More advanced lifters can also have issues with overhead exercises due to a lack of shoulder mobility leading to compensations further down the kinetic chain. As a dead lift based exercise that works predominately into the buttocks, hamstrings and core muscles I don’t see the benefit of jeopardizing the shoulders by lifting overhead.
Most people nowadays due to more sedentary lifestyles suffer with mobility issues concerning the shoulders or thoracic spine. When you swing a kettle bell overhead tight shoulders or a limited upper back will lead to a compensation of movement further down the body.
Repeated overhead swings will continually arch and aggravate the lower back as you compensate for the lack of movement in the upper body. For most of the people I coach I want to get in more reps in less time to promote cardio benefits, so the Overhead Kettle bell Swing is less efficient for this.
As I mentioned above the AmericanKettlebell Swing requires a greater force production from the hips to drive the kettle bell overhead. In order to power the kettle bell overhead you will need to use less weight than the conventional swing to avoid bad technique and compensations in movement.
First beginners need to master the basic hip hinge movement, then how to isometrically hold the back flat during dynamic movement, and finally how to avoid overextension at the lower back all while coordinating timing with the arms and the kettle bell. A lack of power from the hips will also see an excessive lower back extension and many participants will lean backwards just to get the kettle bell into the top position.
Repeatedly swinging overhead with the hands together put the shoulders at risk, aggravates the lower back, reduces the amount of work and promotes bad form in beginners. With any kettle bell exercise you need to consider the true benefits of the movement, what are the risks and what are the rewards.
Repeatedly swinging overhead with the hands together puts the shoulders at risk, aggravates the lower back, reduces the amount of work and promotes bad form in beginners. It’s an explosive and natural expression of hip extension, a key portion of your vertical leap and your sprinter’s stride, too.
You stand grasping a kettle bell with both hands, core tight, toes pointed ever-so-slightly outward, knees slightly bent. From there, you push your butt back slightly and hinge at the waist, letting momentum take the kettle bell behind your thighs.
Momentum carries the kettle bell upwards and in front of you, and your arms drive forward, typically until they’re parallel to the ground, in the process. It’s a simple move that safely targets the muscles most guys need to work (glutes and hamstrings), keeping the emphasis on those muscles when you chain multiple reps together.
In practice, the American swing frequently takes the emphasis off your mammies and glutes, and average gym-goers over-involve muscles that aren't meant for the job, such as the shoulders and lower back. In general, you always want to choose exercises that minimize risk and maximize the benefits that’ll push you to your goals.
You should evaluate all exercises this way (and not be afraid to question your group fitness trainer either -- it’s their job to answer you). American swing fans have two key arguments that fail to account for the way the general population actually moves.
It’s a demonstration of true shoulder flexion at the top of each rep, that your mid- and upper-back muscles will fire. In this way, it’s a total body exercise, and superior and more “complete” than the Russian kettle bell swing.
So that means, by default, they’re destined to perform the American swing incorrectly (and I've seen “fit” folks wreck this move, too). Targeting muscles is important, even if “all-workouts-should-be-total-body” nation doesn't understand that, because it's a key method of correcting weaknesses in both your mechanics and your physique.
Quick test: Lie with your belly on the ground, arms and legs long in front of you. Driving the shoulders into true overhead position isn’t as natural as you may think.
When forced to hit a true arms-directly-overhead position, many people compensate with movement in other areas, often arching their upper or (worse!) The basic swing lets you move a fairly heavy weight, since it relies on two of your body’s most powerful muscle groups, the legs and glutes, to generate the majority of the force.
If those muscle groups can’t power the bell to the dumb American standard, the shoulders and lower back do the brunt of the extra work -- except they’re not meant to move the same load as the glutes and mammies. So the shoulder muscles and smaller upper-body stabilizers take over that large load.
The American swing crowd might contend that this isn’t all that different from a snatch anyway, hamstrings and glutes firing. Thing is, both the barbell and single-arm snatch versions let you drive weights overhead while rotating and spreading your shoulders more freely to create joint space for your rotator cuff tendons.
That can’t happen when both hands are grasping a kettle bell handle with a close grip. They rely on high rep loads, and, eventually, fatigue piles on.
Station-to-station randomness makes things worse: if the American swing’s your first move, your mind and your shoulder blades aren’t fatigued. You could go “lighter” on the weight with the American swing, both in a class setting and in your own workouts, focusing on form.
Except then, your hamstrings and glutes, the targets of the classic swing, simply don’t get to move as much weight. Unless you compete in CrossFit (where the American swing sometimes shows up in competition), the wildest part about the stupidity of the Americankettlebell swing is that there’s a much simpler way to achieve the super-aggressive hip extension and explosive glute contraction that it is supposed to bring.
There’s a smarter, less injury-inducing way to push your glutes and hamstrings to “pop” more than they do on your average Russian swing. Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. Add a burst of intensity to your gym routine with this overhead kettle bell swing. The key to success with the American Swing is to use the power of your legs to raise the kettle bell overhead.
It’s a full-body movement which, according to Taylor Race, trainer and owner of Elevate St. Pete, makes it “a great complement to any strength training routine.” Keep in mind that the American swing “is a little more advanced because of the extra range of motion and need for more powerful hip extension,” Race says.
That may seem on the heavy side, however, “Most beginners have a tendency to use their upper body too much, trying to control the kettle bell with their arms,” Race says. If you feel wobbly or can’t maintain proper form, drop down.
Keep it flat Keep your core muscles engaged Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly Generate force from your legs and glutes — don’t try to generate momentum by swinging the kettle bell more forcefully with your arms Maintain a neutral neck. At the top of the swing, look straight ahead Keep the kettle bell close to your body as you move — it should be controlled
Use an overhand grip to hold the handle of the kettle bell with both hands Start with the kettle bell hanging down between your thighs, wrists lightly touching your legs Lean forward slightly at the hips, then, using the strength of your legs, swing the kettle bell overhead Lock out your arms for stability. BONUS PRO TIP: The power in this swing comes from your legs, Race says.
Add in sets of 10-20 reps between other exercises, like squats, lunges, ab work and push ups.