Optimizing The Kettlebell Swing Part 6: Timing Is Everything
Welcome back to Part 6 of our 10-Part series on Optimizing The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing!
Last week we took flight and practiced creating and maintaining a tight lockout at the top of your swing.
In that post we shared how bringing back the Static Stomp Deadlift can help you learn and master the Hardstyle Lockout and apply it to your Kettlebell Swing.
We also introduce the Dead-Stop Swing - also known as the Power Swing - as an exercise you can use to help practice the mechanics of the swing one swing at a time.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Kettlebell Swing is a little FASTER than your comfortable with.
The quickness at the bottom of your swing and the tightness at the top of your swing are where people tend to have the most difficulties.
To get the most out of your swing and reduce the risk of injury, timing is everything.
Once you’re off and swinging you’ll need to find a rhythm to make it easier for you to learn and master the Kettlebell Swing.
Timing and patience is a big part of that process and that’s exactly where we pick up today...
By the end of today’s post you’ll have a couple more tools you can use to help you learn, train, and master the Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing as well as some helpful cues you can use to fine tune along the way.
Taming The Arc
When you dedicate yourself to mastering the art of the kettlebell - and specifically the Kettlebell Swing - you’ll learn early and often that the bell has one goal; to make it back to the earth as quickly as possible.
Don’t ever try to fight with a kettlebell… no matter how strong you might be the bell will always win.
Once you’ve hiked the bell back between your legs and created force into the floor, you’ve initiated momentum and a path that the bell now wants to travel.
If you were to let go of the handle of the bell the bell would fly forwards out of your hands.
“Taming that arc” is what will help build the postural stabilizers of the upper back and shoulders as well as strengthen your core to a high degree.
To tame the arc you’ll need the proper timing in your swing.
Break your lockout too soon and the bell will be cast out in front of you, increasing the amount of force on your low back and flattening the arc of your swing.
However learn the proper timing of the swing and you “tame the arc” taking force away from your low back and instead placing it in your hips; exactly where you want it for safe strength and power development.
Don’t be afraid to use a lighter bell when practicing your timing.
In fact you might find the lighter bell gives you the ability to be FASTER at the bottom of your swing and TIGHTER at the top of your swing.
The number 1 skill you need to have in taming the arc of your swing is patience…
Patience Is A Virtue
Rewind for a minute back to last week when you practiced the Dead-Stop Swing and Static Stomp Deadlift…
You practiced those two exercises to help you transfer the familiar Hardstyle Lockout you learned in the Static Stomp Deadlift to the top of your Kettlebell Swing.
Here is where patience comes into play…
Once you’ve hiked the bell back, driven force into the floor, and initiated the swing, in order to tame the arc of your swing you’ll need to be patient and maintain your lockout until the bell comes back down to you.
There are a couple of cues you can use to help practice this patience…
*Play Chicken With The Bell But Make Sure You Win
As your holding your lockout you’ll want to let the bell “float” at the top of your swing.
Don’t break your lockout and instead remain tall through your stance and maintain the tension in your legs, glutes, and shoulders.
Hold this tension until the bell comes back down to you.
Here’s where you can play the “chicken” game…
Wait until the bell is about to make contact with your legs and only THEN will you hinge back into your swing.
Now, practice being quick at the bottom, drive into the floor and hold your lockout for another swing.
Obviously the key here is to play chicken but make sure you always win…
You’ll only need to lose once before you realize you don’t want to make that mistake again.
*Velcro Between Your Upper Ribs & Inner Arm
Cuing is all about relativity; a cue might work for me, but not make sense to you at all. Similarly a cue that works for you, might not work for someone else…
The key is to find the cue that works for you.
One we commonly use it to imagine you have velcro attached to your inner arms and upper ribs.
When you hike the bell back your arms and ribs become locked with the velcro.
As you drive force into the floor and the bell begins to fly out from between your legs the velcro breaks and your arms travel upwards.
Here is where the timing of your swing and taming the arc comes into play.
