Strength coach Dan John is one of the most highly respected names in the fitness field. He has created some iconic kettlebell workouts, including the "Humane Burpee" kettlebell routine and the 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge.
Given how much swinging John has included in his programming, you'd be hard pressed to find a better expert on the movement. So when he talks about the intricacies of the exercises component parts, you'd best listen up. There's one part of the kettlebell swing that he finds most people have a hard time nailing: the hip hinge.
"If I was to try to find the hardest thing to teach in the kettlebell swing, and really in almost anything we do in the weight room, is teaching people to hinge not fold," says John. "I've shown this before, with the hinge it's maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend."
One of the ways he teaches people to keep this in check is by using plates or a 2x4 plank of wood for foot placement.
"So when you push your hips back, it takes the shank out of the lower leg," says John. The fix comes in two parts. The first uses that platform. "Toes elevated, push your butt back. Boom. I can feel my hamstrings and I can feel that bow and arrow we're looking for."
The second uses a mini band or glute loop wrapped around the legs just above the knees.
"Why do I like a glute loop better? I don't get my hair ripped off when I use this one," says John. "I'm going to bring the glute loop just above my knees. What this is going to make me do is push my knees apart."
Once he steps back on the plates, it's taken his "ankle mobility out completely," allowing him to push his butt back and knees out at the same time.
Finally, he grabs a load (he uses a 20kg kettlebell) to demonstrate what he calls "the magic drill." He places the bottom of the weight on his ab wall, which he says will make them contract, and steps on the plates to elevate his toes and pushes his knees apart. Then, he follows two simple cues: push your butt back, and snap up. As John demonstrates, you can easily feel when you're starting to fold while you're in this setup, so use it to stay cognizant of your position.
Run through this drill to hammer the proper movement pattern home. Once you're feeling comfortable with a hip hinge, move on to the full version of the swing exercise to build explosive power and strength in your posterior chain.
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