JP Mullowney
JP Mullowney

If we, at JKC, have had the pleasure of having you as a client for any amount of time, it is likely you have been introduced to the kettlebell swing. As you are standing there, violently swing that bell, you may be wondering a couple of different things. What is the point of the swing anyway? Is this really doing anything for me? Where should I feel this? And likely many more. Well, I am happy to say that after this article, you will have all the answers to these questions and more!

First though, a brief history of the kettlebell itself. Interestingly, kettlebells actually date to 1700’s Russia where they were used by farmers for weighing crops. Then, around the turn of the 20th century, kettlebells became the tool of choice for Russian and European strongmen. From there, the kettlebell became the favourite tool of Russian Red Army for their gruelling exercise regimes (Tsatsouline, 2001). The usage of the kettlebell however, took much longer to catch on in North America. In fact, it was not until 2001 that they were really introduced to the North American masses by renowned Russian strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline. Tsatsouline, a former Special Forces trainer in Soviet Russia, first published his training manual “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge” that year, awakening the fitness community to this invaluable training tool.

KB swing vert 3The reason that the swing enjoys so much popularity with us at JKC is because of the host of benefits which it yields. First, the swing is the foundational exercise for most other kettlebell exercises which you may learn such as the clean, snatch or front squat (Lake & Lauder, 2012). Simply put, most other exercises which you may learn are based around the swing motion. Also, the kettlebell has been said to simultaneously develop both strength and flexibility of the shoulder and hip joints (Tsatsouline, 2001), a benefit not seen with traditional barbell or dumbbell exercises.

In addition to the firsthand accounts by those such as Tsatsouline, several, peer-reviewed research studies have noted the benefits of the kettlebell swing. For example, in a 2012 study, McGill and Marshall noted that the kettlebell swing resulted in rapid muscle activation-relaxation cycles substantially improving the ability of the user to generate muscular power, the ability of the muscles to generate force quickly. In a practical sense, this ability to quickly generate muscular force is the difference between slipping and catching yourself and slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk. Secondly, the authors credit the unique muscle activation patterns in the glutes and low back when swinging for self-reported restoration and enhancing of back health and function in those with previous low back injuries.

In another study, Lake and Lauder (2012) noted that proponents of the swing suggested that it simultaneously improves muscular strength, endurance, power and cardiorespiratory fitness. To investigate claims like these, Lake and Lauder (2012) designed a study which compared kettlebell training to traditional strength and power training. The results of their study clearly demonstrated the power of the kettlebell swing with the authors reporting average increases of 9.8% and 19.8% respectively for maximum muscular strength and explosive strength over a six week training program.

The bottom line: Kettlebell swings are great! Not only are they are the base move for more advanced techniques such as the clean, snatch and front squat but they have been anecdotally and scientifically shown to increase muscular strength, endurance, and power. In addition, the unique patterns of muscle activation which occur during the swing provide relief for those who experience pain during traditional back exercises. So next time you are standing there, swinging away, just remember that you are swinging for a purpose!

Prepared for the JKC blog by coach Thomas.

Photo credit: JP Mullowney & Mark Burnham Photography

References:

Lake, J.P., Lauder, M.A. (2012). Kettlebell swing training improves maximal and explosive strength. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2228-2233.

McGill, S. M., Marshall, L.W. (2012). Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms up carry: Back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(1), 16-27.

Tsatsouline, P. (2001). The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness for Hard Living Comrades. Little Canada, MN: Dragon Door Publications

Kathryn Sparrow

Nutritional Coaching by Julia Howard

From my initial consult with Julia, she was professional and knowledgeable as both a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and athlete. She was interested in my nutrition and fitness goals and the development of a plan that would set me up for success.

Julia designed weekly meal plans that were complete with recipes and shopping lists. The food choices were nutritious, easy to prepare, and ensured that I felt well nourished and energized throughout my training and non-training days. Not only do I feel leaner and more fit, but I have more energy and I feel much more in tune with my body and food choices. Julia really helped me put everything in place so I can continue this process going forward- I cannot thank her enough!

I started strength training at JKC in the Spring of 2021. I am in my 60’s but happy to say I feel much younger since joining this gym. I joined JKC upon the advice of a doctor. I went through some difficult medical issues last year, that’s when one of my doctors recommended strength training at JKC. I have been physically active most of my adult life but mainly running and completed many road races as I am a distance runner. Strength training has definitely benefited me by increasing my stamina and energy. It sure has enhanced my recovery over the past year. I have the added benefit of becoming a stronger runner as well.

I had virtually no real experience using weights and felt intimidated going gyms. I avoided gym-goers using free weights, especially when hearing that loud crash, as they would drop weights to the floor. I thought this was to show everyone around them that they owned that area and that I shouldn’t go anywhere near! So I guess I just wanted to learn how to lift weights safely in a gym environment.

I spent over 18 years in the British Military, so I got to use some nice gyms. 99% of my time and experiences in those gyms was spent doing cardiovascular workouts, because I could just jump on a treadmill, plug in my head phones and do my own thing! JKC is different, because they have given me the confidence to use free weights and equipment that I had feared for years. Their demonstrations and knowledge is impeccable and I thank them for their continuous belief and support they show me at every session.

I originally joined JKC because I was anxious about passing out and embarrassing myself since I hadn’t weight trained in a while and I’d hoped to find somewhere sympathetic. My husband @terry_hussey had been training at JKC and his success there made me miss the achievement you feel from a good workout. I went to meet Jon and immediately knew it was going to be a safe space for me. I was never judged for the fears I had and where I was starting from. Jon and Thomas made sure to check on me often, and found a way to challenge me but make me feel secure at the same time, and Terry and I were able to book sessions together, so working out became a shared win for us!

JKC is different from other gyms because of the personal growth you have outside JKC (the sessions inside JKC creates a great positive feedback loop!). You gain self confidence, learn how to show up for yourself, meet a community of newfound friends, and get the support of your trainers who are behind you 100%. I’ve left a scattered workout so proud of myself I’ve honestly shed a tear in the car on the drive home. JKC is the mental health relief valve I need to stay positive, and keep my anxiety and health related fears at bay.

After my children were born, I was completely out of shape. I had been active before my first pregnancy in 2008. I saw a post on social media about a charity event that was hosted at the gym. It prompted me to check out the JKC website. I was immediately impressed by the professional content and decided to give it a try. The professionally crafted and uniquely tailored work outs, as well as the sense of accountability and commitment that they foster. I have not missed a workout since joining – contrary to other experiences I have had when purchasing gym memberships. The flexibility of booking and rescheduling workouts, made easy by an online app, also contributed to my success in meeting my fitness goals.

I enjoy every session, working out with Jon, Thomas and Craig, as well as the “JKC Community”. Anytime someone achieves a personal best, I enjoy the celebration and support everyone gives each other. For me, I fondly remember achieving personal bests on bench press, chin ups and the sled push, in particular.

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