What You Thought You Knew About The Kettlebell Swing...

December 13, 2010 12:26 PM

Last month while attending Hardstyle Ventura, Team Leader Paul Daniels was complimenting me on how I put together my DVD "Programming the Kettlebell Swing" He told me that he thought that it should become "required viewing for all RKC's " One of the points he brought up was that although he was familiar with a few of the methods I've developed and teach, he never thought to put them in an organized progressive way that would make it easy for anyone, including himself a kettlebell professional, to use this most basic of kettlebell movements, the swing, as an end in itself, not just a means to and end…until now.

Programming the Kettlebell Swing

What I love about the kettlebell swing: the Kettlebell Swing doesn't discriminate; the Kettlebell Swing is the great equalizer! It doesn't matter if you've never done anything physical in your whole life,or if you're an accomplished athlete. It doesn't matter how much you weigh, how old you are, male of female. The Kettlebell Swing is the people's exercise.

I have always documented and shared the discoveries I made in my own Swing training to maximize fat loss, developing cardio endurance along with the muscular strength and tone of an athlete; but it wasn't until I started to teach others how to follow my lead that I organized my methods and techniques for real. I found a way for everyone, including the average person, how to train the Kettlebell Swing to do superhuman workloads. Here are some of the principles and techniques to explore:

Pace. Does it matter how fast, or how slow you swing a kettlebell? You bet it does. Changing the intensity of your workloads is determined by a number of factors, and speed is one of them. Compare how you swing to sprinting versus running a marathon. If your goals are short explosive power, muscular development and athletic speed, then training the swing in 10-30 sec intervals will help you develop these qualities. If you want more endurance, leaner muscles and to train your body to burn fat instead of muscle sugar then 30 sec – 2 minute sets will get you there, while still including a strong muscular component. In my DVD I explain how I developed my own swing pace for high volume swings and take you through a pacing workout.

Equal work/rest… and then more work than rest…way more! Interval training has changed my kettlebell life. Interval training the Kettlebell Swing helps to organize your progress so you can really individualize and program your workouts. Everybody has to start somewhere… so where should one start?
  • 1 minute intervals is the common starting point. There are cases when I've started out a client on 2 minute intervals, again, it's about individualization. The method to training in 1 minute intervals is to only work up to ½ of that minute (30 seconds), and rest the remainder of the minute. This is what I call "on the minute training". Once this goal is achieved for 10-20 sets then you have arrived at equal work to equal rest.

  • The next step is to swing for 1 minute and rest for 1 minute. I've developed a method I call "Work into Rest". This is when you incrementally keep swinging into your rest period, 1 rep at a time. Not only do you start to work more, your rest periods start to decrease, and in less than 3 minutes you are training 3 to 1 work/rest. Three to one! I believe once you develop the capacity to train short 3 to 1 work/rest intervals, then 1 minute long sets will seem like a vacation!
Swing Combinations and the Roundabout. Do you know how many variations of the swing there are? Not counting the variable of bell size, or the variable of speed, I count at least 7. The basic 4 are:
  1. 2 hand swing
  2. left hand swing
  3. right hand swing
  4. and transfers (hand to hand)
Using just these four swing variations I've designed 5 basic "workload swing progressions". What I mean by "workload progressions" is that each swing combination progressively requires a bit more strength and endurance than the last. These swing combinations also fit into my pacing methods via rep counts and are easy to keep track of when training intervals.

The Roundabout. I got to a point in my own training when I had to start to incorporate a heavier kettlebell… at the time it was the 16kg. Wanting to swing a bell that was more than 30% heavier with one hand for reps lead me to create a combination of 2 hand and 1 hand swings I named the "Roundabout". I gave it this name because the sequence of swings traveled from right to left in a circular like pattern… and because Mark is a former gymnast, for some reason it reminded me of some kind gymnastics term…my mistake though, in gymnastics it's called a "roundoff"!

The roundabout uses a variation of the swing not many people recognize…I call it the two hand transfer……a two hand to one hand, or the one hand to two hand swing. The Roundabout starts with two hand on the bell…here is the order,

One 2 hand swing
Transfer to right
One right hand swing
Transfer to 2 hand swing
One 2 hand swing (don't forget this one!)
Transfer to left hand swing
One left hand swing
Transfer back to 2 hand swing

This combination of swings takes you from the symmetrical movement of the two hand swing, to a heavier and asymmetrical movement of the one hand swing, giving you only a brief exposure of the heavier weight as you build strength to add more and more one hand swings. It also saves grip strength and allows a person to train longer swing work sets, much longer. Many times my clients and students swing their very first one minute long set using the Roundabout and don't know it until I tell them. The most common reaction from my students after I teach them the roundabout was that it was fun, and they're surprised at how much work they just did without knowing it. It's the most requested swing combination in my classes.

Distraction… by way of changing the focus. The bottom line is that if you turn part of the focus of your workout goals to training some or all of these methods, instead of just the number of reps then 20, 30, 40, 60 minutes will fly by in no time.

I'm positive you'll be amazed that you are able to do more work than you ever thought possible. That's how I train, and how I train my clients.