Kettlebell training is an effective, challenging and fun way to get or stay fit. The plethora of benefits — cardiorespiratory health, muscular endurance, strength, joint stability and mobility, flexibility, and neurophysiological growth — from one small, compact and versatile tool cannot be overstated. The kettlebell allows you to execute fully functional, fully integrated, biomechanically safe movements. It does not get any better than this.
Today, I want to discuss just one kettlebell move: the swing.
The two arm kettlebell swing is performed by swinging the kettlebell from between your legs up to chest level. Based on a squat movement, which, in turn, requires perfecting the hip hinge, the swing is executed by engaging your hips in a movement known as the hip snap. The hip snap is performed by the fluid flexing and extending at both hips and knees to create the necessary momentum. This single exercise integrates hundreds of muscles and effectively trains your body through resisted movement, which is essential for any athletic task and applicable to activities of daily living.
The swing teaches you to use your glutes (backside) and core stabilizers to move weight (perform functional movements) while protecting and maintaining the integrity of your back.
The hip hinge, with strong gluteal activation, is the basis of the deadlift. If you are in the weight room or power lifting room and want to build a powerful deadlift, kettlebell swinging will provide a strong and stable foundation. The kettlebell swing will also strengthen a golf swing, a hockey slapshot, or a wind up at the base for a powerful batting performance.
If you aren’t an athlete, the kettlebell swing will build your cardiorespiratory strength and your muscular endurance, allowing you to complete low-intensity long-duration activities. Think here of vacation activities like hiking, sight seeing, canoeing, and attending outdoor concerts. Think also of daily living activities like climbing stairs, carrying groceries, gardening, playing with your children, yard work, household chores, laundry, shopping, carrying yur briefcase. You get the picture...kettlebells are a quick and efficient tool for uber active and less active people alike.
Are you looking to burn calories? Do you want to drive your metabolic processes into overdrive? Very few modes of exercise will keep a sustained elevated heart rate the way kettlebell training does. The more muscles that are used during an exercise, the more calories will ultimately be burned. Kettlebell swings use upwards of 80% of your body’s muscles. Compare that to activities such as running or studio cycling, which rely on lower body musculature. Kettlebell swings come out head and shoulders (and core and upper back and ….) above the other modes. Kettlebell training is usually used on an interval basis, which has been proven most effective for VO2 Max gains, EPOC gains, and improvements to your anaerobic threshold. Additionally, kettlebelling will spare your joints of impact pressures and repetitive movement patterns which lead to injury and joint health compromise.
Have I mentioned core stability yet? Well, there are not many other forms of exercise for which core stability is an integral component. You won’t find this on the track and postural issues seem to arise in spin enthusiasts. Crunches and sit ups are certainly not functional movements and I am always amazed that folks think they need to be strong through a 30% flexion of the abdominal muscles — where in your life do you need strength or stability in that limited, useless range of movement? If you have been laying on the floor doing hundreds of crunches, I would suggest you have better things to get done with your time.
During the kettlebell swing, the muscles surrounding your spine need to act as a brake by bracing at the top of the lift. To prevent arching of the low back (excessive lordosis) driving with the glutes and braking with the core is integral to the swing.
If you are wanting to reap the many, many benefits of the kettlebell swing, it is important to become technically proficient first. A dvd might help, but it can never replace the value of hands-on training. Kettlebell training isn’t something you ‘muscle’ through, it is a mode of training which engages entire kinetic chains for strength, endurance and flexibility. If you are feeling awkward with your kettlebell look for a certified trainer. She will help you put the biomechanics into place which will keep you safe and healthy while you swing your way to new heights of fitness.
Daniel and Tara Hanscom stopped by my studio on their 9th wedding anniversary while vacationing in PE:
I just wanted to write you a little note to say how much my wife and I appreciated the private kettlebell session…it was a real turning point for my wife with her KB….She was always pretty intimidated by many of the KB exercises…Her boundaries have advanced so much and she is really getting excited about KB’ing…and now we’re putting together an organized workout plan for her so that she can be working towards her goals. I’m, of course, continuing to work on my RKC requirements and making gains in that direction.
Tara and I have both commented that our KB class was indeed the highlight of our trip…Thanks again… Maybe this can become an anniversary tradition.
Daniel, Tara, Jaz, Tamsyn, Anne, Tracy, Choyce, Tracy, Sharon and every single one of you….I am so glad you found the kettlebell! Thank you for coming in to my life.
I can’t wait for the rest of you to grip a kettlebell handle and find fun, functional fitness — one swing at a time!