Kettlebell Swing Challenges and Risks

Kettlebell swings, while highly beneficial, can present certain challenges and risks if not performed correctly. Understanding these aspects is crucial for safe and effective training. Let’s explore some of the common issues and how to address them.

Why are kettlebell swings so hard?

Kettlebell swings can be challenging due to the coordination, dynamic hip hinge movement pattern and strength required to control and perform the movement correctly. The challenge also lies in maintaining proper form throughout the swing, especially as fatigue sets in. Let’s break this down a bit:

  • Coordination: The kettlebell swing requires the engagement and coordination of multiple muscle groups and joints, demanding a high level of coordination to achieve the right timing and rhythm to propel the kettlebell forward. 
  • Dynamic Hip Hinge Movement Pattern: The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern in kettlebell swings, which involves bending at the hips while maintaining a flat back. Achieving this hip hinge position requires flexibility of the hamstrings, which can be challenging for many individuals. 
  • Strength Requirements: Kettlebell swings heavily engage the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. The strength is not only important for propelling the kettlebell forward with force but also for maintaining control as you transition through the dynamic change in direction.
  • Maintaining proper form: As fatigue sets in, maintaining proper form becomes increasingly difficult. Keeping the core engaged and maintaining a neutral spine spine is crucial to continuously stazlise the spine throughout the dynamic movement, even under fatigue.

Mastering the kettlebell swing requires a combination of skill development, strength, coordination and flexibility.

Labelled diagram on how to kettlebell swing

Should kettlebell swings feel easy?

Kettlebell swings should not necessarily feel easy, especially as they are intended to be a dynamic and challenging exercise. However, they should not feel impossible or cause pain. 

If kettlebell swings feel too easy, it may be a sign that you need to increase the weight or focus on improving your form to engage the correct muscles more effectively. On the other hand, if they feel too difficult, it may be beneficial to reduce the weight and focus on technique.

Why are kettlebell swings so tiring?

Kettlebell swings can particularly make you sore or tired if you are new to performing them, as you are loading your body in a slightly different way to your “normal” which can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the tired or achy feeling. This should reduce after completing kettlebell swings a few times and disappear after a couple of weeks. 

The eccentric (muscle lengthening) nature of the kettlebell swing as you load the hamstrings and glutes as you go into the hinging motion can also leave you feeling pretty sore (DOMS) or tired, especially if you have a change in volume. The utilization of these large muscle groups such as the glutes and hamstrings during the kettlebell has a relatively high energy cost, along with the high intensity nature that the swings are performed at, which can leave you feeling pretty tired. 

Lastly, if you perform the kettlebell swing incorrectly, muscles or tissues that shouldn’t be working will be compensating and plasing stress upon them. If you experience this, check out our tips on correcting common kettlebell mistakes

What should be sore after kettlebell swings?

After performing kettlebell swings, it’s normal to feel soreness in the muscles of the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Some soreness in the core and shoulders may also occur due to their role in stabilizing the body during the swing. However, if you experience sharp pain or discomfort, especially in the lower back, it may indicate improper form or using a weight that is too heavy.

Labelled diagram of the main muscles worked during the kettlebell swing

Why do kettlebell swings get heavy?

Kettlebell swings can feel heavier over a set due to muscle fatigue, especially during high-repetition sets or when using a weight that challenges your current strength level. As muscles tire, maintaining the explosive movement and proper form becomes more difficult, making the kettlebell feel heavier. To manage this, ensure you are using an appropriate weight and focus on building endurance and strength gradually.

The weight of the kettlebell may get relatively heavier over the course of a training programme, employing a strategy known as progressive overload. This intentional and gradually progressive increase in weight is designed to provide a continual stimulus promoting strength and power improvements over time. 

Are kettlebell swings risky?

Kettlebell swings can be risky if performed with improper form or if the kettlebell used is too heavy for your current fitness level. Common risks include lower back strain, shoulder injuries, and muscle strains. To minimize these risks, focus on mastering the hip hinge movement, maintaining a neutral spine, and engaging the core throughout the exercise. It’s also important to choose a kettlebell weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form.

Summary

Kettlebell swings are a powerful exercise when performed correctly, but they require attention to form and an understanding of your own capabilities. Starting with a manageable weight and focusing on technique can help mitigate the challenges and risks associated with kettlebell swings, allowing you to safely enjoy their benefits.

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.