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Evolving the Kettlebell Swing

When did it happen? It seems like overnight the kettlebell went from the tool people were too afraid to use in fear of hurting one's low back to THE fat loss tool you don't see a fitness commercial without one now! Of course this seems like a move in the right direction.

Using functional fitness tools to develop better results for our clients should always be at the heart of what we do as coaches. However, when things get big fast, sometimes we lose the initial intent of what made them so great in the first place.

You can't talk about kettlebells without discussing the swing. The swing might be the most popular kettlebell exercise. Being able to develop the posterior chain, help reduce back injuries, a dynamic plank, a huge metabolic drill, and awesome for power, there should be little doubt that the swing is an important exercise.

What we want to look at is not the swing, we know there is no shortage of information out there about it, but rather where do we go with it. The kettlebell swing has fallen into the trap of programming of most workouts. We simply go heavier or do so many that we don't even want to look at a kettlebell after awhile. JUST going heavier or doing more may not be the BEST way to progress this dynamic exercise.

Building the Base

The swing offers so many great benefits that many coaches want to start day one of their training of clients with the swing. Sure, the swing has many benefits, but you can't reap those positive attributes if you don't build a good foundation. I know, you got deadlifts set-up, but doesn't there seem to be a gap? There is often some leap we have when we move people through deadlifts to swings.

It begs the question can we build a better base first? Most struggle with the downward and back swing of the kettlebell. THIS is where people get squatty, this is where people lose their upper back and core tension, this can be something we specifically address in training.

The use of our Ultimate Sandbag Front Loaded Good Morning can be a mouthful, but a drill that should be foundational to any good hip hinging movement, especially the swing. The slowing down of the hip hinge and the direct overload of the core, lat, and glute connection makes this not only an important drill in hip hinging itself, but learning concepts that will carry over to all the variations. In the video we will discuss how to progress the Ultimate Sandbag Front Loaded Good Morning to address that many different attributes the kettlebell swing offers.

Advancing Movement

Once we have the foundation set forth, we want to think about where we go with our movement based fitness. While most will only focus on going heavier or doing more, we think about how to do we create more sophisticated movement patterns.

Since many experts, like Dr. Craig Liebenson, believe that walking is our most fundamental human movement, maybe we should look to see how to make a stronger correlation with our strength and every day movements.

"According to Pr Janda, upright posture is defined functionally in single leg stance since gait is our most fundamental function and 85% of normal cadence gait is on a single leg. Modern lifestyle involves a preponderance of constrained, seated postures along with reduced walking volume. It is estimated that for most of our 100,000 years we have taken between 20,000-35,000 steps/day. Today the average western adult takes only between 5000-8000 steps/day."

I am not going to suggest that we start performing single leg swings, but we can progress the movement pattern by using Sprinter Stance Swings. This simple alteration to body position brings in so many elements of gait. From, lateral and transverse plane stability, to learning how to produce force horizontally and vertically in a more gait like stance, and the cross patterning that occurs, it is a great parallel to more real world based movements.

Many who love swings will find that the use of the Sprinter Stance Swing gives them not only a means to progress the swing, but to specifically problem solve it as well. With better tools in the toolbox we can better analyze the movement and fitness needs of our clients. That begs the question are we really looking to advance functional movement or just gym strength? The difference is what we aim to teach you in Metabolic Stability.

Josh Henkin, CSCS, is the creator of the DVRT system and Ultimate Sandbag. Coach Henkin has taught his program to elite military, university programs, and top fitness facilities in over 13 countries worldwide. You can find out more about DVRT education HERE.