I swing to be strong for life

By Chris Carlsen

I swing to be strong for life

            Just like most of students of the kettlebell, the swing has had a profound effect on me. I was fortunate enough to have been indoctrinated into kettlebell training eight years ago by Jeff Martone. It was the practical application to my study's of Gray Cook and the movement screen (PNF, reciprocal inhibition, irradiation). Jeff also had one point that he hammered home, everything derived off the swing (ex. clean & snatch). What he meant was, learning the swing is a pivotal point in our strength journey, without proficiency in the swing and learning how to hip hinge correctly, all other exercises would lack efficiency. Take the split squat for example, once I tell a student to squeeze their glutes and pull their knees-caps up as if they were swinging, they pop straight up and look at me with amazement. There is one caveat. The deadlift and the plank are the prerequisites to the swing. Once we have that down, we can then start dialing in on the swing. They are a myriad of benefits that can all be linked to the swing and they have been a life changer to my students and myself.  

Here are a few.

The Swing trains abdominal bracing - Abdominal bracing is the key for core strength and performance. It is a co-contraction of all the trunk abdominal muscles in 360 degrees around the lumbar spine. The swing builds the endurance of these abdominal muscles which is probably the reason most people credit the swing with fixing their back.

The Swing is athletic - The ability to rapidly contract the right muscles and then just as quickly release that energy is the exact skill perfected by the master athlete.

The Swing is Power- Power is about forceful hip extension. The core transmits the power from the hips through to the upper-body and out to the world. The rate of force produced and the speed of this hip-centric movement makes the swing the king of power exercises. The same forceful hip extension takes place in jumping, sprinting, and lifting. It also teaches the students to trust their hips (the float). I feel this is the main reason why I have had great success incorporating moderate weight swings between barbell clean sets. Students often don’t trust their hips and often drop into deceleration before their hips extends. 

The Swing with Age- With power exercises (especially using the kettlebell), the center of gravity is always changing. The brain has to constantly recalculate the center of mass, which causes our neurotransmitters to make contact with the environment and receive stimulation from the outside world. Power loss occurs at twice the rate of strength losses and is a major performance quality associated with independence and fall prevention. Power is about reaction time. That’s why the swing have a huge carry-over to fall prevention. Secondly, the swing is lower impact than the jump, as it does not require landing (which is very important to reduce as we age), and allows for more forceful hip extension (the expression of more power). The swing is a great exercise in which we can explore and improve our movement, which in turn, will enhance our lives.

Swings will give you great grip strength.

Heavy Swings will help increase your deadlift. World Record dead-lifter Andy Bolton (link to his article on swings) uses heavy swings as his assistant lift and accredits them for keeping healthy and strong.

Being physical is the true essence of life. I swing to keep my students and myself strong, healthy, and to maximize our physical sphere for an entire lifetime. The swing has helped me help a lot of people and that makes it an invaluable exercise.

It don't mean a thing if you don't got that swing.

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