The Difference Between The Kettlebell Hardstyle, Hip Hinge, Pendulum, and Squat Swing

In this video and article, I will demonstrate the differences between several kettlebell swing variations and explain why neither of them is wrong. It’s very unfortunate that there is a select group of people that are very anal and closed-minded when it comes to the kettlebell swing.

 

  • They believe that if the kettlebell swing is not executed as they’ve been taught then it’s an incorrect swing.
  • They are not aware of any other variations and usually don’t even realize where their kettlebell swing came from.
  • They believe that the only good teacher is a kettlebell teacher belonging to their cult.

 

I’m not going to put one kettlebell swing variation down or tell you that one is much better than the other, instead, I will explain what each one is good for and that you should explore all of them and then decide whether to keep using all or focus on a particular set that matches your goal(s) at any given time. Before I cover the differences, I would like to explain a bit about what battle has been going on for years and stops progression for many. You can skip straight to the kettlebell swing info if you’re already familiar or not interested.

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THE UNFORTUNATE BATTLE

If you’ve been in the kettlebell world for a long time, then by now it’s no secret that one side is usually not aware that there is another side and more importantly, that their swing actually came from the other side. I’m talking about the Hardstyle swing. The Hardstyle swing was not invented as the first kettlebell swing, it was adapted and evolved from the kettlebell sport pendulum swing which existed way before kettlebells became popular. That swing was at first a squat swing and then evolved into a hip hinge swing.

Now, it might sound like I don’t like Hardstyle, on the contrary, I know that they have something great and effective, it just gets tiring to regularly have to deal with people that are following the RKC/StrongFirst/Hardstyle principles and tell you that you’re doing it wrong, and worse, they’ll tell you without even asking what your goals are or keeping an open mind, it’s just a straight-up NO IT’S WRONG.

On the other side, Sportstyle people are usually familiar with Hardstyle but you’ll still find people in there that are against the kettlebell squat swing variation, even though the pendulum swing is basically a quarter squat (three joints). You’ll even find some that believe that there is nothing better than Sportstyle and that’s all everyone should be doing, but there certainly aren’t as many that think like that as there are in the first group.

In both groups, there are plenty of people that believe there is nothing else but Hardstyle and Sportstyle when it comes to the kettlebell swing, which is also incorrect.

At Cavemantraining our experience and knowledge are developed by believing nothing (and so should you when reading this), testing, analyzing, and experimenting with everything for yourself to then make up your own mind. But in the end, no matter what, the fact that whatever you do in training is/should be dictated by your goals or what you enjoy. Yes, I said it, although goals are super important, if you neglect enjoyment then things usually do not last and just become a chore.

 

What Is A Wrong Kettlebell Swing?

A kettlebell swing is wrong when:

  1. You’re working toward a specific goal but the one you’re performing does not work toward that goal.
  2. The kettlebell swing you’re performing is executed incorrectly.
  3. You’re getting injured due to incorrect technique.

A kettlebell is good when:

  1. It works toward your goal(s).
  2. Is performed correctly.
  3. You’re not getting injured.

Next, you can look at efficiency but you should not neglect fun either. Everything is relative and needs to be reviewed within the proper context.

 

What Are Some Kettlebell Swing Goals?

Some of the goals you can achieve with different kettlebell swings are, but not limited to:

  1. Power
  2. Cardiovascular endurance
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Strength

 

Power

Power equals speed and strength, in other words, moving a heavy weight as fast as possible. Heavy weight and low reps. Low reps because you can’t maintain power for a long period of time with a heavy weight. Power is not some generic thing, it applies to a muscle or muscle group that you train for it, in other words, if you train for power in the gluteals that won’t transfer to the rest of the body. So, if you want to train for power in the quadriceps, you need to involve the quadriceps. Spoiler alert, the kettlebell squat swing targets the quadriceps more and the hip hinge swing targets the gluteals more. I could go into the reason why here, but this article is already getting much longer than I wanted it to be.

 

Cardiovascular Endurance

Taxing the cardiovascular system to induce an increasing ability to maintain a certain exercise at a certain pace. Cardiovascular endurance with resistance has to be performed with a weight that is suitable for you to maintain a long duration of time while the heart rate rises and stays at a certain level.

 

Muscular Endurance

Working on increasing the ability to perform repeated exercises without failure. Like cardiovascular endurance, the exercise has to be performed with a weight that allows high-volume repetitions. When working for strength one would focus on 1RM and that is exactly that, a weight you can move for one repetition max, it works great for strength but on muscular endurance.

