles of my feet extending straight down into the ground, as if I were wearing tall flat platform shoes that are sunk below the surface of the ground. In the actual ballistic swing, just focusing on maintaining even balance over the whole foot throughout the whole movement can often automatically fix a lot of timing problems.

--Get a feel for the endpoints of the lift (the zipped up standing plank and the deep hinge) and use those as targets in your swing. When I was recovering from a shoulder surgery (rotator cuff repair after injuring it playing basketball), I did a LOT of KB deadlifts because I could do them long before I could do ballistics, and I developed a new appreciation for them. I found that they were actually very valuable in helping refine my hinge pattern, even after deadlifting and doing KB ballistics for decades, and had a lot of carry over to my KB ballistics when I returned to them. By grooving the pattern at slow speed, I could naturally and smoothly transition from plank to hinge and back at ballistic speed, with everything starting and finishing together.
 

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
Other’s will have more precise things to say, but the main thing i see is that bell smacking you in the rear every time . To me that means you aren’t catching the bell with your hips, but it’s merely being yanked at the end of your “rope”.
I didn’t feel it, because I wasn’t pulling the bell very hard with my lats, but this was actually a huge problem when I was doing swings with the 24kg bell this summer. I’ll definitely try this tomorrow.
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
A few things I'd like you to try and upload a vid

1. kB deadlift (focus on squeezing glutes and abs at the top)

2. Swing lower and with less power replicating the feeling of number 1.

Once done with this, please let us know how those felt
 

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
A few things I'd like you to try and upload a vid

1. kB deadlift (focus on squeezing glutes and abs at the top)

2. Swing lower and with less power replicating the feeling of number 1.

Once done with this, please let us know how those felt
Thanks for the help, here's what I just did: 4 sets of deadlifts, then another try at swings. A couple of times I tried the deadlifts where you throw the bell a little forward then lower it behind your feet, but I messed those up.

On the swings, I had a hard time reducing my power and having a tighter standing plank at the same time (in my previous training I've found focusing on the lockout helps me accelerate the bell faster, so this felt like conflicting signals). I interpreted your advice to swing lower as meaning I should hinge deeper on the downswing, but as I write this it's occurring to me that you probably meant I shouldn't drive the bell as high (I didn't end up hinging deeper anyways).

I feel like my lockout is about the same as it is normally, although with less tension because I was not swinging as explosively.
At the end I switched to some dead swings so I wouldn't have to worry about the negative so much, though my posture started breaking down even more during the backswings.
1st set of deadlifts:
4th set:
Swings:
 
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Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Thanks for the help, here's what I just did: 4 sets of deadlifts, then another try at swings. A couple of times I tried the deadlifts where you throw the bell a little forward then lower it behind your feet, but I messed those up.

On the swings, I had a hard time reducing my power and having a tighter standing plank at the same time (in my previous training I've found focusing on the lockout helps me accelerate the bell faster, so this felt like conflicting signals). I interpreted your advice to swing lower as meaning I should hinge deeper on the downswing, but as I write this it's occurring to me that you probably meant I shouldn't drive the bell as high (I didn't end up hinging deeper anyways).

I feel like my lockout is about the same as it is normally, although with less tension because I was not swinging as explosively.
At the end I switched to some dead swings so I wouldn't have to worry about the negative so much, though my posture started breaking down even more during the backswings.
1st set of deadlifts:
4th set:
Swings:
How did those swings feel compared to before??
 

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
How did those swings feel compared to before??
They felt awkward, but I think that was because I was using less power. I think it was close to the same otherwise, and my back felt fine.

Edit: I did a couple sets of deadlifts followed by more swings, videoed the second set of swings. They felt powerful, and I felt like my back was in a good position. My breathing rhythm felt off, but that's not a new problem for me.
When I took a video of the second set of swings I seemed in much more control of the kettlebell than yesterday, although my back position still had issues like earlier today.
 
