Swings – The Harder the Better

The foundational exercise in the RKC – The Russian Kettlebell Challenge – School of Strength, is the Swing. It doesn’t matter if it’s two or one hand, it’s still the Swing. Of course, we teach the 2 Hand Swing first and then move to the 1 Hand version after some semblance of mastery has been demonstrated with the 2 Hand Swing.

Of course this seems elementary to most of us – if not all of us. So, many of us, pay the Swing lip service and then move on to other sexier kettlebell exercises like the Snatch. Many of us know that if there is a problem or technical issue with any exercise, its roots can usually be traced back to the Swing.

Last night, in a fit of anger, I just did Swings – the 2 Hand variety. No Get Ups. No prep work, mobility or otherwise. Nothing. “Just” Swings.

And it rocked!

Coincidentally I am limited to “Program Minimum” exercises and their variations this month, so that helped. But I just grabbed my 32kg and went into the basement. I cranked up the stereo with some 80s metal, and banged away. Hard.

17 minutes later without the skin on my pinkies, I decided I was done.

My heart rate was extremely elevated and my legs were quivering.

And my anger had subsided for the most part.

But here’s the thing: I literally had tunnel vision. I only focused on moving that kettlebell as hard and as fast as I possibly could for only 10 reps. I was slamming that thing back under my hips between my legs and slamming on the brakes at the top. Every muscle was working. It felt exhilarating.

Why am I writing about just doing Swings?

Because in today’s fitness landscape we confuse complexity with progress.

I accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish last night:

  1. I needed to blow off steam and harness my anger into something productive and by 830pm had yet to train.
  2. I wanted to push my heart rate up and get a metabolic workout in, preparing me for January.
  3. I needed to focus on the Program Minimum, which I committed to do 16 days ago, to work on my base, my foundation, and set myself up for new gains in 2010.

Today, as I write this, although I “only” used a 32kg kettlebell for my Swings, I feel every muscle in my lower body as well as my abs and upper back. Surprisingly more so than when I perform my beloved double kettlebell drills with twice the weight. That should tell me something right there.

I plan on getting at least 2 of these types of training days each week until the end of December.

It makes me wonder how many people would start seeing results if they just kept their training program simple, like 20 minutes of hard, fast Swings two or three times per week.

I know – it’s too boring.

You know what is really boring? “Working out” for years and seeing no visible or measurable change in your body’s appearance or performance.

Here was Monday’s training program (12.14.09):

A. Walkouts x10

B1. Tall Kneeling Lifts: 12kg/15,15

B2. 1/2 Kneeling Bottoms Up Press: 12kg/15,15

B3. Reverse Lunge, bodyweight: 15,15

B4. Get Up Sit Up: 16kg/5,5

B5. 2 Hand Swings 24kg/20

B1 through B5 was performed as a circuit with 60 seconds rest between each exercise. The circuit was performed twice.

Everything is getting much stronger and much more controlled.

I’m really starting to feel “put together” and very, very strong. I can feel my strength returning behind the scenes or beneath the surface, so to speak. I can’t wait to see how I feel when I get on the bar in January.

Will write about the visit to the Iron Tamer’s in a future post. It was a GREAT time to say the least.

6 comments… add one
  • Dustin Lebel Dec 16, 2009 @ 18:15

    Good stuff, Geoff. You inspired me to do the program minimum for the month of December, and I’m having similar experiences using just a 24. Boring = results!

  • Mike McNiff, II Dec 17, 2009 @ 1:34

    Geoff, I’m really enjoying your account of the program minimum. Looking forward to reading about your improvements when you get back under the bar.

  • Russ Moon Dec 17, 2009 @ 2:45

    “Many of us know that if there is a problem or technical issue with any exercise, its roots can usually be traced back to the Swing.” – I did not and now do not feel so dumb about robotically refusing to pass go until I get the form down on these basic exercises.

    2 Arm Swing with Beast – took your cue Geoff and accelerated the backswing almost like a VO2 max snatch. Stopped more of the power leakage on the upswing by locking my knee cap in and it felt different but I think it was higher quality. Definitely aggressively pulling the bell back made it harder…thank you for that expert tip. Sorry if my terms are wrong feel free to correct with the party endorsed terminology. No they aren’t “entertainment” but they do make you feel strong like a bull 🙂

    240 reps in 30 minutes form began to erode so I stopped.

  • Russ Moon Dec 18, 2009 @ 21:47

    TGU 16 kg 1 X 6 reps l/r arm
    TGU 24 kg 1 X 2 reps l/r arm

    Goblet Squat 16 kg 3 x 30
    Goblet Squat Beast 1 x 5

  • GEOFFN Dec 19, 2009 @ 19:08

    Dustin – Yeah, it’s pretty crazy what happens when you limit your focus.

    McNiff – Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how this works too. I am feeling much stronger overall, even though I’m using lighter weights, than I have in a very long time.

    Russ – Being “strong like bull” is what it’s all about! Glad the tips worked and your Swing cleaned up. How’d the GUs feel?

  • Russ Moon Dec 20, 2009 @ 4:30

    TGU – My shoulders really feel good like they opened up from the inside. The tension pumps and warms them up. Having to concentrate alot on sucking my shoulder into the socket and keeping it there vs reaching and extending shoulder up and out of the socket but catching that more.

    I like the beauty of the flow from one set of muscles to the next. The part that is giving me the most challenge is …and excuse my terminology here please…the transition of the leg opposite the side holding the bell where you are moving from the “bridge” position to the lunge on the way up. My hips are I think a bit tight, but not an expert just my guess. That’s why I put the goblet squats after the TGU’s to try to pry them apart just a little more. Getting the 90 degree angle but having to do the “wiper” movement sometimes to get the back leg straight and in alignment with the front leg bent knee 90 degree on the side holding the bell. Working hard during the palm to bridge transition to create that straight line. But considering I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal even one good rep a month ago 6 aside with 16 kg and 2 a side with 24kg were new high water marks. Feeling it all through my abs, shoulders, hips, thighs…I like it and liking it more as my technique improves. I don’t have the number of reps under my belt as I have with some of the other exercises so will continue to focus on practicing it as a form almost like a martial arts kata vs. redlining myself. But the extra reps are there so I am not getting greedy so I can be safe and just taking one more each time with the hope that over time I will hone my technique and those +1 reps will add up.

    The TGU is a keeper for me and I will keep a continuous place in my rotation for it. Staying patient but anxious to see how the full body conditioning and power will translate when I go back full metal jacket to the dual cleans, snatches and presses…but holding off on those until the end of the month and pouring all I have into the Program Minimum.

    Thank you for asking.

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