Thursday, August 5, 2010

More Beautiful Swing(s): Franz's Picks of Exemplary Beautiful HardStyle Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is a foundational movement to work with a kettlebell. Despite it's status as the basic kb move, it's also a whole lot more: it's a potent full body movement that can be used for work from strength/hypertrophy (a la Geoff Neupert's latest "kettlebell muscle" DVD and program) to lactate threshold work (like Kenneth Jay's Viking Warrior Conditioning) to endurance (my own humble running the bells as one of multiple variations). As a dynamic movement, it taps both coordination and these various kinds of strength in motion. It is a foundational move, but it is a powerhouse. Put together with the Turkish Get Up, it is a complete health program (as described in Enter the Kettlebell). Practiced well, it is also a beautiful, elegant movement.

Franz Snieman, RKC TL,
one hand swing
set up
A couple posts ago, i did an interview with Franz Snideman about the hardstyle kettlebell swing (the version taught in the RKC) as something worthy of practice towards  achieving that Beautiful Swing.  I asked him for examples of other Beautiful Swings. He named RKC TL's Delaine Ross, Keira Newton, Dennis Frisch, Dustin Rippetoe, Jason Marshall and Master Trainer Brett Jones.

These folks have kindly agreed to contribute a vid of their swings, and a few notes on their Swing perspective and offer some of their fave tips coaching clients. I'd like to thank Franz again, and each of the RKC's in this post for offering these resources so freely. Here we go

Beatutiful Swings in Motion
(geek note: sorry this is such a FLASH based post. When HTML 5 takes over, all browsers should be able to see vids without plugins)

Dennis Frisch, RKC TL, Denmark.

Micro Interview: At the time of the interviews, Dennis was on a well-deserved break. As soon as he's back, i'll slot in his thoughts on the swing.

Keira Newton, RKC TL of Dynamic Strength Kettlebells

Micro Interview with Keira on the Swing:
1. where or when does the swing fit into your own practice?
When does the swing NOT fit into my practice, may be the question. I use the swing in almost every training session that I do. It is fundamental to kettlebell training for me.
2. what is the most common thing you would say your clients need guidance on with their swings?
I am not sure that I can say there is one common thing. There are often a variety of things that I see people do, and to take it further, a varitey of combinations. Some of the most common are:
  • Squatting too much, not hinging at the hip
  • Not finishing with a strong hip snap, and, or not engaging the glutes at the top.
  • Timing! usually, a new person will think that they need to pull the kettlebell with with their hands, forgetting the essential hip snap. They also tend to forget that everything needs to lock into place at the top of the movement. On the flip side, they will pull away from the top of the swing too soon and lose the lat tension.
  • Rounding the spine.
3. and what's the tip you find helps them tweak their swing best?
One of my favorites is that the swing is not an up and down (vertical) movement, it is a back and forth movement (referring to the hing at the hip). As a side note, I use a lot of different tips, because people learn in different ways and do well with hearing things in a variety of ways.

Jason Marshall of LoneStar Kettlebells (a real Texas Marshall)

1. where or when does the swing fit into your own practice?
For me, swings are used as a warm up tool, assessment tool, and conditioning tool.  I'm not accustom to cranking out a ton of swings since it would be counterproductive to powerlifting, but I do like getting the occasional ETK set.  I mainly use them as a warm up exercise to get the blood going and that allows me to assess how I'm feeling before my workout.  I also use them on my GPP days. 

For clients, it's a different story.  The swing is to the get up. 

2. what is the most common thing you would say your clients need guidance on with their swings?

I have to remind them to stay tall in their posture at the top and not to jut their chin forward.  A tap with my finger on the crown of the head or a visual cue usually does the trick, as well as saying "tall posture".  Also, getting the bell out of "the hole" or the hike position....keeping that transition quick is key to the explode/relax balance of the HS swing.
3. and what's the tip you find helps them tweak their swing best?
Wall squats and stick deadlifts for most, but it really depends on the mistake and who's swinging.
bonus - any other wee note about the HS swing you'd like to share?
I've battled it out with the CF'ers on the "American Swing" and once they see the reasoning behind HS and feel the power and balance of it, it makes a lot more sense to start and master HS.  There could be a place for AS, but it's a small window of practicality and too much risk for the reward.  Start with HS, progress to snatches...THEN you might try some American Swings for some ballistic work.  HS swings taught through the RKC are by far one of the most effective exercises for any application across the board.  I can't really think of anything or anyone who wouldn't benefit from some form or version of it.
Delaine Ross, RKC TL, of Condition, Inc.

1. where or when does the swing fit into your own practice?
  Right now, I’m following Neupert’s Kettlebell Muscle and incorporate double swings twice a week.  Before, when I wasn’t following a “book” protocol I would do Whitley’s “The Furnace” workout at least once a week – it’s basically dissected get-ups with swings in between.
2. what is the most common thing you would say your clients need guidance on with their swings?
Hmm. In the intro class we cover a good many:
  • -Not being explosive – trying to do it slowly to try to do it correctly when that’s pretty much impossible (then go over biomechanical breathing)
  • -pulling with their arms (towel swings)
  • -letting the bell fall too close to the ground (center hiking to the quarterback analogy)
  • -squatting instead of hinging (box squat)
The best overall teaching cue I have used I stole from Doc Cheng: Imagine that you’re punching a heavy punching bag with your butt then jumping without leaving the ground.
3. In your swing one might say, from the side, that you're cranking your neck back but that just can't be. What's happening with your head in your swing.
I use the “look on the horizon” head position instead of exactly neutral. And it’s mainly because when people see my “neutral” and they dot have body awareness (when they begin) then they exaggerate the neutral and end up with a rounded back.

