The kettlebell swing was one of my favorite exercises I learned when I began kettlebells in 2002. I was familiar with exercises like power cleans and snatches from my days working in strength and conditioning, but the kettlebell swing was very different.
Can’t believe it has been over 20 years since my first kettlebell certification!
The difference was that in a clean or snatch the weight moves more vertically, with the swing there is more of a horizontal projection. While some will claim this horizontal movement of the kettlebell is important in building more horizontal power, this isn’t really backed up by the research in many studies because the power generation is still down into the ground and the lifter tries to “get tall” at the top of the swing.
What I DO think is very unique and important about the kettlebell swing and that horizontal projection is that it makes a smaller weight way more powerful due to the longer lever arm. If we swing a 35 pound kettlebell out in front of our body, that kettlebell no longer weighs 35 pounds especially upon the return to the back swing.
That huge amount of deceleration is SO important not to just power generation, but injury prevention too. While most people don’t think about deceleration and it’s important, if you listen to renown strength coaches like, Robert Dos Remedios, they will explain to you deceleration is vital for reducing chances of injuries.
If you look at most injuries that happen during sport, change of direction, throwing, landing, etc. they are almost all deceleration injuries. Meaning, something happened during the very rapid deceleration phase the body couldn’t absorb the forces and as a result injury came about.
That is why kettlebell swings can be a very important injury prevention tool if time is spent in developing these qualities from foundational kettlebell swing mechanics.
There has been so much written about how to teach a foundational kettlebell swing I didn’t want to make this post about that! Instead, if we understand these concepts, I wanted people to realize how much is left unused in the kettlebell swing. Once people can perform a two handed and one handed swing, is there anywhere to go with the kettlebell swing to keep accentuating these concepts or do we get stuck doing just weird, novel kettlebell swing exercises?
Change The Environment
Back in 2007 my good friend and coach, Troy Anderson, and I started to think about how to apply some of the DVRT principles to kettlebell training. One of the first concepts we thought would cross tools is the Sprinter Stance position (used to be known as staggered) that would introduce mild instability to any movement.
Power exercises already challenge stability (because you don’t have time to fix positions during the movement) so we thought it would be very interesting to apply this concept to the kettlebell swing. We thought it was so useful after trying it for some time that Troy wrote an article about it that got MAJOR backlash at the time as “silly” and “unnecessary”. Funny enough, the sprinter kettlebell swing is almost standard, but people forget that it is a progression of body position from our DVRT system.
The Sprinter Stance was meant to be just really a starting point in what we could do if we kept the principles of the kettlebell swing and introduced new body positions to challenge the ability to not only keep force production high, but increase the reflexive stability demands as well.
Most people that try these movements will feel all over the place and sure, spending some time practicing and getting better helps. However, I have found it is also a great indication that a low of people are missing certain qualities in their training as Cory Cripe shows below in how do we get to higher level kettlebell swing movements.
Coach Robin Padget also shares important drills that give us the potential to work up to these higher level kettlebell swing movements.
When we see something different than we are use to we can quickly want to write it off as “goofy” and sometimes that can be the case. However, when it comes to building a better view of the kettlebell swing, using different stances, forcing the body to create higher levels of stability as we develop great power, and learning to decelerate in various patterns makes sense and only reinforces what can be achieved through the kettlebell swing.
What we showed though is that A LOT of good training is necessary to be able to perform such training and sometimes we learn more about what our training has been lacking and how we get better when we try and actually struggle with advancing our training.
As Cory shows below though, there is so much we CAN do with the kettlebell swing if we build up those qualities.
You can check out more in our Progressive Kettlebell Movement certification, or how we combine kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags in our L.I.F.T. program you can get 35% off both HERE this week only!
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