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Gypsyplumber

Level 5 Valued Member
I don’t think your swing is as bad as you think it is! It’s a great start…I can see your initial swing set up is going to put load in your low back. Bend the knees more, it’s not a squat but remember you can bend the knees and sink back more. Try getting your set up right, sink down (just a bit) and just hike the bell then set it back in front of you repeat this… it’s a great drill. You you want your spine to be neutral As you’re hiking the bell back. Also one of the most difficult things about learning to Swing for me was something that you can’t really pick up on video, it’s something that you have to feel individually what muscles are you supposed to tense at what time?! Your core, glutes, hamstrings and lats should be firing hard taking the load away from the back. I can understand your frustration because I almost gave up swings some years ago when I first started. Until one day it just clicked. Try to imagine as you snap your hips open, that you drive your heels into the ground. Here’s a great video on timing and shows proper set up as well that helped me a lot.

 

Adachi

Level 6 Valued Member
I found the toweled kettlebell swing to be a very good teacher of timing the swing when I was learning with the 16kg bell.

I also experienced some flipping of the bell at the bottom which had a collision with myself. And I thought, this can't be right.

I think that's when I asked a question here about timing a few years ago.

I also remember practicing the hinge at the bottom with dead stop swings, focusing on sending the bell rearwards in space, more like hiking a football.

 
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advtracer

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Lots of great coaching, please disregard if this stirs the pot too much.

Your shoulders are moving before your hips,and that is why your back is getting tweaked! When you dead lift/swing, your shoulders are rising faster than your hips are moving, resulting in excessive back and forth movemen when arriving at the top of the swing. This is due to lack tension, lack of patience,and mistaking velocity for power. You are fast,but not, yet, powerful. In the swing/ hinge, the power/ movement is initiated with the hip drive, deriving from the hamstrings.. However, you are intitiatng the movement by pulling with your upper body, pulling your shoulders back! If you were deadlifting with a barbell, and you kept a similar pattern, you would have to move the barbell around your knees, away from your centerline, and forcing the low back into a compromised position. Essentially, you're doing back extention swings, and standing up to soon. If this were a deadlift with any weight on the bar, things would get ugly quickly. Practice your dead lift again, but make the rep last 20 seconds, 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down with pauses at below the knee and above the knee, focus on full body tension, and breathing behind the shield. You should feel your hamstrings stretching like a bow, unloading at the top and full loading at the start/ bottom.If done properly, you will only be able to manage a few reps. Rest and repeat with slightly faster reps, like 10 second reps then 6 second reps...imagine pushing your feet through the floor, rather then lifting/swinging/ projecting the bell.
 

Benjamin Renaud

Level 7 Valued Member
It also seems to me like you are not enjoying the float at the top and pushing the bell down with your arms, as in overspeed eccentrics. You also seem to break the plank a bit too early and then hinge back a bit too late which makes for a bell that rapidly comes to hit your pelvis once already with a broken plank position and thus the bell flips towards your butt as you hinge.

With a longer float and a straighter standing plank you will be able to wait for the arms to hit your ribcage before you hinge back in synch with the bell as in Pavel Macek's video posted above.
 
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Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
Lots of great coaching, please disregard if this stirs the pot too much.

Your shoulders are moving before your hips,and that is why your back is getting tweaked! When you dead lift/swing, your shoulders are rising faster than your hips are moving, resulting in excessive back and forth movemen when arriving at the top of the swing. This is due to lack tension, lack of patience,and mistaking velocity for power. You are fast,but not, yet, powerful. In the swing/ hinge, the power/ movement is initiated with the hip drive, deriving from the hamstrings.. However, you are intitiatng the movement by pulling with your upper body, pulling your shoulders back! If you were deadlifting with a barbell, and you kept a similar pattern, you would have to move the barbell around your knees, away from your centerline, and forcing the low back into a compromised position. Essentially, you're doing back extention swings, and standing up to soon. If this were a deadlift with any weight on the bar, things would get ugly quickly. Practice your dead lift again, but make the rep last 20 seconds, 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down with pauses at below the knee and above the knee, focus on full body tension, and breathing behind the shield. You should feel your hamstrings stretching like a bow, unloading at the top and full loading at the start/ bottom.If done properly, you will only be able to manage a few reps. Rest and repeat with slightly faster reps, like 10 second reps then 6 second reps...imagine pushing your feet through the floor, rather then lifting/swinging/ projecting the bell.

