Most will tell you to swing a kettlebell to chest height and anything less is a bad kettlebell swing. You might have gone along with it just because, but now is the time to ask yourself…
Do you swing a kettlebell to go to chest height OR to work your gluteals and other hip extensors? Do you swing a kettlebell to get to chest height OR to get a cardio workout? And most importantly, if you don’t get to THAT height, do you then not work the intended muscles anymore, do you then not get a workout?
So, to what height should you swing your kettlebell?
The answer. With most kettlebell swings you certainly want to get to chest level with your swing. This is for several reasons:
- You know you’re coming into full extension
- You’re getting the full range
- It’s easy to judge a rep
- A measurement to judge the right weight
But, this does not mean that anything but chest height is no good or a bad rep. With beginner kettlebells, a swing not coming to chest height is usually the sign of a kettlebell being too heavy. This is a great indication to use here, but it should stop there. Once you go past the beginners level you might swing for other goals or you might swing extremely heavy.
When you get to a certain amount of weight it simply won’t go chest level, I’m talking half or more of your bodyweight kind of heavy. And that height (or lack of) won’t take away from the fact you’re still swinging a kettlebell and working the intended muscles.
When you try a different style or pace you might intentionally not go to chest height and just go with the flow, like the pendulum swing in kettlebell sport for example.
A kettlebell swing that’s not coming to chest height is bad if:
- the weight is too heavy
- the technique is incorrect
- there is no full extension
- the shoulders are slouching
- the swing in question asks for chest height
As a general rule:
- Conventional two-arm kettlebell swings come to chest height
- American swings come to overhead
- Kettlebell sport swings come from anywhere at groin level to chest height
Kettlebell sport swings are also performed with one arm rather than two, however, the fluid movement that’s employed in sport can easily be taken and used outside of the sport.
In short, if the technique is good, if the goals are met, then whatever height the person is swinging too is good.
The kettlebell swing is an assistance exercise for cleans and snatches. Is it really?
NO, the conventional double arm kettlebell swing is really not the perfect assistance exercise for the clean or snatch. Yes, part of the pattern where the kettlebell is going between the legs and coming back out is, but then the kettlebell comes up and away, which is the complete opposite of what you want from a clean or snatch. You want the kettlebell up and close to you. So, if you’re training to improve the swing for the clean or snatch, then you want to train with one arm and employ a different trajectory than the conventional chest height swing.
Full extension equals ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders in line when looking side on.