WHY I DON'T LIKE OVERHEAD KETTLE BELL SWINGS!
I'm probably going to ruffle some peoples feathers, especially feathers of people in the CrossFit community.
However, these blog posts are designed to make you think... More so, help you become your strongest version!
This is also written for the intention of strength and conditioning, not for CrossFit. CrossFit is it's own beast. If you compete in CrossFit then continue to do so knowing the risk/rewards, just like any sport. I'm sure at some point clean and jerking 405 like I do, isn't all that good for me.
THE KETTLE BELL!
The kettle bell is an awesome tool that can be used for both strength and conditioning. It can also help strengthen your "core" and increase your stability. It's great because the weight is distributed unevenly forcing you to focus and be in control or the bell will control you! It is a very basic odd object.
I do think the kettle bell is used incorrectly a lot and when done incorrectly can cause more harm than good. I will also admit I was doing/using them wrong until I learned more about them from great coaches with their RKC. Shout-out to John Bair for teaching me the basics of kb's and how to use them.
I used to also incorporate full (American) swings into my training because:
1) They look bad ass
2) My heart-rate was through the roof
3) Everyone was doing them, so I wanted to as well. (lame but true)
The more I learned about kb's the more I started questioning why people did full swings... When I was doing CrossFit I was doing a ton of them, and usually either 53lbs or 70lbs. My shoulders or low back ended up getting torn up.
My thoughts as a coach:
The kettle bell is a hinge motion. Meaning most of the power from the kb is generated through the hips, and forced forward once the hips snap (think broad jump, power shoots forward). This is a great way to increase power and strength if done correctly with the right weight.
Where things go wrong:
Since the power is being generated through the hips, once we break past our shoulder height we actually lose all momentum/power. This then just turns into a cardiovascular motion rather than a strength and power movement.
For the most part most people beginning do not have proper shoulder mobility to handle this motion. This can cause serious injury because what's forcing them into an overhead position is the weight, not actually having proper mobility. So first, make sure you are mobile enough to raise both hands overhead into a safe and comfortable position. If you can't then you shouldn't be doing swings.
I never coach a full snatch, if people can't get into a safe overhead squat position. We will work power snatches until mobility is corrected. Same applies for all movements.
I also see people who are doing tons of reps lose all proper form and tend to round their backs, use their shoulders instead of hips, and do this weird swing + a shoulder press motion.
If you want to build power from the ground up (overhead) I suggest doing kb snatches, NOT full kb swings. The snatch will build power and strength from the ground to overhead without wasting energy.
How to program the swing:
If I'm using the swing for strength and power north to south I will keep the reps 10 or under. This allows me to go heavy and also maintain perfect form for each swing. I also get into a proper starting position loading up the posterior chain and exploding with my hips.
Once the kb gets to about shoulder level, I will actively pull it down using my lats, not my shoulders.
If I'm looking to gain strength and power from ground to overhead I will program kb snatches instead of swings.
-Make sure you have proper mobility for any swing movement. If you don't, you need to fix that before injury occurs.
-If you want power from ground to overhead switch to kb snatches instead of full swings. This will make a huge difference long term.
-You should be able to maintain proper form each swing. If you can't, the reps are too high or the weight is.
-Make sure you understand why you are doing swings and the methodology behind the programming. If your coach can't tell you this, that's no bueno... I would be concerned.
-If you compete in CrossFit, these movements are just part of the sport. Just like tackling is in football. Is it the best, no... But it is what it is.
-For the general population I don't think they should be doing overhead swings, it should be switched to kb snatches or Russian swings (chin level) program depending.
But what the hell do I know... Just my two cents.
Enjoy, message me with questions or comments.
-Strong people are hard to kill