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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The kettlebell swing

Back in the days, when I was a basketball player, though I had a pretty good technique I used to be a little slower than I wanted to be. I was desperately trying to make my feet move faster on the court, so I found a track coach and started practicing with her. I did not like the practices very much, because they were a lot different than the intensity of my basketball practices, and back then I was so caught up in the daily routine, that I did not like anything different. But still there was one thing I loved. And that was the kettlebell. Up to that moment I think I have never seen or used one. I remember the track coach made me take a kettlebell and jump with it on a bench. It was hard but still a lot of fun.
My favorite piece of equipment...the kettlebell!

That was my first encounter with kettlebells.After I stopped attending the track practices, I forgot about this really useful workout tool. And then last summer Crossfit came, and my life will never be the same! :) I don't think that there is something in crossfit workouts that I do not like, but there are these exercises that I totally LOVE! One of them is the kettlebell swing.

Whenever I do not have enough time to go to the gym, I can always stop in the middle of the road, take the kettlebell from my luggage-carrier and have a hell of a practice. Kettlebells can be used in so many different ways! Just one kettlebell is enough to frame a hell of a body!

So let's get back to the kettlebell swings. I love including them in my WODs. I also love including them in my client's workouts. Some of them though do not have the love for swings that I have. I know that at the beginning a kettlebell swing may look a little weird. When I show how the swing is supposed to be done, most people start laughing because they make the wrong associations with the explosive hip snap.:)

There are two types of swings-one is the traditional swing(also called russian swing), and the other one is the overhead swing(called the AMerican swing). I myself have never done the russian swings. I prefer doing swings with bigger range of motion,because I like doing heavier stuff, or actually doing more work. And work is equal to the weight lifted multiplied by the height we lift the object.

Although my preferences to the american swings, when I start teaching somebody doing the swing movement I encourage them to master first the russian swing and then go to the next level and do the american swings. I think it is better to learn the kettlebell swings that way, because most people initially can't get the movement right. One of the most important things when doing a swing is the explosive snap from the hips.With a focus on this hip action, the kettlebell will rise to chest or chin height easily with no work from the arms and shoulders. This is the point- you shouldn't be muscling the bell up with your arms. And that is what most beginners try doing-they either try to lift the kettlebell frfm the arms, thus putting more tension on the lower back(which is not reccomended), or doing an unnecessory squatting, and thus interfering with the desired hip movement.
Russian swings

So in order for them to be easier, and think more about the explosive hip movement, than consentrating on the lifting of the kettlebell, I make sure that they first master the russian swings.

When they become natural :) at russian swings, I mostly exclude them from the workout routine and introduce my favorite overhead(american swings). There are a couple good things about the overhead swing. First you're involving more of the body in the movement, so it's a more complete exercise. Second, the greater height of the bell means you can easily generate more downward momentum going into the next rep which this means the hips and back must absorb more force and therefore are being trained harder. And last but not least if you're using the swing as a conditioning exercise, this means more work and consequently more gas necessary.
American swings

The kettlebell swing is a really useful exercise. It is really good when practicing for explosive power. I have read a lot about football player's workout routines, and the swings are some of the most used exercises in the gym, when the goal is explosiveness. It's an excellent exercise for conditioning the lower back, glutes and hamstrings to volume, improving lower back stamina and stability, and is great even for cardio conditioning- a couple series of high rep swings, can be a good way to substitute your metcons at the end of your practice...

...just one kettlebell and it does wonders with you! :)


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