If you read my book or completed the Cavemantraining online kettlebell course, you will have noticed that I recommend to keep the arms straight/extended during the kettlebell swing. This is because that book and course is aimed at beginners.
Once you pass the stage of a kettlebell novice, it’s time to look at whether you should be swinging with flexed or extended arms, and more importantly why and how it affects your training!?
Whether the arms should be in a flexed or extended state, all depends on the trajectory of the kettlebell, is the weight going outward and upward, or is the weight going more upward than outward?
Trajectory Forward / Outward
Muscles Challenged (think training)
During swinging you can dictate the trajectory and change the muscles challenged, for example, if the trajectory of the weight will pull you forward, the posterior chain gets more resistance, your erector spinea, glutes, rhomboids, middle traps etc. will need to work harder to resist the pulling force. You can change the trajectory to go more upward, allowing you to focus more on explosiveness rather than control of the weight.
Change the trajectory of the back swing with an insert, and you get more pull on the upper traps. This technique is one I recommend, and use to prevent bobbing of the kettlebell.
During high or heavy reps you never want the trajectory of the kettlebell going outward with flexed arms/bent elbows, and constant tension on the muscles/tendons. Hence, for beginners I recommend to keep them straight, to allow focus on more important things, like glute and hamstring activation.
As a golden rule, remember that if the trajectory of the bell is directly away from the shoulders, the arms should be straight. This is always the case on the down phase of the swing, and can be on the up-phase depending on it’s trajectory.
As with anything, what you end up doing also depends on the built of your body and personal preference. Double arm swings might require slightly flexed elbows for someone who has a really wide torso.
The trajectory of the kettlebell is consistent with the following exercises which are based upon the swing; snatch, always upward; clean, always upward; never outward to full arm extension with either of these two. Thus the swing is really the only exercise where you can drastically change the trajectory to suit the goals of your training.
I hope some of the analysis in this article will help you in your training, and start being more open minded. Share and like.