I agree with your analysis, it does look like I'm flexing and extending my back to get more depth on the downswing and more velocity on the upswing. I did the deadlifts, but they didn't seem to be a huge improvement. I feel like I know what I'm doing wrong, but don't how how to stop doing it.
It also seems to me like you are not enjoying the float at the top and pushing the bell down with your arms, as in overspeed eccentrics. You also seem to break the plank a bit too early and then hinge back a bit too late which makes for a bell that rapidly comes to hit your pelvis once already with a broken plank position and thus the bell flips towards your butt as you hinge.

With a longer float and a straighter standing plank you will be able to wait for the arms to hit your ribcage before you hinge back in synch with the bell as in Pavel Macek's video posted above.
Yes, I agree, I'm bending with my upper back, which is a no-no by itself, and doing it when I should still be planking, but I don't hinge with my hips until the bell is already past my legs. Then I extend my upper back and hips at the same time. I do tend to pull the bell down, that's partly out of habit, partly because that's how I try to activate my lats.
 

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
I was working on uploading a video, but I got pulled away from my pc so I’ll try to type this.

I hiked the bell back and set it back down a bunch of times, focusing on keeping my back stiff, but while I could do this pretty easily the bell kept coming up and smacking me in the tail.

This makes me think I originally started unknowingly rounding my back so I could get the bell farther back behind my legs to keep it from hurting my tail so much.
When I did the hike pass drill again, the only way I could really stop it was to stop hiking it back as hard, because my arm and the bottom of the bell naturally rotate upwards when I hike it back. Am I missing something here?
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I found the toweled kettlebell swing to be a very good teacher of timing the swing when I was learning with the 16kg bell.

I also experienced some flipping of the bell at the bottom which had a collision with myself. And I thought, this can't be right.

I think that's when I asked a question here about timing a few years ago.

I also remember practicing the hinge at the bottom with dead stop swings, focusing on sending the bell rearwards in space, more like hiking a football.


I was working on uploading a video, but I got pulled away from my pc so I’ll try to type this.

I hiked the bell back and set it back down a bunch of times, focusing on keeping my back stiff, but while I could do this pretty easily the bell kept coming up and smacking me in the tail.

This makes me think I originally started unknowingly rounding my back so I could get the bell farther back behind my legs to keep it from hurting my tail so much.
When I did the hike pass drill again, the only way I could really stop it was to stop hiking it back as hard, because my arm and the bottom of the bell naturally rotate upwards when I hike it back. Am I missing something here?

+1 for the towel swing. Try it nice and easy with the 16kg or even lighter. It's not a tension drill, or an overall swing drill but a swing timing drill. Feel the rhythm, smooth it out, and keep the constant tension on the towel so the kettlebell doesn't flop around. It should help eliminate the upwards rotation and improve your overall timing. Once your natural swing timing is good, then bring that together with tension and power with a heavier swing.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Okay, will do tomorrow. Thank you!

It will probably feel "slow," but that's OK. "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast..."... and powerful, when you use heavy weight. The swing should be explosive and powerful on the upswing, but it doesn't have to be fast overall. A lot of issues are just from rushing things in an attempt use speed to attain power. The power just has to be reined in and directed a little better in a strong, coordinated movement. You'll get it! Lots of great ideas above, especially the towel swing and the kettlebell deadlift details.

As you make these adjustments are are ready for 32kg swings again, would like to see a video of those.... No hurry.
 

Stephen B.

Level 2 Valued Member
Thanks again. I could send a video with the 32 whenever, but it would likely be even sloppier than with the 24. Actually, I'll probably do that just for reference, then after I do towel swings I'll keep working with my 16kg bell, I think it will be easier to break old habits without as much load.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Thanks again. I could send a video with the 32 whenever, but it would likely be even sloppier than with the 24. Actually, I'll probably do that just for reference, then after I do towel swings I'll keep working with my 16kg bell, I think it will be easier to break old habits without as much load.
Yes you're right, always better to re-pattern with a lighter load. When you do get back to the 32 and heavier you'll start to feel that same smoothness... like my swing idol, Jeff Sokol, here with 72kg (slow-mo of course, but a great visual to emulate):

 
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