Overhead Kettlebell Swing: No Good?

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This morning one of my friends said he saw a youtube video where everyone was swinging the kettlebell overhead.  “Why are they doing that?” he asked.

Well, probably because someone taught them that way was best.

But there are some big problems with the overhead kettlebell swing.

Check out this pic:

There are four main problems with the overhead swing:

  1. You shoulders will come up out of their sockets
  2. Your head will “peck” forward
  3. You won’t fully engage your hips
  4. You will throw all the stress onto your low back

Compare the picture above with this one of correct and healthy swing form:

  • Tight (“packed”) shoulders
  • Neutral spine all the way through the neck
  • Glutes engaged

It is a much much better option to swing chest high rather than overhead.

Additionally, many overhead swingers squat too deep to start the motion to try and create more momentum to get the kettlebell overhead:

Squatting down to start your swing creates “drag” on your spine.  You want to “hike” the kettlebell back tight to your body and have just a slight knee bend:

Look at his flat back when he  is on the bottom of the swing.  Hamstrings and glutes are loaded and ready to snap the ‘bell back up.

If you want to see what NOT to do at the bottom of a swing, get a Jillian Michaels DVD.  You don’t have to be a chiropractor to know something is wonky if you exercise like this:

Leaning way back to help snap the kettlebell overhead is another common mistake.  In the sequence a few pictures up, the lifter is leaning back while the kettlebell is in front of her face.

This really compresses your spine, especially when moving quickly with a weight.

(If you look closely, he’s also on his toes.  No bueno!)

How do lifters using the overhead swing justify the movement?  Simple, they say going to overhead is “full range.”

B.S.!  The swing is about taking your hips from flexed to neutral.  That’s it!

If you try and turn a phenomenal butt, hip, and hamstring exercise into a sloppy squat, low back, and shoulder exercise, you’re going to get hurt.

Bottom line: Stay away from overhead kettlebell swings!


One Response to “Overhead Kettlebell Swing: No Good?”

  1. Michele Says:

    Thanks for specifically pointin out the multiple reasons why swinging the bell beyond shoulder level is no good. I knew it could not be, did not have these details to explain to my crossfit friend who was “trained” otherwise.