CAUTION: The guidance in this article and accompanying video are not meant to replace real-life, in-person training with a certified kettlebell coach. Improper technique can cause injury in any form of movement, so use caution!
If you have any doubt about your technique, find a certified kettlebell coach!
The pendulum swing, with its slow & steady pace, is the marathoner of kettlebell swings. It might also be the CrossFitter of swings since it’s one of the most efficient when lifting massive weight. It’s a swing technique commonly used in the clean and snatch movements in kettlebell sport.
Here’s how to do it:
I’m using a portable kettlebell weighing about about 8 kg (17.6 lbs.). If you need 2 hands to pick up your bell, this is NOT the correct starting position… grab a lighter bell to practice this technique. Any kettlebell will work.
Anyway, grip the handle in the fingers (as opposed to the palm of the hand) and stand up tall with feet no more than shoulder width apart. Be sure to have contact between the swinging arm and your body. This contact will be where energy is transferred through the rest of the swing. Protect your back by engaging your glutes and abs.
Note: My arm is comfortable in the position you see in the photo, however, some people find this irritates the elbow. If you notice this in your practice, try rotating your forearm toward your mid-line. The forearm rotation shouldn’t affect the contact you have between your body and upper arm.
Initiate the backswing by bending at the knee and hip, engaging the lats and triceps to maintain contact between the upper arm and body.
Finish the backswing by extending the knees. This allows the bell to travel as far as possible in the pendulum arc. The entire length of the bell arm should be in contact with your body at this point in the swing. Allow the other arm to swing back with the bell.
After the first rep, physics will take care of a lot of the backswing.
As the bell reaches the bottom of the arc, begin to extend the knees and hips, standing tall as the bell moves to the top of the swing. As always, keep your upper arm close to the body. The bell shouldn’t swing any higher than chest level with this technique.
There are several different hand switch techniques. In this demonstration, I’m switching in front, at the top of the swing. You should feel an almost “zen” moment at the top of the swing when the bell seems to float. It’s at this moment, just before gravity kicks in, when you switch from one hand to the other.
Now that you’ve begun the swing, gravity will do most of the work in the backswing.. all you have to do is position your body properly and go along for the ride!