Lower Back Pain During the Kettlebell Swing – Causes and Fixes

The Kettlebell Swing is one of the best exercises in the world for whole-body conditioning.  However, it’s also very technical – there are a whole lot more moving parts to the Swing than, say, a Bicep Curl.

One of the most common problems folks get when learning the Swing (especially those that are self-instructed) is lower back pain. And this is very bad – because the Kettlebell Swing isn’t an exercise for your lower back!  In fact, if you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t feel it in your back at all.  So if you’re experiencing lower back pain during the Swing, here are two reasons why it might be happening – and two drills to help correct your form:

1. Rounding the back/ not creasing at the hip

There should be a totally, completely straight line from your hip to your shoulder during the Swing – like this:

Don’t be afraid to let your body come forward; just don’t confuse a straightback with a flat back. In my experience, when people think ’straight’, they think their body has to be straight up and down.

The fix:

Stand in front of a heavy bag. Do a Sumo Deadlift and ‘punch’ the bag with your butt as you decend into the movement and the kettlebell gets closer to the floor. You should feel the hamstrings load up during the movement and should feel nothing in the lower back.  Once you’ve ‘grooved’ this movement, do a few Swings – and try to get the same feeling and patterning in the lower body.

2. Swinging the ‘bell too low to the ground

Another common mistake during the Swing is when you ‘hike pass’ the weight back, you end up with the weight too close to the ground.  This is a sure-fire way to cause lower back pain with the Kettlebell Swing.

The fix:

The kettlebell should be close and tight to the body as you do your Swings – imagine you’re hike passing a football.  Another visual that helps is to try and get the bottom of the ‘bell to face the wall behind you.

So there you have two common causes of lower back pain during the Kettlebell Swing – and two drills to perfect your form.  Keep training hard!

– Forest

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2 comments… add one
  • Tom Bryant

    Forest,

    I am very new to kettlebell training. Your statement of
    “the fix” I don’t understand. I don’t have access to a
    heavy bag so what I have been doing is kettlebell
    deadlifts slow to make sure I bend at the hip front
    crease and stick my glutes in the air as I descent and
    when I rise.

    I then check to see if the glutes have worked (or not)O
    by self-exam.

    Would this method make sense to you? At the end of
    10 minutes my but is lightly sore and I don’t feel anything
    in my lower back.

    Does this sound like I am doing this O.K.?

    Tom Bryant
    bryatomg@yahoo.com

    The fix:

    Stand in front of a heavy bag. Do a Sumo Deadlift and ‘punch’ the bag with your butt as you decend into the movement and the kettlebell gets closer to the floor. You should feel the hamstrings load up during the movement and should feel nothing in the lower back. Once you’ve ‘grooved’ this movement, do a few Swings – and try to get the same feeling and patterning in the lower body.

  • admin

    Sounds like you are doing well, Tom.

    You could simply stand in front of the wall instead of using a heavy bag.

    Also, if at all possible, I would recommend getting with an RKC – certified instructor in your area to check out your form.

    Hope this helps!

    – Forest

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