The kettlebell swing is a great warm up/power movement. It is performed properly by holding the bell with either 1 hand or 2; if you are 1 handing it, you need to grip the bell in the corner of the handle and lock in the thumb. If performing with 2 hands, grip with both thumbs over or under both hands as they grip the handle, i prefer over.
Proper grip is NOT in the middle of the handle for 1 arm exercises. Doing so does not allow the bell to “rack” or “snatch” properly.
The swing as a power movement; it’s not meant to be performed slowly. Doing it as a warm up usually means that you start with a lighter weight than what you will do in work sets. Do not confuse the squat swing with the regular swing; the squat swing is a completely different movement from the regular swing. They are performed similarly; however the squat swing incorporates a “partial to full” squat on the bottom of the movement whereas the regular swing dictates enough bend in the knees to involve a bend at the waist so that your back is closer to parallel at the bottom of the movement
I see a lot of people “swinging” the bell with no set rep or time schedule. They just swing it, and most do it wrong. One of the most common errors while swinging is the negative phase of the movement, when the bell is on it’s decent. While you are always trying to control the weight, the swing is a movement where you are applying laws of physics to a moving object, not trying to do the exact opposite. When the bell is at the top of the swing, the height of a rep is determined by the amount of force applied from the hips during the concentric phase of the movement, meaning the explosive force generated by the hips right after the bell has swung between the legs on the decent.
You see, at both the top and bottom of the exercise the physics of the movement are evident: when you are exploding to the top of the movement, the speed and force dictate how high the bell gets, and the height determines when the opposing force is supposed to kick in.
At the bottom of the movement you are taking energy from the previous repetition and harnessing it for the next rep. If you went really hard for 1 rep, the amount of energy spent sending the bell up is going to dictate the rate at which the bell “falls under control” back to the bottom. As soon as the bell reaches the lowest point between your legs, you have completed 1 rep.
A body in motion will continue to stay in motion; a body at rest will continue to stay at rest. The swing however, when done properly, does not allow the bell to rest per se.
The swing, again when done properly, does not allow you to control the rate of decent with muscle contraction. Instead, it is done by controlling the rate at which the muscle stretches in the negative phase. All too often I see people “muscling” the negative; meaning they are using a concentric action to control a eccentric phase of movement. If you are doing this, you can usually tell by watching yourself in the mirror. If you are tense during the negative phase of movement, it means you are muscling the negative, which means you are either using too light a weight or you just haven’t been taught the movement properly.
No part of the swing should be “slow”. It should all be done pretty explosively as your arms and hands only control the arc of the swing. The power for the movement should come from the hips, not the shoulders or arms. Think about a ball on a string. Now grab the end of the string and let the ball fall on the ground. Start spinning in a circle while extending your arms; an example of this would be the hammer throw
The point at which the ball is moved off the ground relates to the same point at which the bell starts its ascent. You CAN do this with just arm strength, and that would be a completely different exercise than the swing or the hammer throw. Both the swing and hammer throw use energy generated from the hips and legs to get the weight moving.
Think about it this way, if i had a light enough weight and i wanted to do a hammer throw-like movement i could just keep my legs stationary and swing the hammer (or the ball on the string) over and around my head using only my arms. This uses a different movement pattern than when performing the swing or hammer throw as intended.
The swing as intended is a power/power endurance movement. It is meant to be done heavy enough that one cannot just use their arms. We want to involve a larger group of muscles in order to get the most bang for our buck for the exercise. Using a light weight and trying to muscle it around does not give us the proper mechanics to apply the proper stress in order to get the proper feedback from the body. Although one could argue that the swing by itself is a proper workout, we use it more as an ancillary movement to prep the body for other exercises. It is mostly used as a supportive exercise to a larger program.
To learn the swing and how to incorporate it properly into your regimen, i suggest finding a local certified kettlebell instructor which can be obtained through a number of different groups. I have listed a few below: