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

A few years ago, I pinched a nerve in my neck which led me to be stationary as any form of movement would cause extreme pain. During this time, my fiancé (Sean) started at JKC and loved it!! Once I overcame the nerve issue, Sean spent a long time trying to convince me that JKC is exactly what I needed to safely start working out again (I’m slightly stubborn and was super scared of re-pinching the nerve). Long story short, Sean was right… as much as I hate to admit it!

I never had luck at gyms, if it started to hurt I would call it a day. At JKC that is not an option, as Jon & Thomas will push you to finish the workout, whether you want to or not! Working out in a group setting is also a big benefit of working out at JKC, if you’re not feeling motivated you can simply feed off of someone else’s energetic vibes.

I heard somewhere that achieving your health goals is determined largely by what you do in the kitchen. I am grateful to have found Julia who brought direction and accountability to this most important piece for me. Having Julia in my corner has brought me confidence and certainty that I am on my way to achieving my goals. I highly recommend her if you are serious about making a change and feeling better about your health.

I’m 30 — started at JKC Aug 2016. I moved to NL to open lululemon and we chose Jon as one of our store’s ambassadors, did one workout and have raved about it ever since! The JKC team can adapt a workout no matter what the situation — injuries, new goals, you name it! The trust and expertise can’t be matched!

My initial goal was to find qualified personal training services in a personalized small gym setting. I have never been a fan of large gyms. JKC offers a friendly, happy gym experience that motivates me to strive for bigger and better results every week. Jon, Thomas and Craig are genuinely talented and always excited to celebrate everyone’s success.

I have a passion for challenging myself to achieve or beat goals. My favourite memories take me back to greater wins than I ever imagined with deadlifts and after a lot of determination and hard work, being able to do multiple chin-ups. Training at JKC has been one of the best experiences of my life – thank you for your commitment to helping me stay fit!!💪🏼😅

I came to JKC through recommendations from my peers from lululemon. As a current ambassador, I’ve been introduced to legacy ambassadors, like Jon, and I knew a bunch of other people from the store were working out here so I wanted to give it a go. I often dread lower body workouts so I started coming here to do legs. I’ve had such great progress that I now come twice a week— and, I no longer hate leg day!

I’ve never experienced this sort of hybrid between group workouts and personalized service. Many group strength training services offer a sort of one-size-fits-all workout for the general population, which has never been of interest to me, because I want my workout tailored to my needs! I LOVE that you can be in a group setting while doing your own personal program; I love the camaraderie and community at JKC, and, I’ve seen incredible results thus far! Jon is always so attuned to what I need.

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