Kettlebell Swing: How to Cue the Hinge and Never Perform a Squat Swing Again

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There’s just some things in life you don’t do.

1. You don’t punch kittens in the face1. That’s just common sense (and really cruel).

2. Guys: you don’t not pay for the first date. And ladies: the fake purse grab at the end of dinner makes us guys feel good, and we appreciate the sentiment; but at some point, say between dates #3-71, you don’t need to continue the charade.

At some point you should eventually actually pay for something.

3. You don’t hang out at Chuck-E-Cheese when you’re an adult. That’s Creepy McCreepypants territory.

4. You don’t wear white socks with dress pants2.

5. And, for the love of all that’s holy, you don’t squat the kettlebell swing.

I’d argue it’s the most common mistake that many people make with their swing technique. For starters, it’s wrong. I don’t care who you are or who you were coached by, even if it was Captain America, squatting the KB swing is not correct. It just isn’t.

How’s that for a scientific explanation?

Second, and more importantly, “squatting” the swing (to the point where the KB drops below the knees) increases the lever arm and places much more stress on the lower back. Often, whenever someone complains that KB swings bothers their back the culprit is one of two things: 1) not engaging their glutes enough and 2) not incorporating a hip hinge.

Today I wanted to share a simple tactile cue I learned from Dr. Mark Cheng (Senior Instructor for StrongFirst) you can use to help groove more of a hip hinge/hip snap pattern when swinging. Basically you need to stay upright A LOT longer than you think (and much longer than most are comfortable with) before you break the hips and hinge back.


ADDENDUM: I’ve noticed a few comments on various social media outlets where people have noted there ARE viable reasons to perform a squat swing and that it does have its place. I guess agree. Sorta.

There’s a time and place for everything I suppose. But even for those who DO perform a squat swing, there’s still a significant hip hinge involved.  Yeah, yeah, there’s “research” to back up a squat swing and how it can improve “x” factor; but then again, there was research back in the day that said smoking wasn’t carcinogenic.

The eye sores that I see a lot people performing (where it’s entirely a squat) is wrong. You’d have a hard time convincing me there’s a legitimate rationale to do swings that way.

Nevertheless, I guess I should have re-worded things to say this: My main beef are for those people learning the swing in the first place. The hip hinge is such an integral movement which reduces the learning curve when introducing new movements drastically.

Maybe a better way to articulate my thoughts would be this: learn the hip hinge swing first, get really good at it, and THEN you can play around with the squat swing, if that’s what floats your boat. Weeeeeeeeeeeee.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. or any animal for that matter

  2. Come on man! What is this, amateur hour?

  • kongo

    Nice cue! Thanks Tony!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Glad you liked it. But you should thank Dr. Mark Cheng…;o)

  • Super helpful! I really like the two points and that will definitely help with my cuing, thank you. Love using the near kick in the babymakers to bring out the instinctual hip hinge- works every time!!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yeah, I got a big laugh out of that one when Dr. Cheng brought it up.

  • Wow Tony, I am completely over the moon with this new cue!!! It’s brilliant! Thanks! Will definitely incorporate this next time I teach the swing! You rock! Great tutorial!

    • TonyGentilcore

      You’re welcome. Glad you liked it and that it made sense.

  • I use similar cues, especially the comical one with the lads, always gets a laugh while getting what I want… Happy days!

    • TonyGentilcore

      I can’t tell you how much I laughed when Dr. Cheng used that cue. So on point!

  • Kip

    For what purpose would you use a squat swing and how would you program it?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Actually, I lied…….kinda. I can’t really think of many incidences where I’d go out of my way as a coach to perform a squat swing.

      I understand that there’s “research” to back it up; but then again there used to be research that backed up that smoking wasn’t carcinogenic.

      I guess one could make the case that you could perform more of a hybrid squat-hinge swing, but I still feel it would be most important to coach people how to hinge first and do it right. THEN, maybe, play around with another shenanigans down the road.

  • Nancy

    I think I’ll use the “kicked in the nards” cue when working w/the fellas. 😉

    • TonyGentilcore

      If you do, make a video. It would be hilarious to see their reactions.

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  • Skip Schirmer

    great video on the kettlebell swing. will try it this way.

  • Gareth Ellis

    I’ve been trying this cue (in my head) and it’s been great – can definitely feel a difference and stronger hinge. Have you ever tried band-resisted swings? I tried these for the first time this weekend and the pull of the band helps reinforces the “hike-and-hinge” even further – plus it forces you to be more explosive on the hip snap. Good stuff!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yep, I’ve played around with band resisted swings. I feel it’s more of an advanced movement, so I don’t implement it into too many programs. Most people suck with regular swings……;o)

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  • ClaraS

    Just reread this one – awesome! 🙂

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well thanks Clara!

  • Jon

    It’s really crazy because the PT cert that I obtained had them squatting the KB swing. Kinda lost some credibility with me after I saw it.