As you’ve probably noticed, I really love kettlebell swings. This is one of my favorite movements. Kettlebell swings have a lot of different applications and could be used as part of the so called “finishers”, as well as the first part of a work out, where the accent is more on strength and power itself.
During the last year, I changed my opinion about swings. Initially, when I started implementing them in my workouts ( probably because back in the days I was keen on Crossfit), I always used the so called American swings, or in other words the swings where the kettlebell is lifted above your head.
But with time and a lot of workouts and observations, I found out that russion swings, the once where you lift the kettlebell to just eye level, are the better option.
It’s not just a single reason.
1.American swings are not for everybody
What do I mean by this? Tell you the truth, I rarely see people, who perform American swings properly. Most just think that their technique is good. Most of the trainees have a problem with holding weights above their head ( no matter if we talk about different kind of pressing variations, swings or something that requires your hands to be held overhead), and still manage to keep their body in neutral position ( the picture below, even though it is still not the perfect neutral form, but that was the closest I could find in google :)).
Unfortunately most people perform swings like that:
One of the reasons about this is because a lot of people become sedentary, or have a lot of muscle imbalances and bad posture. Then, this leads to a hard time just holding your hands above your head( without weight), and keeping a neutral posture, so most people try to compensate the lack of mobility, by allowing their stomach to flare forward, lifting their chest up, or keeping their lower back too arched ( hyperlordosis).
All of this just increases the risk of an injury, because when the body is not in neutral position, and when it is held like I described above, the loading becomes harmful.
2.Russian swings allow for heavier weights to be used
As you know, I do not encourage you to be a slave of your ego and aim at increasing the weight, while compromising your proper technique. But, I think that Russian swings are a lot more appropriate, if we keep in mind that they allow heavier weights to be used, respectively they help you increase your strength and power.
Here some of the adherents of American swings, will argue that in their opinion you do more work, when you perform American swings, than when you do Russian kettlebell swings. But is it true?
If we play it smart and check out the formula Work= Force x Distance, you will immediately notice that even if the distance in the American swing is bigger, the weight that is used is lighter than the one used in the Russian swing.Which immediately makes up for the increase in the distance. That means that you couldn’t claim that the work done when you perform American swings is more.
3.Russian swings are the better choice when it comes to beginners
Sure, they are not just for beginners, but a lot of trainees master the technique of the Russian swing pretty quick, and when they try to do an American swing, they rely more on the strength of their arms and back,when trying to lift the kettlebell up, instead of relying on the snapping movement from the hips.
Especially when kettlebell swings are a part of the “finishers”, a better choice would be to use Russian swings, because with them, even when you are tired, you are more likely to keep performing them with proper technique. While when you perform American swings ( all the way up), people usually start compensating by doing some weird twisted movements with their bodies, which carry more risk for the lower back.
So, personally I do not perform American swings anymore, even if I can do them with proper technique, because the results I get from the Russian swings are way more satisfying and with the price of a smaller risk.
So my advice for you is to emphasize on the Russian swings, and leave the American swings for incidental use! 😉
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And one picture from yesterday 🙂