Fix Your Kettlebell Single Arm Swing

I just got back from the San Jose Level One RKC where I was an assistant instructor for the first time. My team performed well and we all learned a ton about Hardstyle kettlebell lifting.

Having observed numerous candidates perform kettlebell movements not only this past weekend but in my own gym, I realized that I should add to my Fix your Kettlelbell…series. In this installment I focus specifically on the single arm swing and how to make it strong and smooth.
Dragondoor San Jose RKC Group 2-2013

First Thing’s First

If you are just beginning to start kettlebell swings I would suggest learning how to perform 2-arm swings safely and effectively before attempting too many 1-arm swings. This progression will make kettlebell swing advancement much easier and seamless. Check out my Fix you Kettlebell Swing video to learn more about proper swing technique.

After you have become comfortable with the 2-arm swing, which involves demonstrating proper technique with consistent repetitions, it is time to start incorporating more 1-arm swings.

Main Principle to Keep in Mind

When starting out with the incorporation of 1-Arm swings the most important principle to keep in mind is that your 1-arm swings should look, feel and be performed just like your 2-arm swings. Too many times I have seen people transition from 2-arm swings with great technique to single-arm swings where they look like they are contorting their bodies in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Retracted shoulders, even hips, strong glute snap and breathing are all the key swing principles that should be utilized in the all the swings you perform. I assume in this article that you have a technically sound 2-arm swing and just need to add a few tips to make your 1-arm swing just as good.

Also it is OK to go with a lighter kettlebell when transitioning from 2-arm swings to 1-arm swings. This will help solve several technical problems you might encounter in the beginning. I know brilliant concept right?

Get Both Sides Involved

One of the most common problems when transiting to 1-arm swings is body position. With proper technique you see nice square and packed shoulders when the two hands are on the kettlebell. However, when first transitioning to 1-arm swings, it’s common to see a more T-ed-off position where the kettlebell side is much more forward.

Typically people are so focused on the kettlebell side they lock down their opposite side and it does not move freely like the swinging side and you get one shoulder more forward than the other. In order to fix this incorrect body position, you have to involve your non-weighted side.

To involve the other side, pretend you have a kettlebell in your free hand. Have a good backswing with the free arm and involve it with the hip snap on the upswing as well.

Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

Don’t Slow the Kettlebell Down

What happens when we grab a heavy weight in one hand and it begins to fall? Our brain tends to tell us to tighten up our body and slow the object down to give us enough time to get out of the way to avoid getting pegged by the falling object.

When learning the 1-arm swing you have to initially override this message from the brain. As mentioned earlier, use a lighter weight to make this process easier. If you do too many reps slowing the kettlebell down not only will you not be able to perform the swings properly you will take much of the load with your lower back and we all know what can happen then.

Use a lighter kettlebell and learn to let it free-fall into the backswing under control and guide it into the back swing. You want to have a big backswing to stretch the posterior chain muscles to get a better elastic effect to make you next swing powerful.

Incorporation of the 1-Arm Swing

One of the most effective ways I have found to transition to a successful 1-Arm swing is performing the 2:1:1 swing. For this swing you want to start by performing 2-Arm swings and then transition to the 1-arm swing with the intention of making the 1-arm swing technically similar to the 2-arm swing.

The 2:1:1 swing also allows you to transition to that heavier kettlebell without the need to perform several 1-arm reps in a row where the technique can be compromised.

I have made a video below highlighting what I have talked about in the article above. Check it out and make those 1-arm swings strong.