How Explosive Should Your Kettlebell Swing Be? How High Should You Swing?

If you frequent online kettlebell communities and see people post their swing videos, you will get hundreds of “snap those hips more“, “more explosive“, and many other opinions. Snapping the hips refers to an explosive snap of the hips.

Even if someone is swinging a 32kg with one arm for 60 unbroken reps, you can be assured that the majority believes there should be more snap and explosiveness. Let’s explore some definitions and variations to see if that thinking is correct.

 

How much Explosiveness do you Need in your Kettlebell Swing?

First, there are a couple of important things missing, the main one being, what is the goal of the person exercising? It is extremely important to first know why is he/she swinging? Without that information, no valid feedback can be provided on style or programming. Keep this in mind if you are posting or answering.

Sure, we can make assumptions by looking at the number of reps used. As one does not generally swing 50 to 60 times unbroken with such a heavy weight at an explosive level. You run out of energy to maintain the explosiveness. Would it be possible to work your way up and condition to the point that you get that amount of reps out explosively? Probably. Almost nothing is ever black or white in the kettlebell world.

“Why do YOU believe every kettlebell swing should be explosive?”

When asking the question “Why do YOU believe every kettlebell swing should be explosive?”. Most of the answers will be about the height the kettlebell comes and not to be using the shoulders. As for not wanting to use the shoulders in anything but the American Swing, that is correct, but not being powerful/explosive with your swing does not automatically mean you need to raise the weight with your shoulders. When it comes to efficiency, moving the weight explosively, whether to a certain height or not, is not efficient. The definition of efficient is acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. Sure, when we have a comparison between a half swing with arm raise and a powerful swing, the latter wins, but I’ll cover below why that might not be the best point of view.

 

You have to ask:

Is it about the height the Kb travels or the muscles worked? It’s about the muscles worked when it comes to strength. The prime movers. If you are making the hip hinge movement correctly then you are working the intended muscles.

Is a kettlebell swing that does not reach chest height incorrect? It’s not if the form is correct and the goals of swinging are met. If there is a standard, like for example for the Hardstyle or American Swing then it’s a different story. The standard for the HS swing is because it’s designed for power (strength + speed). For the American Swing, it’s to have a standard for counting valid reps (and other reasons which we won’t get into right now). You can swing a 68kg/150lbd kettlebell and you can be assured that power and height will be lacking, ankles will also probably bend, but does all that make the swing/movement futile? No! Does it make it invalid for certain standards? Yes!

If a kettlebell swing is not explosive does that mean the shoulders are used? It does not. Sure, if you keep going heavier with the weight and produce the same amount of power then at some stage that swing will not have enough momentum to move to chest height. But, we already established that the height does not take away from the muscles used.

You can swing for strength, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and you can swing for power. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that the swing is only for power, and in second place comes cardio.

 

From Deadlift To Swing

If you start with the movement of a kettlebell hip hinge deadlift. Low reps. What are you working on? That’s right, strength. Speed that movement up a bit while using a lighter weight with higher reps and you are working for endurance.

The weight is pretty much staying in the same vertical path of up and down in the deadlift. In the swing, the path of the weight goes from back to front, which provides a different stimulus and challenges for the body. Does this mean it can no longer be used for strength and endurance because the weight is now going from back to front? No, it does not, it does provide us with the benefit of being able to move the weight explosively as well. Sure, the weight needs to be moved faster than one would deadlift.

Think of the lift as accelerating, then moving at the same speed, and finally decelerating to stop either at the top or bottom. You can compare this to jogging. You start, you accelerate to 5kph/3mph and stay at that speed to get to your destination and then you decelerate to stop and turn around. You can also sprint, where you keep accelerating to complete that short distance. You can also sprint and jump, this would be our ballistic exercise.

 

The term ballistic refers to the body or an external object explosively being projected into a ballistic flight phase.

The term explosive refers to having the nature of an explosion. The terms explosion refers to a sudden, great increase, in our case, velocity.

The term power, in training, refers to speed and strength combined. Applying the maximum amount of force as fast as possible.

The term lift refers to moving weight from a lower to a higher position.

The term swing refers to moving something back and forth suspended or as if suspended from above; To move laterally or in a curve. If we analyze the Hardstyle swing and take our definitions into account, we might even say that it’s not a swing but a pull. The Pendulum swing is closer to the definition, but that’s something for another discussion.

 

Can you move a kettlebell with a swing while taking advantage of the momentum and pull all the way from start to finish? Yes.

I’ve personally swung a kettlebell 1/3 my bodyweight for 200 times unbroken with a hip hinge movement and at a joggling pace, did that make my 5 minutes and 30 seconds of work futile?

Can you move a kettlebell with a swing while powering the movement explosively and letting it enter its ballistic flight? Yes. Although a clean, jerk, and snatch would be more of a ballistic exercise than the swing.

 

So, how explosive should your kettlebell swing be? For those who are following Cavemantraining for a while know that a kettlebell swing does not define the type of swing and that there are many variations.

  1. Hardstyle Swing
    As explosive as possible
  2. American Swing
    Explosive enough to get the weight overhead (this gets more complex when it comes to efficiency)
  3. Pendulum Swing
    Not explosive
  4. Hip Hinge Swing
    Depends on goal
  5. Squat Swing
    Depends on goal

 

What is it that is consistently required across any and all kettlebell swing variations? Good form and technique!

What is the point of this article? I hope to create more open-minded people. I hope to see less anal (excessively precise and focussed on one thing only) feedback in groups that are not focused on a rigid (fixed and precise in procedure) way of training. If you’re in a Hardstyle/RKC/StrongFirst group, sure, that’s what it’s created for, and it’s a great way to train, but to think that there is nothing else outside that box is limiting your creativity, progression, and enjoyment.

Try and provide feedback based on goals and not bias.

 

If you enjoy learning things about the kettlebell and exploring the kettlebell world from a completely different perspective, then check out some of the following courses, books, and workouts.

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