 

Strength

Working on increasing the maximum amount of weight moved you can move in one repetition. Just like any other goal, strength is increased over a period of time by progressively increasing the weight, or for the other goals, a mixture of weight and duration of time. There is, of course, a lot more to talk about with each goal, but for the purpose of this article I have kept it short. To work for this goal you use a heavy weight, remove power, and move the weight just fast enough to move it. Depending on how heavy you go, this can mean that the bell does not come up to chest height but that does not take away the work on the muscles.

 

Okay, now that you’re familiar with some of the kettlebell swing goals, let’s dive deeper.

 

Hardstyle Kettlebell Swings

Hardstyle swings are designed for power, the Hardstyle swing is rigid, there are certain things to adhere to when performing the Hardstyle swing and there is no deviation from that. Heavy weight and short reps. Tensing the whole body to recruit all your muscles, maximum effort, maximum resistance, and all that is great to deliver what it was intended to.

 

Sportstyle AKA Girevoy, Pendulum, or Soft Style Kettlebell Swings

Sportstyle swings are designed for endurance, the Sportstyle swing is not rigid, there are qualities that you want from the swing, like minimum effort and minimum resistance, but there are many variations to achieve that, different stances, different movements, etc. The Sportstyle swing was designed for clean and snatches, in kettlebell sport athletes train the pendulum swing to improve their clean or snatch.

 

Cavemantraining Swings

Since no one wants to claim or acknowledge what is outside of those two disciplines we will call them Cavemantraining Swings for now, just because they do not fall within Hardstyle nor Softstyle and the majority of the kettlebell world won’t admit they even exist. We’ll take the squat swing and the hip hinge swing. What am I talking about?

The Hardstyle kettlebell swing is performed with a hip hinge, but if you don’t adhere to all the Hardstyle requirements, power, no thoracic rotation, and so on, then it simply is not a Hardstyle swing, and they’ll tell you it’s incorrect. If it contains a squat it will be sacrilegious as a kettlebell swing can only be performed with a hip hinge in their world. Let me drop a bomb right here and tell you that a swing is an object that freely moves back and forth or from side to side while suspended or on an axis. I will then take it a step further and beg to differ that a Hardstyle swing is actually not a swing if you really analyze the definitions for a swing. The closest that comes to the definition of a swing is the pendulum swing, but that’s a discussion for another time.

To demonstrate my point, I have performed 4 minutes of unbroken hip hinge kettlebell swings that do not work on power and probably lack other qualities of the Hardstyle swing, but yet, it was 4 minutes well spent, whether for a warm-up, endurance, or other goals.

 

 

It’s a boring 4 minutes of double-arm hip hinge swings that demonstrates one can swing a kettlebell unbroken for 4 minutes that’s not Hardstyle or Sportstyle but is still valid when it comes to technique and working towards a goal. This scene was taken from one of our weekly kettlebell workouts. I’ve also swung a kettlebell 1/3 my bodyweight for 200 times unbroken 5 years ago, and that’s kind of where my journey of defining and defending other kettlebell swing styles started as that video got a lot of flack from HS  peeps. I could not understand how they could not see that even though the movement was lacking power it was technically correct and safely working toward a goal.

Every aspect of my kettlebell swing is explained and justified in the book The Quick And Concise Kettlebell Swing Guide and Master The Basic Kettlebell Swing, both also available on Amazon as a hardcopy. A third book, Master The Kettlebell Swing is in production. For anyone wanting to get kettlebell certified online, there is also an online course. Some of the things people who are not familiar with other kettlebell swings will bring up are, but not limited to:

  • The arms are bent
  • There is no hip snap
  • Not enough power
  • And so on

That is just one example, but let’s dig into the video I made to show the differences between the main three kettlebell swing variations.

 

THE VARIATIONS DEMONSTRATED IN THE VIDEO

The video, 0 to 1 minute and 49 seconds are me introducing the video. At 1 minute and 49 seconds is where the clear demonstration starts of the differences between the kettlebell Pendulum, Hardstyle, and squat swing start. You should know that the hip hinge swing is the same movement as the Hardstyle swing, AKA Russian swing, just with different power generation.

When the comparison starts, you can immediately see that the pendulum swing takes long to complete than the hip hinge or squat swing.