Now maintain your lockout until the velcro between your inner arms and upper ribs come in contact with one another again.
Once they do, this is your signal to hinge back into your swing, be quick at the bottom, and drive into the floor for another rep.
Personally the velcro cue has always resonated well with me, but again what matters most is you practice the cue that works best for you.
Practicing With The Air Swing
Don’t have a kettlebell at home?
In fact a great exercise to practice the timing of your swing is one called the Air Swing.
Pick a cue from above and set up as if you’re about to do a set of swings.
Go through the motions of setting your hinge, reaching for the bell, and hiking the bell (in this case your arms) back between your legs.
Once your arms are back between your legs drive your feet into the floor and practice maintaining your lockout until your arms come back down.
Inevitably you’ll break your lockout early and make it all one motion.
When practicing the Air Swing try your best to let your arms be dead.
Let the power of your legs drive your arms up into what feels like a “floating” feeling.
Then maintain your lockout until the arms come back down towards your body.
Again this would be your cue to hinge back and reload for another swing.
What’s great about the Air Swing is it allows you to practice the timing of your swing without the risk of injuring yourself if you happen to do it poorly.
Another great aspect of the Air Swing is that you CAN do it slowly - whereas a Kettlebell Swing you can’t.
So break it down piece-by-piece if you have to.
Control your arms through the hike, into the swing, and back down until you break your lockout and hinge back for another rep.
Similar to last week, you can sandwich a set of 10 Air Swings in between sets of Kettlebell Swings.
Use it to help practice the timing of your swing.
Again, go light with the weight here but not too light that you can’t get a sense of the bell floating and traveling back between your legs.
You can also use a drill called “Climbing The Ladder” to help learn the timing of the swing.
Once you’ve got the hang of the swing, it’s easy to see the bell go higher and higher; sometimes even going over your head.
Not only is this not ideal, this is often times where injury can occur.
Low swings are great for developing the timing of the swing.
And that’s for one reason; you don’t have to wait long for the bell to come back to you.
This allows you to hinge back and forth and find a great rhythm in your swing without having to worry much about being patient and maintaining your lockout until the bell comes back down towards you.
To practice the timing of your swing and taming the arc, start your swing by deadlifing the bell off the ground.
Once your up with the bell, hinge back with the bell between your legs and drive force into the floor so that the bell swings forward.
Do this lightly at first and create progressively more force into the floor with each rep.
You should see the bell begin to climb higher and higher with each swing you do.
This is also a great drill we use to help members understand that the arms are merely a lever in the swing.
There’s no active arm movement in the swing, rather your lower body is what DRIVES the bell out of your hinge and into the floating position at the top of your swing.
Again, keep the bell low by practicing climbing a ladder with the Low Swing; don’t let the bell go higher than your belly button.
Like a golf swing, the timing of your Kettlebell Swing is where you’ll constantly tinker moving forward on the path to mastery.
Being quick at the bottom and tight at the top is simple in theory, but as you’ll see it’s not so easy in practice.
Use the Air Swing and Low Swing to help you master the timing of your swing and practice the cues of either “playing chicken with the bell” or “strips of velcro attached to your inner arms and upper ribs.”
Go light and don’t be afraid to bring back the familiar favorites of the Static Stomp Deadlift and Dead-Stop Swing to help remind you of the tension you’re aiming to create and maintain at the top of your swing.
Whatever you do to practice your swing the most important aspect is simply showing up.
Consistency is the key to learning, training, and mastering the Hardstyle Swing.
You now have drills you can practice both with bells and without, therefore you’ve got no excuse to not be practicing the timing of your swing…
Time to get to work Hero!
What To Look For Next Week
Next week we get into Part 7: The Power Of Your Breath.
In the world of kettlebell training you use your breath in a variety of ways, sometimes to relax the body and other times to maximize tension throughout the body.
Learning how to use your breath to maximize tension is a skill that must be practiced early and often to reap its benefits.
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