Written by Travis Mattern from Fitness Education Online
The Kettlebells swing is undoubtedly the most popular Kettlebell exercise and is in my opinion one of the best bang for buck options: Why? Well it has a super quick learning curve, is safe, works the posterior chain, challenges the cardiovascular system and it still resistance based training.
I’ve written previously about some of the common technical errors with the swing (you can read that here Today I’m going to share with your some of the amazing variations you can add in to spice up your swings and why these are important.
I want to start with what I believe is the biggest non technique error when it comes to swings. In my opinion the biggest mistake people make with their swings is not going heavy enough. I’ve been a part of many bootcamp and coached many people and the amount of times people say, ‘oh 8kg that is too heavy for me.’ Realistically, almost any gen pop person should have ZERO issue swinging an 8kg Kettlebell. The common reasons this problem plagues most people are; Fear, due to not knowing how to complete the movement correctly; or coaches/trainers not having access to equipment, not having enough heavier kettlebells. Now, it’s this second reason why having swing variations are important.
To perform each of the following variations the technique is pretty similar. If you’re after more in depth info check out our Fitness Australia registered Kettlebell CEC courses.
1) The first option is pretty straight forward. It is the single hand swing. This is great because all of a sudden your working unilaterally (one side at a time) and that light weight essentially just got twice as hard. Not only is it tougher, it’s also a great way to hide in double the repetitions as you work the left and right side individually. The other benefit with the unilateral exercise is that it challenges the core much more as the force is only applied to one side. The most important thing here is if changing hands whilst swinging, change at the top of the swing, not at the bottom. Finally, you can simply double the load by using a kettlebell in each hand, now this in my opinion doesn’t actually make it harder because it also evens out the load. Simply swinging a heavier single bell is more challenging.
2) Skier Swing – This option is great for a few different reasons. Firstly, it changes the path of the kettlebell further away from the midline of the body, making it more challenging and secondly, it is great for people who may have issues with making space between their legs for swings. Again, being a unilateral exercise, it is a great way to work in extra repetitions and also becomes more challenging for the core. Again, use two kettlebells to increase the load (again, this in my opinion isn’t harder, using a single heavier bell would be harder than two lighter bells). Technically, you stand with your feet pretty close together and the kettlebell will pass to the outside of the legs. Everything else remains the same. Start slow, build the confidence to avoid slamming a ball of metal into your knees.
3) The final variation is a little bit different, it is the pendulum swing. The reason I love this one, is that it changes the path of the kettlebell. Normal swings are just forwards and backwards (sagittal plane). Yes, working unilaterally, adds an element of anti-rotation, but that is nothing compared to the pendulum swing. This swing is done in front of the body, going left to right (or vice versa) and you pivot on the back foot to square the hips up. The reason I love this variation so much is that it is such a similar pattern to so many athletic movements, think; swinging a golf club, tennis racket, cricket bat, baseball bat; throwing a punch; throwing a ball; you name it, so many movements involve pivoting on the back foot to create explosive power.
These are my 3 favourite variations of the kettlebell swing. Where and why would I use each one? Essentially, as previously mentioned for three key reasons; first, I don’t have access to heavy enough kettlebells and would still like to provide a challenging workout; secondly, to work unilaterally. I like the single arm options as it is a great way to add in extra volume to your workload, because you’ll work each side separately; and finally, simply variety. Sometimes swinging the kettlebell the same way over and over again can get a little boring. I have done programs personally where I do 300 swings a day for a month, it is nice to throw in some variety to this after the first day.
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