To ensure we benefit from this total-body exercise, it’s imperative we cover some proper mechanics – and it all starts with not the first rep, but the actual SET UP before you perform the first rep.
#1 – Start about a foot away from the KB, hinge first, then reach for the bell. This helps keep you in the ideal hinge position, where lats can be activated (think pulling and locking your armpits into your shoulderblade sockets). The kettlebell may tilt toward you slightly; that’s ok.
==> Do NOT have it so far in front of you that you are overextended, reaching far. This disengages the lats and makes you more at risk for the low back to take over the movement. Ouch!
==> Also, don’t just pick it up. You’ll put your back at risk again (especially as you start using heavier bells) and it puts you in an awkward position to start swinging.
#2 – Next, begin the rep by hiking the kettlebell – your upper arms should connect with your ribs (lats are activated) and the forearms connect with the upper inner thigh. Imagine hiking it into your groin, rather than at knee-level…this will ensure you’re not swooping the bell down and arching/moving with your low back.
#3 – Perform your reps by keeping your back straight, eyes gazed ahead, performing the hike, then powering up by ‘snapping’ at the hips and knees. End position at top should be an active squeeze of both the butt and abs. Arms end about shoulder-height. Again, be sure the kettlebell is swinging forward and upward due to your hip power and not from pulling it with your arms. Hips snap; arms follow. Kettlebell essentially ‘floats’ for a moment at the top as abs and glutes are intentionally tightened simultaneously and maximally.
#4 – After your reps are completed, it’s essential that you brake (land) the kettlebell the same way you set up: the bell swings up through the legs near the groin, then, still in a hinge position, you set it down about a foot in front of you. Don’t just let it drop down after your last rep. Remember, the exercise isn’t over until the kettlebell is safely on the floor, so maintain thoughtful movement until you’ve braked the bell into the same position you started.
As Coach John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” From the set up, to the hike, to the reps, to the brake: keep every part of the swing precise, clean, and intentional.
Happy swingin’ and sweatin’!
Jess + Team Valeo
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