One of my favorite exercises for improving power in the hips is the kettlebell swing. Sadly, this movement has turned into some sort of squat with a front shoulder raise for most. And, while I suppose there is nothing wrong with putting those two movements together, I would rather keep my swing in the hips. Yes, the knees with bend…but as Pavel says, “The knees will bend as an afterthought”.
You really want to snap the hips forward as you perform the movement. I like to say the arms and the bell are along for the ride. Let the powerful hips drive the movement, and the momentum of that hip thrust will transfer up the body into the arms and the bell. One of the best in the biz when it comes to kettlebells is my colleague, Franz Snideman. Here is a 3-part video breakdown he did on the traditional swing:
Once you are proficient in the 2-arm swing, you can challenge your strength and conditioning with these variations:
1. 1-Arm Swing
Keep the movement pattern similar to the 2-arm swing. This 1-arm variation will encourage additional rotary stability due to the uneven load on the body.
I will use the walking variation on occasion when we are performing a “walking complex”, which is essentially a circuit of walking or traveling exercises (farmer walks, overhead walks, throw & follows, prowler pushes, walking kettlebell swings, etc.). The key ingredient to this movement is to time your step and your swing so the exercise flows. After you snap the bell with your hips take a step with each foot while the bell is moving away from the body. You should have completed your steps and have both feet set before the bell returns back to you. This will allow you to properly absorb the weight and then produce the next rep.
3. Shoulder Swing
This variation goes against my statement of kettlebell swings being a hip dominant movement. I included this one to show you can perform “swings” with different goals in mind. This is a dynamic shoulder swing with static trunk stability. I like this movement incorporated into a warm-up circuit.
This is one of the more challenging swing variations out there. Personally, I’m not very adept with releases, so the clip will simply show one release technique. Here is a video of someone 1,000 times better than I am at these: Gus Petersen
I can’t think of a sport or any athletic activity that would not benefit from having more powerful hips. It is one of the most important structures in the body and one that I pay a lot of attention to in my program design. If you are looking for explosive hips, kettlebell swings will help.
Remember to get great at the foundational movement first, and then challenge yourself with variations. Give a few of these alternatives a try and send some feedback my way. Swing away.
Doug Balzarini is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in Chula Vista, CA. He is also the founder of DBStrength.com, which provides fitness-related articles and education. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 for 6 ½ years as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, obtained an ACE Personal Trainer certification, the NSCA-CSCS certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and received his CPR/AED instructor status. He has also appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness articles, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.
Prior to working at Fitness Quest 10, Doug worked for the American Council on Exercise as the Continuing Education Coordinator where he was responsible for managing over 400 continuing education providers.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.