Another great article from DragonDoor.com
The Kettlebell Swing – First for a Reason
Bill Fox, RKC
|Why the Swing?
In The Russian Kettlebell Challenge Pavel quotes David Willoughby, a 1920s weightlifting champion, stating that the 2 arm swing “brings into action and develops practically every group of muscles on the back of the body and legs, and a good many others besides…. If you have time on your schedule for only one back exercise, make it this one…”. Pavel goes on to say the swing is a great way to get prepared for the “more difficult” snatch. “More difficult” – I’m not so sure. “More complex”, maybe, but there are few things like the nonstop no place to rest burn of a long set of swings.
The kettlebell swing, in all its various permutations, 2 arm, 1 arm, D.A.R.C., 2 kettlebell etc…is the brutal distillation of everything ketttlebell training is about: power, explosiveness, flexibility and lung searing “cardio”. It’s not simply that it works a lot of muscles, and make no mistake that it does, it’s that it teaches you to generate power from the core outward to the object you’re attempting to manipulate. Instead of learning to move a weight from point A to point B, you learn to generate force from your body’s powerhouse: the hips, legs, back and core. Once you have mastered the kettlebell swing, not only will you instantly get the “feel” of more “complex” kettlebell lifts, but also your body will innately apply these lessons to your chosen sport, martial art or weight training.
I won’t go into a detailed description of how to do the swing here. Read the RKC book or, better yet, watch the video. Best of all would be to learn the swing from an RKC instructor. Maintaining a nice back arch, sitting back, head up, brace at the bottom and a powerful hip snap on every rep are musts.
Powerful Training with the Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing has to be one of the ultimate tools for increasing GPP (General Physical Preparedness) for any athlete whose sport is concerned with speed, strength or power. I guess that’s everything but Playstation 2.
Using a light kettlebell (for you) do 5-10 sets of 20-50 reps of kettlebell swings with 1 minute of rest between. Over time reduce the rest and/or increase the weight of the kettlebell. It is imperative that you coordinate your breathing with each rep at this point. You can use an “anatomical” or “biomechanical” breathing pattern. Generally, anatomical breathing can be used when the weight is light and the duration of the drill is long. Anatomical breathing means you inhale as the chest naturally opens up; in this case as the bell is rising, and exhale as the body closes, or when the bell is coming back down. This breathing pattern means the belly is empty at the bottom and therefore there is less “bracing” of the spine against the forces created by the kettlebell. Given the lighter weights this should be OK.
On the other hand, say you decide to do the Tabata protocol (20 seconds on all out /10 seconds off for 8 rounds) with a 40kg kettlebell. In this situation you might want to use a biomechanical pattern. Now you’re breathing in as the weight comes down so that your core is “braced” at the bottom. Obviously it’s harder to get a good breath as your body is folding over, so this method is more appropriate for intense short duration drills.
As opposed to running or cycling, for example, the kettelbell swings are actually building strength endurance into the critical power generating muscular structures of the body while also taxing the grip and teaching the body to absorb shock from outside forces.
“The kettlebell swing… is the brutal distillation of everything ketttlebell training is about: power, explosiveness, flexibility and lung searing cardio”.
Every martial artist wants to hit harder, absorb hits better and be able to control and manipulate his opponent. These points have been discussed at length on the forum and in Pavel’s materials so I will not go into too much depth here.
The D.A.R.C. swing, in which the kettlebell is released and caught with the other hand at the top of each swing, is tailor made for the martial artist. In addition to the benefits discussed above you now add the impact of the palm on the thick handle of the kettlebell on every rep, the grip challenge of grabbing onto the kettlebell on every rep and the increased hand eye coordination challenge. When you get good at these it’s on to Jeff Martone’s H2H DVDs for you.
“…it teaches you to generate power from the core outward to the object you’re attempting to manipulate… Once you have mastered the kettlebell swing… your body will innately apply these lessons to your chosen sport or martial art…”
Like the D.A.R.C. swing for the martial artist, the 2 kettlebell swing is tailor made for the powerlifter or anyone trying to increase their deadlift or squat. Stand in your chosen deadlift stance. For the Sumo deadlift and the modern wide stance squat your normal stance should allow plenty of room for 2 kettlebells to swing back through your legs. The benefits are obvious: you can do your GPP and build strength endurance in the exact stance and range of motion you use in your sport. You can go heavy, or go light and use the swings as active recovery or prehab/rehab. For the conventional deadlifter the bells can be swung, with extreme care, outside the legs or you can use the Sumo stance for a different stimulation. In the alternative the conventional deadlifter could do 2 hand swings with a heavier kettlebell. Try swinging that Olympic bar through your legs!
“The benefits [to a powerlifter] are obvious: you can do your GPP and build strength endurance in the exact stance and range of motion you use in your sport.”
The above are just a couple of ways to use the swing to enhance your training. Be creative. Combine modalities. Be evil. Just don’t forget about the swing because it was the first kettlebell drill you learned. It was first for a reason.