Last week, I posted a video on Endeavor’s Instagram of an exercise we call the Kettlebell Hike.

Kettlebell Hike

This isn’t an exercise we do with everyone, but it serves two primary purposes:

  1. It helps groove the “back” position of a kettlebell swing
  2. It can be used to teach low position endurance in a body position specific to baseball/softball players

Coaching Technique

After posting the video, I got this question: “Kettlebell swings are mainly hip flexion extension, with the glenohumeral musculature acting as synergist right? So how would this help the swing movement?…. just curious not nitpicking #learning”

It’s a good one.

The name “swing” is a bit of a misnomer, as the arms aren’t really doing much except transferring force from a strong hip drive to the bell on the way up, and shutting down momentum around chin height to throw the bell back between the legs on the way down.

The KB Hike will NOT teach the hip drive or upper/lower body sequencing necessary to perform a swing properly. Coaching up the actual swing will do that.

However, the 4 biggest flaws I see when people are first learning to swing are:

  1. Performing more of a “squatting” motion than a “hip hinge” motion. In other words, they drop their hips down as the bell lowers, not down and back, as in a deadlift position.
  2. Swinging the bell too low, which drives more of a squatting motion, and/or an upper body collapse. Neither of these are desirable.
  3. Breaking at the hips too early on the way down. One of the biggest benefits of the swing is the “plyometric” action of quickly loading and reversing energy from your posterior chain (think hamstrings and glutes). If you bend too early at the tips, you lose a lot of this, as you’re essentially sitting in the back waiting for the bell to catch up.
  4. A lackluster “thrust” of the hips coming out of the back.

The last two points are essential to an effective swing, but they’re also pretty easy to teach. To address #3, I just tell people it’s a game of chicken between the bell and their hips. “Stay tall for as long as possible then think load and get out quick.” #4 is just about putting more gas on the fire.

Kevin Neeld Kettlebell Swing

The first two points, however, can be harder to address because the “back” position is a little less familiar or comfortable for most people, and effectively swinging the bell back to the right place requires the ability to get into the right “end” position.

Enter the Kettlebell Hike.

It’s a simple exercise that allows people to get into the proper starting position, and get a lot of reps holding the “back” position of a swing.

If the purpose is to use this as a “corrective” exercise for the KB Swing, you may not have to spend much time here. Sometimes we’ll program a swing, come back to the KB Hike for a set, and then once the athlete feels comfortable with that position, we’ll immediately transition them back into a swing.

If they default back to swinging the bell too low, we’ll tell them to “throw it back above their knees” which is usually a quick fix.

Wrap Up

The KB Hike can be a great tool for teaching the starting and back position for a KB Swing and other hip hinging exercises. With any exercise, you can sometimes learn optimal technique faster by dissecting out the hardest part of the range of motion and focusing more on that.

If you have any questions about this exercise or concept, post them in the comments section below.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University