The Russian and American Kettlebell Swing

There are loads of articles out there that argue the benefit, cost effectiveness, efficiency and safety between the American and Russian Swings. I do not want to add to those arguments. I simply to clarify a bit what might be reasons for you, at you current athletic level, may choose one or the other for their workouts.

Jared kettlebell russian swing
Russian-style kettlebell swing

Photo May 07, 2 36 35 PMAmerican-style kettlebell swing

The Russian swing is unarguably the safer method. Without the need for going overhead and or risk of compromising the shoulder joints this style is a great place to start. You can also go heavier. The American Swing probably is an advanced technique but not because of strength but because of mobility. If you were lucky, as a child you spent a significant amount of time on the jungle gym, climbing trees, doing sports and wrestling around. Did you still hang from things as you got older? Did you still climb? Even through high school and college? How about as an adult. Point is many people no longer have the required mobility and strength in the shoulder to perform overhead movements. Even if you can perform a proper overhead press with two kettle bells or a barbell doesn’t mean you have the ability to lock out both arms while gripping one kettlebell. It’s just a really narrow grip.

Scaling the American swing:

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bent-arms (considered scaling- improve your mobility!)

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetthe preferred American-style swing for those with mobility issues, scaled to as high as you can safely

Here are examples of incorrect form:

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over-extended in the lower back

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over-extended and over-powered

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kettlebell not perfectly-vertical aka “limp” aka “droopy” aka “droopy bell syndrome”

Either way, you must master the Russian Swing first. Mastery of the foundational movements will improve your athleticism.

Range of motion is one of them and arguable one of the most important. Get on it.

Below is a simple test to find out if you have the mobility to execute the overhead swing. Lay with your back to the ground and put your arms in front of you locked out with thumbs touching. Slowly move them towards your head and allow them, if possible, to touch the ground above your head. If your back arches up and off the ground or if you hold your back position and your arms cannot touch the floor then your range of motion is compromised.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetCannot put locked out arms on the floor without arching and allowing the back to leave the ground

If this is you come to Kettlebell Class or Mobility class. We will correct your range-of-motion limitations. This is a priority for athletic performance as well as injury prevention.