The Beginners Guide To Setting Up The Kettlebell Swing [2nd Edition]

 In The Blog

We get a lot of queries from the Strength Matters community with regards to setting up the Swing.

That’s understandable.

There are some diverse opinions on head and neck positioning. There’s also some subtle but significant differences between setting up a Single-Hand Swing and setting up a Two-Hand version.

In other words, it’s easy to screw up the Swing.

[bctt tweet=”It’s easy to screw up the kettlebell Swing”]SMKCert_Day.1_MG_6846_LowRes

The First Thing: Head & Neck

The first thing that needs to be taken into account is how to position the head and neck on the initial hinge to set up a Swing.

There’s a lot of controversy around this.

Some people believe the neck should be packed, as though trying to develop a double chin. This essentially creates a straight spine posture, which is a fairly good position.

Others, however, believe that the chin should be slightly up, extending the neck slightly so that the cervical extensors correlate with the back extensors.

Whatever the opinion, the main thing that everybody agrees on is that the head and neck shouldn’t shift during the movement.

That is, a person should refrain from looking up then looking down and basically having their head pivot on their cervical vertebrae.

SMKCert_Day.1_MG_6709_LowRes[bctt tweet=”The head and neck shouldn’t shift during the movement”]

That’s why, in the Strength Matters kettlebell certification, we teach candidates to keep their eyes on the horizon (as defined by the intersection of the wall and the floor).

This is a good starting position.

It puts a person in cervical neutral and helps keep them balanced as they stand up. Some people will have their chin up a little bit more. Some people will have their chin down a little bit more. This depends on their natural state of posture.

For example, those that sit at a desk all day may have a very forward head. Each client is an individual, and it’s important that instructors look at them as such and note their unique posture.

The important element is that they don’t have their head bopping around as they go through the Swing, especially on the descent. If anything’s dangerous, that’s dangerous – It’s an invitation for whiplash.

[bctt tweet=”The Swing Is Basically A Jump”]

Equally, it’s not a good idea to Swing if your neck or back hurts.

The first rule of thumb always is ‘if it hurts, don’t do it.’

Find out what the problem is, visit a doctor or a physiotherapist, get some work done, and go from there. You’ve got to get injuries resolved before you do anything.

Body maintenance work is part of your training, but swings shouldn’t hurt – they shouldn’t hurt your neck, they shouldn’t hurt your shoulders, and they shouldn’t hurt your back.


The Hips & Shoulders

This brings us to another area of setting up your Swing.

Ideally, whether you’re going for a One-Hand or a Two-Hand Swing, you want a squareness in your hips and your shoulders. This is developed once your spine is in neutral, and your hips and shoulders are facing straight ahead.

With both Swing versions, your arm is going to cross the midline, with elbows straight and shoulders packed.

The set-up is the same in every sense, except that you have only one hand on the bell in the Single version. Therefore, you need to ensure your off-hand is in the set position behind you and that you’re ready for it to follow the bell’s movement. Don’t have it resting on your leg or be unaware of it.


This is what makes the difference and what can also cause the Single-Hand Swing to be more difficult: You have to work your anti-rotation muscles at the same time that you’re generating force with the side of which you’re holding the bell.

Problems here often occur because the kettlebell is too heavy and the shoulder and arm are being overused to produce the force. In this instance, the shoulder is turned into the pivot point instead of the hips. And when a person tries to lift with their arms rather than driving from their hips, there’s less efficiency in producing power and force. It’s a weaker movement and, importantly, an unsafe one.

So what to do? Low Swings. Swing the kettlebell no higher than the belt buckle. This will bring the focus back to the hips.

Remember, the Swing is basically a jump that doesn’t leave the ground. So like any jump, your drive from the hip – One-Hand, Two-Hand or Hand-to-Hand.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Like This & Want More?

Enter your email address and you'll join 150,000 other everyday athletes getting FREE weekly content updates that's sure to knock your socks off.