Trainer Assures Client KB Swing Is ‘All in the Knees’

Personal Trainer Chip Chalmers of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, recently put the lie to the idea that the kettlebell swing is driven by the hips and involves limited amounts of knee flexion.

“Hinging at the hips is incredibly dangerous,” Chalmers said. “It’s like walking on railroad tracks wearing headphones. Sooner or later, something very bad will happen.”

Chalmers was forced to once again address proper kettlebell technique after client Helen McCoy returned from a vacation during which she dropped in at a CrossFit affiliate and was told to send her hips back to initiate the kettlebell swing. After the session, McCoy did about three minutes of online research and found that many instructors actually believe squatting has nothing to do with swinging a kettlebell. Back at home, she asked her trusted trainer to sort out the confusion.

Using a 4-lb. kettlebell coated with pink neoprene, Chalmers assumed a wide squat stance, then pushed his knees forward to bring his hips toward the floor. With his heels raised slightly and the kettlebell mere inches from the ground, he held the position and asked McCoy if it looked safe and athletic to her. When she said “sort of,” he slowly but deliberately stood up, using his deltoids to raise the kettlebell to eye level before extending his knees.

“If you engage the arms before the knees are straight, you take the strain off your patellar ligament,” he explained. “You don’t want sore knees, do you?”

When McCoy asked how to perform a squat with a kettlebell, Chalmers shut down the line of questioning before things got unnecessarily technical.

“I don’t recommend squatting. Same time next week?”