Everything You Need to Know About the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the only exercise you need a kettlebell for.

Yes, there are a multitude of other exercises we do with the kettlebell, but really the swing is the foundation, it’s the core, baseline movement that all the other kettlebell lifts (as opposed to exercises using a kettlebell) grow out of.

So this post is the top posts all collected into a single place.

Bookmark it, share it, enjoy it and feel free to leave your feedback.


The Tutorials:

Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part I – the Basics

Start here. This is method that I’ve used and refined since the inception of WG-Fit and has successfully taken hundreds people from zero to successful swinging, some even further onto kettlebell sport or RKC.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part II – Common Errors

Building on the first instalment of the series, here we take a look at the most common errors seen when people learn the swing and how to correct them.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part III – the 1 Handed Swing

Now that we’ve mastered the 2 handed swing we can up our game with the 1 hand swing.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part IV – Personalising the Swing

By now you should have the basics of the swing down. In this instalment you get to look at how we can adjust the swing to make it better fit our individual strengths, weaknesses and goals. Does that mean we don’t have to adhere to any one style or dogma?
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part V – Double Kettlebell Swings

So you swing like a champion but that’s still not enough for you. Well, lets double the intensity by swinging a pair of kettlebells
Click HERE for more

and finally a couple of posts regarding specific aspects of kettlebell swing practice, this first post is one of the most read and shared to date:

So How High Should you Swing Your Kettlebell?

Ever since the inception of Crossfit and the “American Swing” there’s been a debate on how high a swing ought to travel. This is post will provide the answer to that debate.
Click HERE for more

Ask Dave: Should I Prevent My Body Rotating During Swings?

This is a damn good question, especially as we hear so much about spinal stability and preventing movement at the core. So what’s the case with the kettlebell?
Click HERE for more

Are the Kettlebell Lifts the Answer to Shit Posture?

Had a lovely conversation in the gym yesterday.

One of the my competitive Kettlebell Lifters, a member of the Kettleheads GS Team, was in and was marvelling at how incredible she felt after working on a few spinal extension drills and breathing techniques.
Drills that I gave her to improve her kettlebell lifting technique, but cross over into the real world as well.

A couple of days ago I was watching her train and was concerned that her lockout wasn’t as settled as it could be and started to look at what was missing in her motion that needed to be fixed.
It then became apparent that she had very little thoracic extension which meant that she wasn’t performing an efficient Jerk, wasn’t getting the breath she needed and couldn’t relax the shoulder at lockout.

So at the end of her set I took her through an Anatomy in Motion exercise known as the Wall Cogs. This allowed her to feel her spine in its full extension and its full flexion.

The we added breath, as you extend lift the chest and breath in
As you flex the spine, breathe out.

In through the nose out through the mouth?

Who cares, just fill the lungs, then squeeze ‘em dry.

Try just breathing through the nose
Try just breathing through the mouth
Try in through the mouth, out through the nose
Try in through the nose, out through the mouth

It’s all a big experiment if it’s new to you, so forget what the guru’s tell you and explore, play see what fits you the best.
And anyway, half way through a set of Kettlebell Jerks, you’ll be past caring what the guru’s said and instead, you’ll be grateful for finding the best method for you.

This is exactly what Wendy took from our few minutes working on this, and she experimented.
She must have spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday practicing, because on Wednesday she back in and lifting like she’s never lifted before.
She was like a different person under the iron, she’d made 6 months progress in just 48 hours.

And not only that she commented that the breathing was like a “Jolt”
Which I assume is a good thing.

This lead into a conversation on posture, which is really what I wanted to get to in this post. Because we talked about how posture generally declines as we age, and how we’re seeing more and more people having poor posture at younger ages.

And we spoke about how the Kettlebell lifts are such a tonic to the problem of age related, or fear related postural decline.
Fear related?

Yup, it’s what the Somatics folk call a red like reflex, essentially moving towards a foetal position.

Look around you, how many folk can you see with a flexed upper back, rounded shoulders, forwards head posture and a tucked pelvis?
Do they look healthy and vital?
Do they look frail and unhealthy?

It’s what Dr Vladamir Janda describes as the Tonic and Phasic muscles of the body.
Janda spoke about how certain muscles developed early, pre birth even. These muscles were always prone to being short and tight. These would be the Tonic muscles, and mostly related to flexing the body or moving into that foetal position.

The Phasic muscles then are the opposite. They fit into the Somatic’s Green Light relfex. These are largely the extensor muscles that we develop a little later, in the first few months after being born.
The problem is, the older tonic muscles can sometimes get the upper hand on the phasics.
Especially during the self conscious teenage years and then there’s all that time sitting at a bloody desk.