Kettlebell Swing 1

The first variation in the video, positioned to the left is the kettlebell (automatically assumed to be a single arm) Pendulum swing. To keep things basic—although there is a whole lot more to it—the ankles bend and the arm stays connected longer for the Pendulum swing. At 2 minutes and 11 seconds, you can see a pause frame that shows how the ankles are bending which brings the knees forward. Best suited for endurance (high volume).

Kettlebell Swing 2

The second variation in the video, positioned in the middle is the single-arm Hardstyle swing. The shins stay vertical and two joints move, the knees and hips, and the movement is performed with power behind it. Best suited for power. The Hardstyle swing is based on the hip hinge movement but without power or other Hardstyle requirements, it is still a hip hinge swing and then becomes best suited for endurance and strength.

Kettlebell Swing 3

The third variation in the video positioned to the right is the single-arm squat swing. The ankles bend a lot and the hips come down lower than in the other variations of the kettlebell swing. Best suited for power, endurance, and strength. Great variation for interval training as more muscles are recruited and thus quickly spike the heart rate.

 

Kettlebell Trajectory

At 2 minutes and 19 seconds, you can see the trajectory of each swing variation. The first variation goes up, the second goes out and away, and the third is a hybrid between 1 and 2. Yes, the direction of the kettlebell does define muscle recruitment. The full trajectory of each movement is shown at 2 minutes and 32 seconds. Each trajectory works toward a different goal.

 

Kettlebell Swing Movement Pattern

At 2 minutes and 24 seconds, you can see the difference between the movement patterns in the middle. The Pendulum swing shows an extension of the knees while still in hip flexion. The hip hinge swing shows flexion in two joints, the knees and hips. The squat swing shows flexion in all three joints, the ankles, knees, and hips.

 

Which Kettlebell Swing Is The Best?

The best kettlebell swing variation is the one that works toward your goal at any given time. There is no such thing as always being the best in any given situation, whoever says that doesn’t understand the variations and is extremely biased. Putting one variation down just because you don’t understand it, never heard of it, or don’t like it is not the right way to progress with any type of training. Putting one variation on a pedestal just because that’s the one you’ve been taught or prefer is also not the way to progress in training. If you have your preference of style, sure you can evangelize it to others, but before you do, you should know the ins and outs of the others and never put them down. You should be able to explain why to choose one over the other at any given time. Hardstyle should be friends with Softstyle, and Softstyle should be friends with Hardstyle, and of course, we should include that whole army of styles not covered by those two and share our common ground, the kettlebell.

If anyone ever again comments negatively on your kettlebell swing, and you know it’s a technically correct and safe swing variation then send them a link to this page. Do make sure to always include what type of swing you are doing when posting in public, as not telling anyone what kettlebell swing variation you are doing (or think you are) while asking for a form check is surely going to present you with a lot of contradicting information. Example: “How’s my swing” is not the same as “How is my hip hinge swing?”, or “How is my squat swing?”, or “How is my pendulum swing?”, etc.

 

That’s nearly 12,000 characters of information on the difference between the main three kettlebell swing variations, a lot more is written in our books and courses. If you’re interested in the Pendulum swing I can highly recommend our online Kettlebell Sport For Beginners course. Don’t miss out on all our awesome kettlebell products in our shop here.

 

You can unlock the following kettlebell swing videos for free with a simple social share or read about the American Swing.

  • If You’re Squatting in Your Kettlebell Swing, You’re Doing It Wrong (20+ minutes of content)
  • How To Kettlebell Swing (9+ minutes of content)
  • Improve Your Kettlebell Swing—GOLDEN TIP (4+ minutes of content)
  • Avoid Kettlebell Swing Upper Back/Neck Pain (15+ minutes of content)
  • How To Do A Single Arm Kettlebell Swing (3+ minutes of content)
  • How to start the kettlebell swing—Pull back/Hike back (3+ minutes of content)
  • Kettlebell Squat Swingclean and Swingsnatch FOR INTENSE WORKOUTS!

 

 

What Is The American Swing?

The American Kettlebell Swing is any variation of the swing finished with a shoulder raise until the kettlebell is overhead or any swing variation with much more power and then finished with a press out. It should be noted that the variation of the swing is always with double arms for the American Swing.

 

Let Us Know What YOU Think!?

We’d like to know what you think? Has any of this information opened up a new world and possibly a different way of thinking? Or do you feel that there are some incorrect statements within this article? Let us know further below or on this Facebook post right here. If you enjoyed the information presented in the article, I can guarantee that you’ll find the same amount of awesome new information in the videos that can be unlocked above with a simple link share on social media.

 

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