“Kettlebell swings hurt my back.”
If you’ve ever uttered these words, please note:
- I still love you
- There are plenty of non-kettle options for training your glutes and cardio (hill sprints come to mind)
- The WAY you are doing kettlebell swings is hurting your back
Correcting technique in the swing is tricky. You’re moving fast and once you start a set, there’s no place to pause.
That means before your first attempts at the swing, you need to have a solid grasp of the positions. The two big ones are:
- The hip hinge – butt back, hamstrings taught, back straight
- The lockout – tall posture, abs braced
If there are issues with either of these endpoints, the whole rep is compromised.
The most common kettlebell swing mistake is leaning back at the top.
It makes sense – the swing is all about hip power, and when you thrust mightily, the hips can easily shoot forward. When that happens, both the low back and the neck can come under great strain.
The worst part is most folks don’t realize it’s happening. They don’t feel the subtle balance of a straight lockout.
When you’re not aware of a problem, it’s impossible to fix it.
Let’s change that.
– Fix a resistance band between rack hooks, somewhere around upper back/shoulder height.
– Stand “at attention” straight so that your back only *barely* touches the band. Have your kettlebell close by.
– Begin your swings.
– If you feel yourself hitting the band, you’re leaning back!
– Make adjustments in real-time until the contact is light or nonexistent. You will be surprised with how easy your swings feel.
If you’re a coach or have a training partner on hand, use the same idea with an outstretched arm or foam roller to provide that feedback.
(41:37 in the video)
Excessive lean-back could also mean you’re simply using a bell that’s too heavy, and/or you’re trying to swing too high. Either way, try the low swing and find that sweet spot of glute and abdominal engagement with strong posture.
Finally, if you do find yourself swinging a sufficiently heavy kettlebell, there will be some natural lean-back due to physics. This will come from the ankles, not the low back, and there should still be a straight (though not vertical) line from head to heel.