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Is the kettlebell swing the best possible exercise for developing strength and endurance, mobilizing the hips, activating the glutes and achieving a host of other benefits?

Probably not.

However, the kettlebell swing may be the best possible exercise you can do to achieve these goals.

What do I mean by this? Read over the two examples below and decide which is you.

Example A: You wake up in the morning feeling very rested and refreshed because you always sleep 8 hours, eat clean and don’t drink much. You get moving and put in a good 15 minutes of mobility work and breathing practice. You prepare your organic, grass fed breakfast, eat and then meditate before heading to work. Later that day you casually stroll into the gym and put in another block of mobility practice and then skill practice in the Olympic lifts, power lifts or whatever else you are working on. Maybe you take a nap. Then it’s time to train. You go into the cooler bag you carry with you everywhere and retrieve your pre-workout shake and sip it as you begin your warm up. You go full on freaking #beastmode and execute a reign of terror in the weight room. Then you hit the sauna, stretch and head home for your post workout meal and maybe some yoga. You wrap up your food and hydration log for the day and black out your room before turning in for the night.

Example B: You wake up hanging off the bed with a cat asleep on your face. Your head aches a little because you ‘split’ a bottle of wine with your significant other, who actually doesn’t drink much so let’s face it you drank the whole thing. You start preparing some oatmeal (in the microwave) but then realize you slept through your alarm and have to be at work in 7 minutes so you zip out the door stopping long enough at Starbucks to grab a coffee. As you’re driving away you realize you should have gotten a sandwich. That’s okay, because you’re basically intermittent fasting so it’s probably fine. You engage for the next ten hours in a tug of war match that involves either you shouting at people or getting yelled at. You’re pretty sure the senior site reliability engineer is plotting to overthrow you and maybe even kill you. You realize you have not had any water in six hours so you drink it all in five minutes. You have a personal training session at five so you roll in ten minutes late. You haven’t stretched in three days. You still have cat hair on the side of your face.

Don’t get me wrong, you can be Example A if you really want to. I’m not saying you can’t, but most people due to job and family demands are going to fall somewhere in between those two examples. Probably closer to Example B. The things is, I don’t really care if you haven’t been on a fitness bender since the last time I saw you, just getting in the door is a win.

The question we now face is this: Is Example B ready to do a barbell snatch? Ready to back squat? Ready to sprint? Ready to work on handstands? Another important question is: Do they even care about that stuff, or is it mostly your desire driving their exercise selection? Most people come in with the same goal: They want to look, move and feel better. Most people don’t really care about esoteric fitness goals. So what is the highest payoff, lowest back end requirement I can have them do? What is their minimum effective dose of fitness. The goal is to find that and scale up from there. Instead trainers often drive the client’s head into a wall on day one and then scale down, which is not optimal.

There are plenty of options out there, but I often choose the swing because it satisfies the below requirements.

  1. Maximum strength and conditioning punch in one tool and movement.
  2. Less weight lifted = less risk of injury.
  3. Low mobility requirement, relative to barbell work.
  4. Time savings. A swing workout can be very short. Great homework for clients low on time.
  5. Low skill requirement relative to the benefit. A fast hinge is not a difficult movement to learn, most have trouble with it precisely because it is so simple, and we want to over complicate everything.

It is great to help clients work toward becoming Example A if that is what they want, but it’s important not to put impossible demands on ordinary people. The kettlebell swing allows the Average to get a little closer to Elite without undue risk.

Check out the video below from me and Average To Elite trainer Alyssa Chang on the kettlebell swing!