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Kettlebell swings are one of the most effective exercises out there.
They take a bit of skill, but not as much as highly technical lifts, and you do them for high reps, so you can drill the movement home as you’re doing it. They’re efficient, fairly safe and give a good opportunity to build some strength and some cardio at the same time. They emphasise a movement that helps with other moves and has great athletic and real-world carryover – swings make your levers, deadlifts and rows better, make your tackle better, your clean, and if you find yourself throwing a sack of logs into a truck you’ll find yourself thinking how similar the movement is.
So if it ain’t broke, why isn’t this article just called ‘even more reasons to love the swing’?
The trouble with unilateral movements I that they usually can’t support anything like the same loads as bilateral ones. There are exceptions, but the trouble with bilateral movements is that they’re often actually neither unilateral nor bilateral: they’re ambilateral.
You use both sides, for sure: but you don’t use them the same.
Think of a bench press, an easy movement to visualize. If you can bench with two dumbbells the same load as with a bar you’re an unusual case (and you know what you’re doing in the gym!) – and if you try it, you’ll see why. One side works more than the other and pulls the slacker side up after it.
In the swing, we’re using and conditioning many of the most important muscles of the body at once. The hamstrings and core muscles get a solid workout – even if you think your legs are in good condition, if you do a big swing workout you’ll have trouble walking up the stairs the next day! And the swing is good for the upper back as well as he low back. It’s general core and posterior chain conditioning. But what it’s all powered by is what you’re sitting on.
Glutes stabilize your knees and your lower back as well as being big movers. And if you have uneven glute development you can have a bunch of other issues to go along with it. Tight iliotibial bands trying to compensate for uneven gluteus medialis development isn’t fun but it’s a tilted and torqued pelvis that’s going to give you a pain. Many over-tight hip flexors are really caused by uneven glute development; so is a lot of lower back pain. How can we fix this?
That’s going to be the split swing – a swing in a split stance.
First, how do you tell if you’ve got uneven glute development? Here are two simple hacks to find out – not foolproof but they’ll give you a working idea:
1: Broomstick survey
Stand in front of a mirror with a broomstick. Put one side of the broomstick on the crest of your hip on one side, and the other in the same place on the other. You now have a line through your pelvis. Is it higher one side than the other, or further forward or back?
2: One-leg bridge
Do a one-leg glute bridge with your other leg bent up toward your chest. If you’re weaker one side than the other, or tighter one side than the other, that can be a sign of uneven glute development.