Do Kettlebell Swings Build Strength

Earl Hamilton
• Sunday, 08 November, 2020
• 9 min read

Well, if you explore one of the neglected corners of the gym (or your garden shed for that matter), you may well find a brilliant alternative to your standard weight workouts: the kettle bell. While dumbbells and barbells are popular and effective weight training options, they’re definitely not the only method of building muscle.

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Even a kettle bell halo (circling your shoulder girdle with the weight) activates your traps, lats, deltoid and core. Marimba explains that they’re a great tool for spiking heart rate “very quickly due to their functionality”; they don’t require any effort to set up, but they do get us working hard to move them from point A to B.

Utilizing higher rep ranges and ballistic movements with appropriate rest has big cardiovascular benefits.” Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favorite fitness experts.

To go from a stand still to leaping as high as possible shows a great ability to produce force quickly. The Russians and by extension Mel Sight and Tudor Pompey, knew this and all maintained that until you are squatting double body weight you have no need for speed work such as plyometrics.

It is extremely difficult to stay focused on speed of movement during heavy lifts.) Use a light load of approximately thirty percent body weight and move it very fast using exercises such as power cleans.

Let’s jump forward a bit and assume you’ve actually done your homework, you do squat double body weight, and you are actually ready for some speed work. But let’s also be realistic and say that you’re a thirty-plus year old recreational athlete and you’ve maybe got some knee or ankle issues, and frankly spending time jumping up and down is probably going to do nothing other than hurt you and make you miss your game.

kettlebell swing workout does benefits quick
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After a point using a heavier bell won’t allow you to continue increasing force production. It will increase strength, but after you reach that tipping point, no further force bonuses will occur, much the same as the squat example I gave above.

Where that tipping point is for a person is difficult to tell without a force plate and some time on your hands to analyze data. My super smart friend Brandon Hitler, from Science of the Swing, has done exactly this and found that a bell of roughly thirty percent of body weight is ideal for force production.

So, we’ve seen that this thirty percent margin is ideal for producing the most force with swings, and we also have studies to show that the swing does lead to increases in jump height (And, I might add, are much safer than extra jumping for athletes who may already be high risk due to their sport. Using a 32 kg bell, I generated forces equal 1.9, 1.4, and 2.6x body weight in the swing, snatch, and jerk respectively.

I’m not very knowledgeable about the NFL but I’m guessing that dropping two tenths off his 40-yard time and adding 6 1/2” to his vertical jump could see him go from not being a consideration to getting signed and needing a good accountant suddenly. The body must be locked up tight and the only action to begin is the drawback from the lat before firing the bell hard and fast.

Resist the temptation to assume you need to be faster until you have developed a high degree of maximal strength first. Alternatively, if you’re involved in a sport, such as sprinting, where you are essentially working unloaded, then you will benefit greatly from speed training.

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(And can I just add that even though the kettle bell is my job and I’ve been a strength and conditioning professional for almost two decades, I am still amazed at the things I am learning about these simple iron balls. Even more than that, the spirit of adventure and discovery being shown by the ranks of the ROC is inspiring to be part of.

There are some really smart and experienced trainers in the ROC and learning things like this makes me overjoyed to be part of it as we always strive to move ahead.) In today’s world we spend the majority of our days doing things in front of us with terrible posture.

This overuse of the muscles on the front side of our bodies is called “anterior dominance” and it is plaguing our society. Anterior dominance results in imbalances in our muscles causing us to move and perform at sub-optimal levels.

It will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you’ll develop the rear end of an athlete. It will bulletproof your low back by creating an armored brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut.

Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly. Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettle bell through your knees by contracting your lats.

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When you push your hips back keeping your butt high and your shins vertical, you are hinging. This is good because most people today are hip flexor and quad dominant (your anterior muscles), so learning how to load and use your posterior chain creates a natural balance between front and back that will help in preventing knee and hip issues.

Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot. Getting proper instruction from an expert so that you can MASTER THE KETTLEBELL SWING is the best thing that you can do for your training regardless of your goal.

If you want to build strength, kettlebellswings will forge a grip of steel and will add pounds to your dead lift & squat. If you want to boost your athleticism, kettlebellswings will make you more powerful and add height to your jump and shave seconds off your sprints.

If you want to pack on muscle, swinging a heavy kettle bell will build an intimidating upper back & set of shoulders. And if you want to shed body fat, swings will incinerate blubber like butter melting in an iron pan.

And I notice swings are usually done for higher reps, is this optimal for strength development? But very simply, of course they can't build the same absolute strength as a barbell.

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Are kettle bells optimal for strength comparing to something like heavy barbell lifts? In other words, are swings simply an assistance exercise for bigger lifts or would doing them alone make you strong like a squat or dead lift.

The evidence is undeniable that swings help dead lifts, and the evidence is also undeniable in the other direction, that dead lifts can help with swing performance. I think about it but, in the end, what matters is what works, no? Hope that's helpful to you.

Alex, I noticed in another thread that you said you were a high school wrestler. Depending on your relative strengths and weaknesses, it may help you on the mat more than heavy DLS and Squats.

In other words, do not underestimate the Swing. You should really talk to your coach about what he thinks your deficit is and work with him to build a weekly routine that works well with your practice and competition schedule. In terms of exercise selection, someone recently posted a video of an Olympic Judo doing his strength work and it was essentially Swings & Get-ups.

That is not to say he doesn't do other stuff, he probably does but clearly there is a respect for these fundamental moves and surely leaves gas in the tank for skill work later in the day. I like what Steve said that there is a lot we don't fully understand about strength adaptations, and carryover and such. There is certainly something to be said for repetitive patterning of a movement, “greasing the groove”, as Pavel says.

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Think of this as opening up the neural pathways to the working muscles. So I think there is a definite carryover from swings to other hip hinge activities, and I also think that someone can translate some strength benefits from “extra work” push ups, and goblet squats up to a point.

Ultimately to get really strong, you will have to increase the load, so think of the swings as neural grooving practice. @ericreichart: The guy is asking a pertinent question, and your response was that of a too smart for the room bully.

I'm of the camp that swinging and doing Thus with a heavy bell will get you super strong. The ballistic force of the swings creates a strength effect much greater than the number printed on the side of the bell.

I'm not capable of doing single arm swings with The Beast yet, but when I get there I expect that my dead lift will have improved and I guarantee that my bench will be solid after doing heavy Thus. My body has never felt so balanced with core stability and strength, and my shoulders have NEVER felt as solid as they have after putting time in with SAS and I am only on the Simple level (32 kg) at this point.

What I was the only guy who responded and said hell ya, swings will get you jacked and tan and dead lifts are unsafe. Swinging 2 beast is awesome for other reasons, but for absolute strength, the barbell wins here.

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Eric, good point. Alex, at this stage in your training career you would be best off just picking one program and following it without asking any questions. First off, I know this is an older thread but I just registered and saw the topic and figured I'd share my two cents.

I give most of the credit to being devoted and consistent with doing high intensity dead lifts very often...pretty much greasing the groove as Pavel would say. Basically, to sum this all up, the kettle bell swing is a friction awesome movement to build a great foundation of strength and improve your big compound movements up to a certain point....the stronger you get, the less you'll get out of your swings ...UNLESS...you are rich and can afford the monster kettle bells.

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