So many people surrender to the tonics. Their Pecs, especially the pec minor gets tighter pulling the shoulders forwards. Hip flexors and Rec Fem shorten pulling our hip and spine out.
The opposite muscles weaken, allowing this to happen.

Before we know it, we’re old.

Perhaps the kettlebell lifts, and I mean the proper kettlebell lifts, not the millions of exercises you can do with a kettlebell, are the answer.
Maybe they’re the tonic to the tonic muscles.

Done right and trained properly the KB lifts, ie the clean, jerk and snatch, all work into the extensor chain of the body. Which essentially means we work the phasics, or the muscles that are most prone to weakness.

Not only that we work most of them with eccentric load.
Which if you ask Gary Ward, the Anatomy in Motion founder is the key to proper muscle function.
During the jerk, we first sink into the first dip which puts an eccentric load (ie a stretch) into the Calves, Quads and Upper back.
As we spring out of this load, we take an in breath and put an eccentric load into the abdominals and chest before finally catching the bell and locking it out.

The Snatch is similar, but with a greater emphasis on the hamstrings and low back as they are loaded during the backswing.

Our assistance training will emphasis each stage of these action resulting in a body that can extend like a charm. Especially if targeted breathing exercises are utilised.

So it could be a case that the Kettlebell Lifts are the tonic to Janda’s Tonics.


Dave Hedges

Enhanced Athleticism through Unconventional Kettlebell & Bodyweight Lifts

“Bodybuilding is about time under tension, Kettlebell Lifting is about time out of tension” – Valery Federenko

anasenkoThis is a quote that has intrigued me for a while.

Over the years I’ve been coaching, especially the more recent years as I’ve visited other gyms as a guest instructor, I’ve noticed a trend amongst people.
It seems that while everyone I deal with does some kind of physical fitness training, and many are capable of greater feats of strength than myself, it seems that they are locked into a tight box of movement, unable to break out.

All their time under tension had created a body that was good at one thing, being tense. So while standing still and lifting something heavy came easy, anything else was a chore.

Strength training is great, don’t get me wrong, but to get strong for strengths sake isn’t the best approach in my mind.
Getting strong to improve performance is the key.

This means that even if you don’t play some sport, you must still do something that expresses the body’s ability to move, to celebrate the glory of movement, not simply be living statues.

On the Anatomy in Motion course I attended recently I was chatting with Chris Sritharan, the AiM no 2 man. In conversation he mentioned that strength training does not improve human movement. We’d already been taught how the AiM opinion is that a muscle must lengthen before it can contract, which falls in line with a lot of the martial arts tuition I’ve had.

So if strength training doesn’t improve human movement, what does it do?

Simple, it increases the potential for human movement. It expands the limits in which the human body can perform.

But only if performance is practised.

If you run, play sport, fight, climb or whatever, I dare say you are using your strength training to improve what you do. But what about those who just lift?
Those that train strength for strengths sake or for the aesthetic benefits are often the ones who become muscle bound, tight and uncoordinated.

It’s to these people that the lesser known kettlebell and bodyweight drills are most useful.
Not only will they round out your training, but they’ll ensure you stay agile, athletic and able to move freely, generating force in any direction at any time.
If you are a practising athlete, these drills may just give you that edges as well as elongate your career.
spiderman push up 4s
Bodyweight and kettlebell movements follow the AiM rules of stretching a muscle to make it fire, so keep the nervous system firing like its supposed to. Not only that, they break out of the standard linear movements that the majority of strength training lifts follow.

This is some of what I’ll be teaching on March 9th during the Kettlebell & Bodyweight workshop.
Over the day we will look at:

Odd Kettlebell Lifts including:
  • Windmills, Side Press & Bent Press
  • “Zoro”
  • Lateral Swings & Circular Cleans
  • More if we have the time

We’ll also take on variations of the classical kettlebell lifts,  taking the kettlebell lifts away from the saggital plane.

We’ll also look at intermediate and advanced bodyweight drills, animal and agility movements, turning the Plank into a worthwhile exercise and……
Yes, burpees, we have 18+ variations on this already tough drill, dare you try them all?

This is a loose format, we will be taking questions and answering them as they come up.
The workshop is open to everyone, although a basic knowledge of the common kettlebell lifts is necessary to get the most out of the day.
We’re taking bookings now, our early bird price expires this afternoon, so move quickly!
THIS LINK will take you to the booking form.
And if thats not enough…….
I’ve just launched a new service for booking appointments/classes, tracking your membership and even allowing you to pay online. It’s a service called FrontDeskHQ and so far seems very user friendly, I hope to make it my primary system after I’ve finished trialling. So please get yourselves registered, or at the very least have a look and tell me what you think of the service, keeper or not? Here’s the link: https://wgfit.frontdeskhq.com

Kettlebell Snatch Tutorial part VI – Double Bells

Welcome to part 6 of the Snatch Tutorial series.
In case you missed them, here are Part 1 Part 2 Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

How you feel after a set of Double KB Snatch.

