Twelve Common Kettlebell swing mistake

Twelve Common Kettlebell Swing Mistakes

Over the course of my career as a kettlebell instructor, I have seen all the mistakes possible that can occur in the kettlebell Swing. I have learned the best ways to fix these mistakes from my teacher Jon Engum. Here are twelve of the most common kettlebell swing mistakes.

There are three categories of mistakes: the beginning, the middle and the end. Let’s look at each category and the mistakes that can occur within each one.

The Beginning

Rushing the Set-up

Too often people approach the kettlebell with haste and rush to start the swing making their first few reps look terrible. The set-up is probably the most important step of the Swing because it sets you up for the first perfect rep.

If the set-up is off, then most likely the first rep will be also. The idea is to have the first rep look the best!

The Fix

Set-up perfectly. Stand about a foot or so away from the kettlebell. Hinge with a neutral back and a proud chest like you are about to do a deadlift. Now without loosing your back position and keeping your shoulder packed down (lats should be tight), straighten out your arms in front of you.

If you are close enough, you should be able to grab the kettlebell by the handle and tilt it down towards you. If not, come closer. If you are too close, back up a bit until your arms are stretched out. Shoulders should be slightly higher than hips and hips should be higher than your knees. Memorize this position. Now slightly look up, you are ready to swing!

The Hike Pass is Not Aggressive Enough

The Hike Pass is also quite crucial. Some people are way too “gentle” with the kettlebell and just “push” it back to start the swing. Don’t worry, the kettlebell does’t have feelings, and won’t mind being man-handled.

The Fix

While maintaining a neutral back, brace your abs and actively throw the kettlebell REALLY hard behind you using your lats. Throw it back like you are hike passing a football. You should be aggressive. Remember, it is the force you create that will enable you to accelerate the bell into orbit. Don’t hold back!

The Middle

The Top Isn’t a Plank

This is another major issue. Your butt, head and knees should not stick out at the top of the Swing. Do not let yourself become”disconnected” parts, rather, “link” your entire body into one piece. You must achieve the “lockout” position and become as straight as a board.

The Fix

The Hardstyle Plank: set up in a plank position and focus on contracting both abs and glutes simultaneously. Pull up your kneecaps and contract your quads. Drive your shoulders away from you ears to engage your lats and make white knuckle fists. Connect all body parts into one piece. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Now apply what you’ve learned to the Swing.

Trying to Elevate the Kettlebell Up

Some people swing the kettlebell too high. There are actually no more benefits to bringing it higher than chest level. In fact, the higher it goes, to more the shoulders risk to shrug and get disconnected. The swing is an exercise an forward projection.

The Fix

Twelve Common Kettlebell swing mistakes

Project the kettlebell forward like you are throwing a baseball or a straight punch. “Stop” the bell from going higher using your lats.

twelve of the most common kettlebell swing mistakesTiming is Off

This is the most common issue I see people have.

The problem lies in their fear of the kettlebell. On the way down, they break at hips too soon because they are afraid of being hit by the kettlebell. The bell pulls them down rather than back, resulting in what looks like a squat rather than a hip hinge.

The Fix

Play “chicken” with the kettlebell. In the downswing, wait until the very last moment before guiding the bell back between your legs. Wait until it almost hits you in the groin or “attack your zipper”! Ninja trick: Imagine “buttons” on the side of your hips. When you “push” the bottoms with your arms, that’s your cue to hinge back.

Using the Arms to Lift

Another common mistake I see people do at the gym is lifting the kettlebell with their arms. During the Swing the arms should stay passive and act as just “hooks” to the kettlebell.

The Fix

Use your hips. Keep your arm loose, and use the power in your hips to “throw” the kettlebell forward transferring the projection through your arms, while making it float in the air momentarily. Ninja trick: the Towel Swing. Use a towel to swing the kettlebell. Keep a straight line between your arms, the towel and the kettlebell.

Too Slow

People that do Swings too slow, have not understood what this exercise is about: POWER! They also tend to gravitate around lighter kettlebells, which prolongs their perpetual state of weakness.

The Fix

Be aggressive. Snap the hips and stand up straight to attention aggressively. “Chop” and “pop” up like you are trying to jump through your heels. “Plank” your body at the top of the swing: abs and glutes must visibly contract at the top and kneecaps must be pulled up.

Think about delivering a knockout punch every rep. Ninja trick: visualize a dart gun shooting a dart directly on your glutes! Stings!! Jump up as you get shot!

The Chicken Neck

Some protrude their necks forward at the top of each swing, which ends up looking like a chicken, hence, the chicken neck. Try avoids this as you can eventually tweak your “fuse box”.

The Fix

The “Back-to-the-Wall” Plank. Put your back against the wall and “get-tall”. Really try to get as tall as possible. Plank by contracting all your muscles from the neck down. Please refer to the Plank video above.


Scooping is when someone pushes their knees forward first, rather than driving the hips forward to stand up. It ends up looking like a weird dance.

The Fix

Elevate your toes on a 2″x 4″ board and do a Deadlift. This will force you to push through your heels and lead with the hips rather than the knees.

Disconnected Lats Syndrome

I will often see people let their shoulders be pulled out of their sockets (shrug up) during the upwards phase of the Swing. This puts the shoulders at risk of impingement since the bell is constantly pulling you forward.

The Fix

Anti-Shrug. Pack the shoulders down using the lats during the Swing and keep them locked in place. Ninja trick: Imagine squeezing a lemon inside your armpit to make lemonade. Do not allow the kettlebell to go higher than chest level. You will feel stronger and more in control.

The End

Stopping Too Short

In the downswing portion, I see people not reaching far back enough with their kettlebell, failing to fully load their hamstrings. Using an analogy, this would be the equivalent to pulling the string of a long-bow back only half-way; the arrow won’t go as far.

The Fix

Hinge deeper. Hinge deep with a “proud” chest, push your butt way back and reach for a target with your kettlebell. Imagine hitting the target like a pinball, and snap back up in a Plank. Ninja trick: think also “riding” a broomstick” like a witch at the bottom position.

Mindlessly Dropping the Kettlebell

I have seen people in a gym mindlessly dropping kettlebells thinking their set was over. Their backs rounded, their abs became soft non-existant, and the shoulders became disconnected, making the person flop like a dead fish and increasing their risk of injury x 10. Don’t let me catch you doing that!!!

The Fix

Safely set the kettlebell down as if you were about to complete another rep. Keep a neutral back and “proud chest”. Mentally “stay” with the kettlebell until it is safely parked on the ground. Ninja trick: Practice the “Dead-Stop Swing”. These are kettlebell swings done only one rep at a time. It will teach you the “take off” and landing.

Before You Swing

Safety First:

  • Get a medical clearance before using kettlebells.
  • Make sure there is nothing or no one in front or behind you as you swing a kettlebell. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Avoid flexing your back AT ALL COST during and after swings.
  • Keep moving after a hard set of swings until your heart rate settles down.
  • Train barefoot or use shoes with a flat sole.
  • Focus on quality and not quantity.


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