I Love Kettlebell Swings

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Over the years I have found that I like certain movements more than others.

My favoritism toward kettlebell swings has nothing to do with my swing technique, efficiency, any muscular dominance, body composition, etc.

I just like kettlebell swings.  Actually, I love kettlebell swings.

Talk to anyone who has been training for any length of time, and their disclosure initially might be that a balanced program is the best approach (which it is), but dig a little bit deeper and they will spill the beans that they have favorite exercises also.  It’s natural.  Just as people tend to favor certain brands of clothing, so do we favor and enjoy certain movements more than others.

—>  I wasn’t a jumper, but now I am…

I used to be the guy that would watch other people jump off the bridge first.  I would watch them hit the water, then determine if I should jump based on their experience.

What I’m saying is that I used to have mentality that was rather conservative when it came to training tactics.  Eric Cressey mentioned in a recent post on T-Nation that he is approached with a lot of crazy workout shit at conferences.  Some of it has worth and makes sense, and some of it is flat-out nuts.

I thought kettlebell swings looked flat-out… nuts.

That was the strength coach mentality in me though.  Any new method or piece of equipment was required to make it through a very fine mesh filter before I ever thought about implementing it into our programs.

—>  Humbling myself with swings…

My first experience with any “swing” type movement pattern involved a 45lb dumbbell mixed into a circuit.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was working out with a friend and colleague in Michigan, and we thought we would mess around with a modified swing to see how it felt.

Honestly, it felt good.  It felt unnatural, but that was because it was new.  The new feeling was to be expected.

Fast forward a couple of years, I finally got my hands on a kettlebell at a Perform Better conference in Chicago.  The heaviest bell they were selling was a 20kg, which equates to about 44lbs.  It felt heavy as hell.

Keeping my pride intact, I didn’t dare swing it at the conference.  I saved that moment for my return to the hotel room.  I will say that carrying that little guy through the sky walk out to the parking garage really sucked.  It was basically a 3/4 mile farmer, waiter bear hug carry.  Makes me laugh just thinking about how disgustingly sweaty I was.

Once I returned to the hotel room, I geared up and worked my way through a proper warm up.  I had no idea how to swing a kettlebell, but I understood movement:  hip hinging, breathing, etc.

That 20kg buried me.  

This is the same 20kg that buried me a few years ago.

  • My grip strength felt inadequate.
  • My hip snap (hip extension) felt inadequate.
  • My conditioning felt inadequate.

—> I had a Lance Armstrong moment…

Now I know that implementing new training methods can make a person feel somewhat deconditioned.  A perfect example of this would be the transition from cycling to running.  Take Lance Armstrong for example.  When he got off of the bike and took up running, everyone thought (based on his world-class conditioning) that he would finish quite high in the New York Marathon.  He finished with a time of 2:59:36 in 2006 and commented that, “without a doubt was the hardest thing physically that I have ever done”.

Lance Armstrong, despite whatever feelings you have toward him after confessing to taking PED’s, is a world-class athlete.  Even without PED’s, he is in the top 1% of athletes in the world.  Don’t forget that.  He is world-class physically in his sport.  But, the interesting thing here is that the transfer of his bike conditioning into his running conditioning helped, but not nearly as much as many sports performance experts thought.  Based on endurance related stats on him, he should have finished in the top 20.

—> Back to my love of swings…

Short story long (yes I just said that)… that is exactly how I felt swinging that piece of cast iron that day.

Since that time, I have submerged myself into the kettlebell world, trying to get a true grasp of what place the tool has in the fat loss game, strength and conditioning for athletes arena, and generally seeking to acquire a larger respect for the tool.

Kettlebells are a device that aren’t going to disappear.  They are here to stay.  Gyms across the world are starting to offer their members access to kettlebells.  I think that’s both very cool and very dangerous.

Cool because we are introducing people to ground based movement.  Dangerous because a lot of people can’t move properly without kettlebells, much less with kettlebells.  There definitely is a danger factor there.

I typically swing 3-4 days per week.  The volume of swinging varies from workout to workout, but I value the kettlebell swing so much that it now has a permanent place in my daily warm-up and workout.  In the workout, I have used swings as an important puzzle piece in complexes and circuits, and also as the ONLY puzzle piece on occasion.

Yes, sometimes my workout will only involve kettlebell swings and I love that.

A kettlebell swing ONLY workout puts the simplicity back into training and staying lean yet functional.

A single movement workout puts the “art” back into training because my focus is on one thing and one thing only… my swing technique.  I have really come to appreciate the discipline required to put sooooo much effort into perfecting a movement.  Maybe I will be a world-class kettlebell swinger, maybe not.

What I do know is that the kettlebell swing is an incredible movement worth learning more about.  If you’re an evidence based exerciser, go grab a bell and swing it for 4-6weeks with decent form and tell me what happens to your body composition.  “Evidence base” that you turkeys.  I maintain my stance on the results-based approach.

—>  A nice little kettlebell article…

There was a kettlebell article that came out a few years ago that showed the effectiveness of kettlebell training, and you can find that paper by clicking on the link below:

—> Twice the Results in Half the Time?

*Please just read what the researcher found and not the program that they recommend, yikes.

kettlebell training picture

Zoning in on the perfection of one movement reminds me of my days as a youngster participating Tae Kwon Do (yes I am a black belt… or was a black belt).  The martial arts are an incredible example of progression, discipline and art.  High level martial artists practice the same movements over and over and over and over.  Most people would fizzle out on that in short time.  The mind control required to perfect the basics in order to earn the right to progress to the complex is such an admirable thing.

The modern-day strength coach will roll his/her eyes at this, but hey… I could give a rip because it’s my blog.  Don’t like it?  Change the channel.

As for the rest of you… give the swing a try.  Don’t judge it until you try it, and when you finally do try it, take the time necessary to learn the technique.  Your technique will not be perfect on the first set.  However, progressing at a reasonable pace with attention to detail will quickly put you in a position to integrate the kettlebell swing into your own training programs.

Cheers to swinging the fat off your body…



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