How you feel after a set of Double KB Snatch.

This is the post that didn’t want to get posted! First of all I lost the bloody video, probably deleted without thinking, and then wordpress herself decided to have a hissy fit for the whole morning!

So, all apologies, here is Part 6: Double Bells.

So far we’ve covered the Snatch in a fair bit of detail, but only wit one bell. However, everything you’ve learned so far is relevant here when we double up. Everything except the rotation from the waist.
And the staggered stance.
Or the diagonal flight path.

Everything ELSE is still valid….

What I’m trying to say is, make sure you can snatch well before moving up to doubles.

Once you make the jump though you will not be disappointed, it’s a monster lift for developing explosive power and power endurance. If you play contact sports, especially Rugby or any form of wrestling, this will add some real pep you you punch.

Do take care when you first start. You’ll see in the video my first demo started with a we swing to get the bells moving. This was simply because it was cold and I can feel my old back injuries sending out their wee warning s signs. I have another lifter who struggles a bit with his back does the same thing, he always starts his swings/cleans/snatches with a wee pre swing before the first rep. This is not poor technique, it’s simply recognising that going from a dead start (as I do in latter sets in the clip) requires good mobility and a strong back.
If the mobility is lacking, or the back isn’t great, the deep initial start position can be problematic.

Then there’s the drop.
To start with, segment to the drop into two stages. Bring the bells first to the chest, then down into the swing, as you would if performing  the Clean and Press or Long Cycle lifts.
Again, this will reduce the load on the back as the bells won’t have as much time / distance to accelerate in. And as we know from watching the Big Bang Theory, Force = Mass x Acceleration.
The further the bells drop, the faster they will be travelling at the terminus of the back swing, so a pair of 24’s as in the video will be exerting significantly more than 48kg’s of force as I arrest and reverse the motion.
As you get stronger, this is a good thing, but for starting out, not so much.

Here’s the video:

As I mention in the clip, there are many ways to implement the lift, here’s a few examples:

  • Prior to the heavy main lift, ie your deadlifts. Try 3 sets of 5 reps with 2 minute breaks before a heavy deadlift session.
  • Stand alone posterior chain work – 10 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 5 will smoke you. I recommend lots of low rep sets for this, it’s not a lift you want to take to fatigue, especially if you’re working heavy.
  • Finisher, you saw in the video one of the finishers we use, feel free to use it as a kickstart to your own ideas.
    5 x double snatch, 10 x sit thru, 10 x push up for time….or
    Press x 5, Front Squat x 5, Double Snatch x 5 for several sets
    the options go on….

Have fun with this.

I have another Snatch post in the pipeline for you offering some of the less common variations on the lift and a few ideas on how to integrate the snatch into your training.


Dave Hedges


Kettlebell Snatch Tutorial part V – Foot Position & Bell Flightpath

Not how you do it.

Not how you do it.

Welcome to part 5 of the Snatch Tutorial series.
In case you missed them, here are Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 and Part 4

In this episode we discuss two things, the path along which the bell will travel and also the addition of footwork to the lift.

The bell path has already been touched on with some of the drills in previous tutorials. By using the wall to restrict movement and also by swapping hands, we have had to adjust the path of the bell. But there’s still more to it.

Each lifter has a different body shape and history of training and injury. They also have differing training needs and goals. So with that in mind the Snatch is open to a fair degree of personalisation.

Some call these personalisations “Styles”

I tends to stay away from the whole styles debate, instead looking at the solid principles behind a lift. Once these are understood, you can add in whatever you need to make the lift fit your needs better.

For example, the changes in stance and flight path here give the lifter a very different feel to the snatch.

When a lifter initially learns to snatch they are taught to have the bell travel in a near vertical path, but it is clear from looking at the end position, this is not the most efficient track. For the bell to travel vertically would mean for it to finish directly overhead. This is not possible.
So there is a diagonal element to its flight, from below the groin to its terminus over the shoulder.
If we stagger our stance slightly we can make further use of this path by creating space for the bell to continue on its diagonal track unobstructed by the off side leg.
This also spreads the load away from the often problematic sacro-illiac joint taking it deeper into the rearmost glute. The angled hip also allows for a greater whip from the waist during the acceleration phase of the lift.

Have a look at this video clip as it discusses the stance work and bell path.

