Movement Monday : Kettlebell Swing
As the fitness industry continuously pushes the limits of training, so to do coaches in search of the next go to movement. Coaches push the limits in progressions, and are looking for ways to raise the bar and make movements harder. This craze of harder movements tends to break from the standard reasoning behind the movement and changes the form completely.
Most noticeably in this change is the kettlebell swing. Even to the point that there are two separate standards of swings now, Russian and American. The movement is not standardized for what it was meant to do, but standardized by which variation you perform, Russian or American. We forget that we are training a movement and pattern, and there is a purpose to that movement.
Both standards have their benefits but we overly use on variation without concern for the purpose of the use.
Purpose (both American and Russian):
• Power development
• Hip hinge strength
• Core Stability
• Posterior shoulder stability
• Lat activation
• Dynamic rhythmic breathing
The purpose of the kettlebell swing is the same for both, with the main difference being where the movement ends. Regardless of the swing type, one thing is for sure, you must master the Russian swing prior to performing the American swing.
The American swing, most popularized by CrossFit, has gotten its fair share of negative attention. The swing in general is not to blame. There are still benefits to the swing but there needs to be a requisite amount of mobility required to perform the movement safely and effectively.
The most noticeable limitations to the American Swing:
• Shoulder flexion
• Anterior core instability resulting in hyperextension/hyperlordosis
• Lack of power to swing bell overhead resulting in front raise or lift
• Squatting pattern instead of hinging
• Rounding of upper back on downward approach
• Holding your breath
Your training and progression will dictate which style of swing you will be using.
But is one better than the other? It depends on the person. I solely work the Russian Swing at Live Your Fitness with our client base, as it builds the foundations of power, hinging and breathing. We can progress the pattern multiple ways and get the desired adaptation we seek. The need to go over heard with the kettlebell is not warranted for the goals of our clients.
Mastery of the Russian swing is necessary to perform the American swing. Even mastering the Russian will not prepare the client to swing the kettlebell overhead if they don’t have the proper mobility and stability to perform it safely.
About the author:
CSCS, LMT, FMS, USAW Performance Coach, XPS
He is the owner of Live Your Fitness, a group fitness training facility centered on bringing the individual approach into the group fitness realm. He has been strength training for 8 years now and has worked in multiple fields ranging from CrossFit, professional wakeboarder and corporate wellness.