Drill of the Month: Be The King of Swing
Blitz Magazine, Vol.25, No.4
The swing is the cornerstone movement on which kettlebell methodology is built. It is relatively complex, but correct execution will serve the development of your martial arts more than almost any other exercise.
Each of the three variations requires the same postural cues:
- feet shoulder-width apart
- chin up
- chest out
- eyes up
- knees slightly bent for balance
It is essential to remember that you are not lifting the bell; swinging is about giving the bell momentum and then manipulating that momentum. This action will come primarily from your legs and hips. Lifting means that you actually use your shoulders to raise it. This defeats the purpose of the activity, and is unnecessarily hard work!
The two-handed swing:
To begin with, start with a lighter bell, around 16 kilos for men and 12 kilos for women. With both hands on the handle, reach back between your legs by bending at the hips and knees. From there, forcefully contract the glutes and hamstrings while the shoulder-blades are retracted (you can check this by getting someone to stand behind you and put their hand between your shoulder blades. Try to pinch their fingers). Squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward as you drive. After the bell has reached its apex at eye level, bend your legs to load the next swing as the kettlebell returns. Brace your abs – hard – like you’re preparing to take a punch. Keep your eyes up and your weight on your heels; this way, your posterior muscles will remain engaged. You can check this by cutting a tennis-ball in half and positioning each half under either heel. Try to compress the halves as you swing. And don’t forget to breathe!
Remember; you swing the bell, the bell doesn’t swing you!
The one-handed swing:
The same execution as the two-handed, but because the bell is held in one hand, it exerts a greater destabilising force. This is more challenging for your balance, given that the load is effectively trying to pull you out of your stance. You have to resist this by keeping your shoulders square. Extend the open hand out to one side.
The alternating-hands swing:
This requires that you change hands at the apex of the swing. Make sure the shoulders stay back and in the shoulder girdle. If you swing with your shoulders forward, it’s going to undermine your posture. The handle remains horizontal. To change hands, bring the empty hand over the top of the one gripping the bell and release only when that hand completely envelops the other. Extend the empty hand out to the side.
The kettlebell swing is the basis for more sophisticated movements and drills which work to develop speed and power in striking, such as the snatch and clean and press, but also contributes to cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, assists in fat burning and also, assists in counteracting martial-arts-specific postural disparities. It works the ‘posterior chain’, which is to say, all the muscles in the rear plane of the body; glutes, hamstrings, posterior deltoids and rhomboids. These muscles contribute to good, strong posture. Kettlebells are also fantastic for core strength training; essentially, your body uses your core to stay on-balance. Each of the aforementioned variations will challenge that significantly. Because kettlebells are a technical exercise it’s best to use them while still fresh, before the central nervous system is fatigued.
Remember, posture is crucial.
Steve Cotter is, for my money, the master of all things kettlebell-related. If you need further instruction, pick up his 7-hour ‘Encyclopedia of Kettlebell Lifting’ instructional video.
Thanks to Steve Scrofani from Neuralign Training Systems for his ‘sawed-in-half-tennis-ball-under-the-heels’ technique!
Jarrod Boyle began his fighting career in Kyokushin karate. After shifting to kickboxing, he became Victorian Superheavyweight champion in 2007. In 2008, he made the pilgrimage to Holland to train in the crucible of one of the world’s toughest K1 gyms, Golden Glory. Here he trained alongside the likes of Ramon Dekkers, Gokhan Saki, Errol Zimmerman and 2010 K1 WGP champion, Alistair Overeem. Jarrod has trained and fought in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan and Europe. He works as a personal trainer, journalist and commentator and is a member of the editorial staff at International Kickboxer.