Now these techniques are best suited for competent lifters, spend time reviewing the basics as discussed in the first part of this series. And if you like these posts on Kettlebell Technique, please have a look at the Kettlebell Manuals available by clicking on the image below:

Click Image for more info

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Dave Hedges

Basic Self Defence Skills Sat 31st Nov
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Bookings now being taken HERE

Kettlebell Snatch Tutorial part IV – Correct Breathing Patterns

Welcome to part 4 of the Snatch Tutorial series.
In case you missed them, here are Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3

b-w snatchIn this edition we look at the breathing patterns behind successful snatching.
Kettlebell lifting happens best of we follow the anatomical breathing pattern. In simple terms this means that as the body expands, you inhale, as it compresses, you exhale.

This is contrary to the majority of lifting practices, but has solid reasoning behind it.
For most lifting, a heavy barbell lift, say a squat or deadlift, you take a breath in to lower and exhale to lift. In other words you compress the body with a bellyful of air and only let it out as you fully expand. This is known as paradoxical breathing but it serves to keep the intra-abdominal pressure high in order to create stiffness through the torso and keep the spine safe. Ideal for maximum effort or high threshold lifting but no good for endurance.

Kettles are not maximal weights. Well, not usually on the Snatch, and certainly not if you’re only using one kettlebell (we’ll cover the double snatch in a future post….)

So the need for maximal intra abdominal pressure is greatly reduced once good form and good technique is learned. And to be fair, if you learn to swing properly, you should be already swinging bells heavier than you can snatch.

If we switch to using the anatomical style of breathing we will be able to get more air in and out, you’ll even manage more breath cycles per rep and in doing so will be able to work for much longer.

If you plan on taking on the “Hard Style” secret service snatch test or compete in a kettlebell sports event, then you’ll want as much oxygen going through you as possible.

This video goes into a good deal of detail on the hows and why’s of breathing for maximum efficiency in the snatch:

I’ve written about breath control techniques before and talked about how extra breath cycles, with an emphasis on the exhale, are the key to both power endurance and fast recovery. You can read that one HERE

And if you like these posts on Kettlebell Technique, please have a look at the Kettlebell Manuals available by clicking on the image below:

Click Image for more info

Click Image for more info

Next week we discuss the flight path of the Kettlebell and also footwork for the snatch.


Dave Hedges

There are only a couple of spots left for the Bodyweight & Kettlebell Workshop in Tramore. More info & booking details HERE

Kettlebell Snatch Tutorial part III – The Drop

Welcome to part 3 of the Snatch Tutorial series.
In case you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2

Anton Anasenko, possibly the best pound for pound lifter in history begins the drop

Anton Anasenko, possibly the best pound for pound lifter in history begins the drop, he recently put up 207 reps in 10 minutes with 32kgs at a bodyweight of 85kg, and that’s with only 1 hand change

So we’ve covered the basic technique and gone into detail on the hand insertion. The next big stumbling block for most people is the drop.
This segment is often overlooked, it’s the non glamorous side of the lift. Everyone gasps in awe as you effortless throw that weight overhead, but few care about how you put it down again.
If you’re an Olympic Weightlifter, that’s fine as the weight is simply dropped to the floor after setting their one rep max. Kettles are different though, it’s not about lifting it once and going for a little sit down, no it’s about lifting it over and over. It’s about power endurance, work capacity and being able to demonstrate strength, stamina and staying power.

And for this to happen, efficiency is key.

Once we’ve snatched and locked out our kettle, we are now thinking about our next rep. To get this rep efficiently we have to control the descent of the bell so as to conserve energy and get the bell into the optimal position to relaunch it.

It’s where a huge amount of lifters fail.

To get the most out of the snatch as both a training drill and a competition lift, we must understand one key idea:

We must counterbalance the weight of the bell with something and that something is our head.

This is some thing I’ll go into more detail on in next weeks instalment, but for now I just need you keep in mind the importance of moving the head to counter the bell and keel the body balanced.

The very first thing a lifter will do in order to initiate the drop will be lean the head and torso back while they bring their elbow in towards their midline. Check out the image of Anton Anasenko above to see this in action, and I don’t care what school of lifting you come from, but anyone who can put up 207 reps with a 32kg in 10 minutes, while only changing hands once, has to be someone you can learn from.

So if your aim to get as many reps as possible, as quickly as possible, then you must not ignore this step.

By leaning the head and torso back you will be able to:

1 – reduce the height the bell must fall
2 – bring the bell into a position where it has the most efficient line to swing through the legs
3 – bring the upper arm closer to the torso so that the body can start decelerating the bell as early as possible.

All in all, we get a more efficient drop that is smoother and less taxing on grip, back and shoulder and therefore allows us to work faster for longer, or with more weight.

The video presentation here shows all that as well as some of the correctional drills we use to tidy up the drop.

Have a watch:

If you’re enjoying this series, don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of the Level 3 manual covering the Jerk & Snatch lifts in high detail:

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Click Image for more info


Dave Hedges