Author: Jordan Vezina
Jordan is the founder and co-owner of Average To Elite Performance in Palo Alto, California. A former Marine and bodyguard Jordan is now a Z-Health Master Trainer and kettlebell specialist who spends his spare time writing novels and watching his dog sleep.
I was an infantry Marine in a special unit from 1997-2001. Then I went active in the reserves in 2005 while I was also working in executive protection and later was in the National Guard, again in the infantry. During this time I did a lot of training and i considered myself to be pretty strong and conditioned. I could run with a pack on and practice building assaults all day, no problem.
Then I met the kettlebell swing.
I’ve learned other exercises since the swing that have reduced me to a pile of gasping flesh, but none compare to the kettlebell swing on a number of fronts.
Portability: It’s just a ball with a handle on it. Seriously. It has a freaking handle on it for carrying it around. The fact that I most only use one or two sizes (see versatility) is also a factor as I don’t need a number of different weights
Versatility: The kettlebell allows me to work on both strength and endurance, separately or together.
Cool Factor: Never leave out the cool factor, it’s a rookie fitness move. You need to look cool while you’re exercising, and anyone who says differently probably doesn’t look cool. Training with kettlebells makes you look cool.
Moderate Mobility Requirement: All exercises require some degree of mobility, but some more than others. For example, most barbell work requires a high degree of mobility. This does not mean it’s bad, but for someone who is still working on their mobility and is time poor, it may not be the best option.
There are a number of different exercises that can be performed with the kettlebell, but my go-to has always been and remains the kettlebell swing.
- Less Weight Lifted = Less Risk of Injury: Yes, it’s possible to be injured doing just about anything (even sleeping) but in my experience if a person learns proper technique with the kettlebell and learns to respect their limits, there is no reason they should be getting injured. Your average kettlebell used in a workout only ranges from 26-53 pounds. Yes, you can go heavier, but there really isn’t much need to. Comparatively a moderately heavy deadlift for me is 185-225 pounds. Again, I’m not saying barbell work is bad or “dangerous” but for the average recreational athlete it may not always be appropriate.
- Time Savings: A twenty minute kettlebell swing workout will be more than enough for the average (or advanced) athlete to get in a good strength and conditioning workout. Obviously I can do more if I like, but my average client is in that “time poor” category, so if we can find ways to reduce training time while amplifying effect, all the better.
- Lower Relative Skill Requirement: Remember that you do still need to learn proper technique, but the skill level for a swing is nowhere near the skill requirement for a barbell snatch or a pistol squat.
For the majority of my clients the kettlebell has a place of honor in their home, whether that is in the corner of the living room or out in the garage. It is a tool like any other that they know will help them stay strong, improve their heart health and even teach them something about pushing forward when things get tough.
- Make sure to roll and stretch your quads/ hips before and after! Your glutes drive the swing, and if the quads are tight they act like a “brake” on this action!
- Always hinge from your hips. Never round your back! Remember that your hips are the engine for the kettlebell swing!
- Breathe in through your nose on the way down and out through your mouth on the way up!
- Your lower back should never feel tight while performing swings. If it does, back off and work on the first two points or seek qualified instruction!