 Dustin Rippetoe, RKC TL, from wayofstrength.

1.Where does the Swing fit into your practice?
My Swing practice has be interesting this year. I have pursed it in a more GTG fashion 10-20 heavy reps here and there as the opportunity presents itself. I have been experimenting with stance, forward knee allowance, head position, and letting the 'bell float a bit more (hence the higher "top"). The swing has become this year what the TGU was last year...a lab.

2 &3 Usual Pitfalls & Favorite Tips
Depends on client of course. Beginners tend to have little root and we work on getting them the desired heaviness. With that said, the static stomp deadlift with an emphasis on the lockout. Define the end point and the middle tends to take care of itself. My other favorite drill is letting victims swing three times and release on the fourth swing. If done well all the energy should go into the forward trajectory of kettlebell not knock them off balance.
I train a lot of RKC's and RKC hopefuls. These same folk tend to overemphasize the tension at the top and lose the ballistic aspect of the swing. What Brett Jones calls "Ugly style"  The biggest tip I have been sharing with them is to "let the 'bell swing you" or Jeff O'Connor's tip "let it float." 

Brett Jones, Master RKC, author, start of multiple kettlebell and now Indian Club swinging videos.

Brett has been on the road of late like mad, and sent these through while making a home touch down. Thanks Brett.

First, two hands, then single hand to hand

From these examples we have many heights, body sizes and limb lengths, but lots in common.
A beautiful swing is a move that lets the hips drive, for forward move and pull back; that gets the butt back to feel the hamstrings load, keeps the back flat, the neck in neutral. The knees do not move too much ahead of the ankles, the bell floats a bit at the top and drives back fast in the last part of the swing and then forward with power from the loaded hips.

Also, from looking at these, it might be more possible to get a sense of why a good coach, particularly one trained to work with whole body movement, may be able to help you unlock your swing, and thereby help all your movement. Love yourself: see a ck-fms or z-health certified RKC.

With practice and good coaching, you can tune your kettlebell technique to rock. With a clean swing, the foundation is there for an infinite variety of training options.

Thanks to all the folks who contributed.

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:Darius said...

i love reading your blog, and have a question- if my goal is not to become a kettlebell athlete, but rather to use kettlebells to create transferable strength & conditioning to other skills, is the swing really the godsend that it's being hailed as?

dr. m.c. said...

Nice to hear from you
I guess the answer would be
It depends
What skills are you trying to build?


23niner said...

I' enjoying these posts about the swing a lot and your blog in general - many thanks. I'm curious about the role of the mid and upper back in the swing, as someone who feels quite tight there after swings. As well as firing the lats, is "locking" the back by trying to pinch shoulder blades back and down, the answer? I've been trying to get happy with my swing form for a year now - one reason is my having to develop my hip flexor, hamstring etc flexibility but I think the swing truly is an inch deep but a mile wide...

dr. m.c. said...

23niner, hello, and thanks for letting me know about the blog. Glad you're finding useful stuff here.

As to your particular swing issue, i'd not suggest any shoulder blade pinching.

Here's where i'd re-emphasize what Franz said in the first swing post: see a coach. And i'd strongly advice finding an RKC who is also ck-fms or z-health certified to look at your swing, and your movement more generally if you're having perceived movement issues.

Anything else without seeing you is just a guess, and you and your bod deserve better service.


Gary Horn said...

MC, I hope you will review Brett Jones' "Kettlebells From The Center - Dynami" when it's released. He emphasizes strength in the "transitions" (from the ground thru the core). I'm a Jones fan, can you tell?

Sean said...

Hey mc,

Thanks for the excellent post. This maybe a stupid question.. but I am slightly confused on whether or not bending the arms in the swing is ok. I thought the arms should be kept straight with elbows locked... but Mr Marshall appears to bending at the elbows during the lockout. Can you please shine some light?


Jason Marshall said...

The bend elbow is dependent on who's swinging. I had a slight bend in the elbows because I try to keep my lats activated and shoulders down during the top of the swing...almost as if my elbows were glued or had rubber bands attached to my rib cage. A lot of times, beginners will get caught up with keeping their elbows straight and you'll see their shoulders drift up into their ears, causing a huge disconnect at the top. I didn't really notice the bend as I was doing them, but I really try to contract the lats hard, so that's probably why that happened. I hope that answers your questions and helps out. Thanks!

Roland Fisher said...

Thanks mc.

These videos are a huge help. Using language to teach a kinetic skill doesn't work too well. Seeing the skill practised so excellently is awesome for learning/refining.

I'm personally hoping for some beautiful snatching posts!

Sean said...

Thank you Mr. Marshall! That cleared up my confusion!


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