Regressing the Swing

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Boris Bojanovic

The kettlebell swing is the archetypal kettlebell exercise. Nearly every other kettlebell exercise builds on the principle of the swing. When you boil it right down the swing is about generating force against the ground & transferring it to the kettlebell. What that means is using hip drive of the glutes & hamstrings to move the kettlebell. For all of the hip drive to be transferred effectively we need a stiff spine. So, put simply, the kettlebell swing is about moving the hips while lower back stays locked in position.

Once the client has mastered the swing we can progress them to single-arm swings, then cleans, then snatches. Each one getting more & more complicated as it gets tougher to keep a neutral spine.

We have PROgressions to the swing for when the client masters them. Why not have REgressions from the swing for when someone is having trouble getting the right movement?

If a client has trouble with keeping a neutral spine on a swing the risk of lower back injury increases. To decrease that risk & prepare the client for the swing we can take them one step back & train the Romanian deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift is a slow motion version of the swing which teaches hinging at the hip while keeping the spine neutral. After working on the deadlift for a while they should be ready to get back to swinging. But what if they have trouble with hinging at the hips in a Romanian deadlift? Next step down is a kneeling deadlift.

In a kneeling deadlift you take the knee joint out of the equation & allow the hips to move by themselves. That might be enough to bring up their glute strength & progress them back up to a deadlift. If the kneeling deadlift is problematic the next regression down is the glute bridge.

The glute bridge simplifies things even further by decreasing the load on the hips by taking the weight of the torso out of the equation.

What if the client has plenty of strength in their hips to do glut bridges but still can’t keep their back straight? Sometimes the issue isn’t strength but just that they don’t know how to move the hips independent of the spine. Enter the kneeling rock-back. This exercise teaches the client to keep their spine neutral while the hips move into flexion & extension. It’s a low level core exercise which may be useful in this hip hinge regression series.

So, there you have it. A full spectrum of hip hinge exercises from the most basic to advanced. Where does each of your clients fit on that spectrum? When you find out you can more effectively advance them while keeping injury risk down.

Kneeling rock-back
Glute bridge
Kneeling deadlift
Romanian deadlift
Swing
Single-arm swing
Clean
Snatch

Try these out & let us know how they work for your clients.

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