The (Un)American Way.

It never ends. There’s always one more thing.Even about the humble kettlebell swing.

I was working on kettlebrell swings with a client, and the subject of the ‘American swing’ reared its ugly head.

You’ll see a lot of these on YouTube, although I wouldn’t bother looking. No need for a vid or  pic – the (two-handed) swing carries on until the bell is overhead. My client asked if these swings were better than the swings I was painstakingly working on with him.

My immediate response was ‘No WAY.’ Then I thought for a few seconds, to try to analyse my instinctive answer, and still came up with the same reply, and strongly advised him not to use these swings. Then when I got home I read a little on it, to check again, and thought I’d write a quick post on the subject.

First, if the Russians had worked out over the centuries that swinging the bell overhead with two hands brought benefits, then make no mistake we’d all know about it. Kettlebell is pragmatic. Do what works.

Second, the kettlebell is mainly a one-handed tool. This is why it is so fantastic for shoulder strength combined with mobility when the bell is overhead. So we press it and snatch it and jerk it and high pull it, all one-handed, and shoulders reap the rewards. But a two-handed overhead swing is different – with the hands close together, as they are on a kettlebell, both shoulders oppose each other and reduce mobility. It’s not good for shoulder mobility.

Third, and most salient: the swing is all about the hip hinge. Whip those hips through to full extension and feel the bell float up in front of you. By the time the bell is at around hip height, your hips have done their explosive job and the swing is effectively over – you’re just waiting for the bell to rach its natural apex and then drop down again. Going higher than head height rearranges the biomechanics to the detriment of that crucial explosive hip extension. (And to the detriment of your shoulders and back, too). Instead of being almost totally posterior, a large anterior component comes in.

The arguments in favour of the overhead swing are taken apart here. There isn’t time or space, and nor am I clever enough,  to do that in this post, but it has to do with Crossfit and flawed assumptions.

So if you’ve come across ‘American’ kettlebell swings, I recommend avoiding them. If you haven’t come across them yet, make that ‘yet’ last for ever.


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