Because the exercise uses momentum when done correctly they are a great alternative movement to the traditional Olympic-type exercises in that they don’t need the same degree of skill. As long as the correct technique is adhered to they obviously don’t take the same amount of time to perfect either. I do teach people to do the Olympic exercises such as Power Cleans and Power Snatches and the many variations if required in their programs because they involve far more intensity – but these swinging exercises are a great start.
They help people develop speed and power and the correct positions in generating power from the hips. They also must be done with a straight back. The classic movement is done with a Kettlebell but if you don’t have these in the gym you use then they can be done nearly as effectively with a Dumbbell. Using a Dumbbell though, requires a bit more concentration, particularly if you are releasing it into the other hand in the single arm variations of the movement. Kettlebells though, give you the feeling of a more smoother and longer swing, so if you have them available to you, use them.
The picture above depicts a person doing a single arm movement, and the one below a double arm movement – which is also easier to do with a Kettlebell as compared with a Dumbbell.
In both examples the back is in the correct position at the bottom of the movement. A lot of people round their back when first taught to do the movement so I ensure that they learn to do a ‘hip hinge’ (bending from the hips instead of the waist) with a light resistance to start. Another important teaching point is to get them to have the feeling of freely swinging the Kettlebell or Dumbbell in an arc to the top of the movement. You will see the maximum height depicted in some photos of the basic swing to be above the head, but that can be dangerous at first if the person does not do the reverse movement in the same smooth arc as in the positive movement.
The momentum of the swing comes from the hips and the arms only act as a pendulum. This is the key point of the exercise. It is hip power you are trying to generate as most people think it as an arm exercise.
There are many variations of the exercise including the basic two depicted in the photos. As I mentioned before, in a single-arm movement you can transfer the Kettlebell or Dumbbell from one hand to the other, and this is done at the top of the swing at the time when the resistance has no momentum. Other more advanced variations are when you move your feet – forwards and/or backwards and/or to each side but these movements take a lot more coordination and should only be introduced to the program when the basic movements are perfected.
This is a great teaching tool in the progression in developing the necessary coordination towards introducing the Olympic movements into your program and for most people doing resistance training programs is the only whole-body exercise they need to add the element of power within their programs.