To Swing or NOT To Swing?

Today, I was going to post an article on how to ace the RKC Level 1, BUT, I got an important comment from a reader in response to the “3 Kettlebell Exercises to Test the Waters” article that I’d like to address first.  He/she writes…

Hi Chris

I think the kettlebell overhead press and kettlebell front squat are a good way to start getting acquainted with the good old cannonball with a handle. These moves are challenging, yet not intimidating.

But kb renegade rows? I have my reservations.

This is just a personal opinion though. It comes from my observation of using the kettlebell in my training. Admittedly, I don’t use it as often as I’d like…

I think someone who wants to try ‘kettlebelling’ for the first time should and must learn the swing. As it is the basis of all things kb related. The kb swing teaches you to be aware of and activate the hips and the lats which play a big role in enabling someone to be fast, agile and powerful.


 “Aizan” makes a great point.  Why not start with swings if you’re curious about kettlebells? After all, it is THE foundational movement of any ballistic kettlebell exercise and every possible movement that involves athleticism and power.

 BUT, the swing is an incredibly TECHNICAL movement.  Shoot, even my team leader Master RKC Brett Jones who’s been “kettlebelling” for over 13 years says that he’s still chasing the “perfect swing”.

 The issue that I have with those passers-by in the gym who are intrigued by kettlebell training is that getting them to swing first may be the wrong approach because of the technical intricacies of it.

 How many gym-goes do you know that can arch their backs properly?

 How many know the difference between bracing their abs and drawing-in and which one they should be doing when they swing?

 And how many times have you seen somebody attempt to do swings and when you watch them it looks more like a Sumo Squat – Front Raise combo? (google “Bob Harper kettlebell” and you’ll see what I mean).

 As important as the swing is, for someone who wants to substitute a kettlebell for some traditional dumbbell exercises, then the military press, the front squat and a rowing movement – like the renegade or modified renegade row – is where to start.

Those are safe, non-ballistic, foundational movements that should be a part of any program – kettlebells or not.

 Once your curiosity turns into a conviction that kettlebell training is for you, seek out your local RKC and have them demonstrate and instruct you on how to swing, because it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that you learn this foundational exercise.

 For a great recently published article on the swing and the importance of a good hip hinge and minimal knee bend, check out this article by Senior RKC Dan John on t-Nation… 

Thanks to "Aizan" for the great comment and for really sparking some discussion and thought on my end.  

To thank you, I’ll be sending you a complete deluxe copy of the TT Kettlebell Revolution.


  • Reply March 3, 2011


    I’m sorry to say I don’t have to google “Bob Harper kettlebell” to know who that is. The entire blogosphere is alive with making fun of that man, his methods and his stuff in general.

    Rather than the swing, I started with the Kb deadlift, but that’s me, man. I’m glad you responded to Aizan’s point, though. To me, it tells me you’re paying attention to your readers.

  • Reply March 3, 2011


    Whoops, wrong URl in the comment section of that one.

    My bad.

    Keep up the great work, Chris!

  • Reply March 3, 2011


    Thanks for the reply, Chris. Actually, I started to know about the kettlebell through your collaboration with CB. I got interested in the KB and did some of my own research. I guess by the time I knew about the KB my basic postural foundation are pretty good hench I adapted well to the swing.

    I kind of forget that there are a lot of gym goers out there who still need to improve on the basic stuff like how to do bodyweight squats correctly. Not trying to sound condescending (to the gym goers) but it is a matter of fact.

    Nowadays I just train at home.

    Can’t wait to take a look at your programmes, Chris!

    p/s Aizan is a she

  • Reply March 7, 2011


    Great reply Chris,initially after that post I was thinking the same as Aizan but quickly came to your reasoning – the swing is pretty technical, it can feel as if it’s “working you out” even with bad form, and can definitely hurt if done incorrectly.

    Unfortunately, there are also many trainers out there who are teaching bad form, not just gym goers!

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