Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cut the bullshit with Swings!

The swing must have reached some sort of horrible Bieber-like point of market over-saturation by now.  I often wonder how many books and certifications can the world possibly be out there for a movement that I learned by myself, out of one book within a few tries with it.  When I got around to having my form checked out by a sort-of real expert on teaching swings, I found out that I was doing it right all along. I didn't need to pay three-figures to find that out. 

Yeah, the swing is useful.  pre-ACL failure, I did swings often.  I have no doubts it's a useful exercise  that was thrown in the dust-bin of lifting history prematurely.  It's a great posterior chain movement.  It's just overhyped, not well-understood, and often horribly performed.  There are lots of things about the swing that just annoy me about the subculture's relationship with the swing that just have to be cleaned up, dried off, and ironed out so hype can be separated from fact. 

First of all, the swing doesn't need to be done with kettlebells.  If you can put a heavy object between your legs, hold it with your hands, then you can swing it.  The first objects I ever swinged with were rocks.  I'm also fond of conventional, two hand of swings with sandbags over kettlebells.  When I kettlebell swing, I usually do it with two KB's.  In fact, the traditional object to swing wasn't even kettlebells.  Back around the turn of the century, 1900, the Olympics featured dumbbell swings.

Which brings us to another interesting point about swing movements.  If you are looking for proof that we've gotten weaker now than we were back then and things aren't what they used to be,then you could easily use swing exercises as proof.  Today, we think of swings as a conditioning exercise (which is just another way of saying that they kind of suck woodpecker eggs and are only good for people who are too weak to lift real weights).  Back 80-120 years ago, they were a max strength movement that ended up with the weight overhead.  John Grimek Routinely would do swings with a 200 lbs dumbbell. 
...or two-hundred pound ones!
In other words, if you're swinging for 5, 10 minutes on end with 500 reps to a set, in all likelihood you really are a weak excuse for what used to be called a man.  I'm not implying that swings always have to be done for low, max strength reps and they have to end with the weight overhead.  I usually do them for 20-30 reps, or 30-60 seconds if I have a timer, with whatever weight makes me want to die by the final moments of my set.  Like I said before, that usually means either a 90 lbs sandbag or two-55 lbs KB's. 

A very poorly known, but highly valuable exercise variation are lateral swings.  These are (were...FUCK!) second-favorite way to swing with a kettlebell.  A video is in the order to explain this one...
What the hell is with that beard?  Whatever... they're doing it right and it's hard to find a good video demonstrating this one.  What passes as a lateral swing on youtube is a complete joke!
Once again, use some serious weight!  If you can do them for what would be considered high reps by any other movement's standards, then use a heavier KB for crying out loud!  This is one swing that I prefer a KB for. 

AGAIN... do these with some serious weight!!  I know I've spend a half-decade on this site telling you that you don't always need big weights to get strong but even I have to admit that you just have to go heavier sometimes to get results.  This is the sometimes.  Swings aren't so damn special that they can fly in the face the fact that once you get well into high rep territory that you need to find a way to make the movement harder.   BW training suffers from this exact problematic line of thinking.   Bodyweight movement-form can be easily modified to become more difficult.   In the case of swings, you'll likely have to add weight.  So, quit pussy-footing around.  I don't have time to devote 10 minutes to one movement, even one set, over and over again.  I don't really have the inclination to either.  There's more to be gained from the swing lifts than what the market is selling with the current dogma. 


frank said...

Justin, what's the point of doing 5 second holds at the top position in pushup reps, what do they work?

frank said...

...no response?

Justin_PS said...

That was random...

Anonymous said...

Why do you seem to be under the absurd impression that doing 500 reps to failure is easy? It takes some serious guts to do that.