One Move to Rule Them All
The swing is the jumping off point for many other physical abilities
Okay the Lord of The Ring reference was a bit much in the title, but hey – it actually carries a pretty big point. The swing is one of the major movements of the human body. The hinging or hip extension movement is in almost every athletic sport, almost every major strength move, almost every major life movement that the human body makes. This is true whether it’s walking, running or bending, working in and around the low back, abdominals, hips, hamstrings and quadriceps. The major prime mover muscles of the swing and the other supporter muscles inclusive of calves, shoulders, arms and grip and upper back that the swing pulls into play.
If you’re going to do just one thing or a very small number of things to prepare you for the widest range of physical activities and to give you the most incredible bang for your buck well certainly the swing would be in my top number if not the actual top exercise. Here’s why – the swing is one of the simplest exercises you can possibly learn. It’s simple in the same way that martial arts or any art from is and don’t confuse what I’m saying – strength is an art from – the swing is simple in the way that most things are – You can learn it quickly and the individual techniques are actually simple, but you can spend a lifetime actually mastering it either from a technical perspective or a performance perspective.
Whatever it is you want to do if you get good at swinging you will get better at the other. You’ll begin to get much more flexible and pain free. I believe you build sequencing in how you teach the muscles to function by doing the swing correctly. Let me explain that – I was an athlete pretty much all my life and a football player up through college. When I got out of college I decided to specialize in strength and spent many years chasing high level lifts in powerlifting and strongman and may other veins of strength. Along the way I didn’t really run, because it didn’t pay me for what I wanted to accomplish. Later on I began to change my philosophy on that and began to think that for true well-rounded fitness everyone should be able to run. That doesn’t mean that everyone should be running distances, but it should be something you can call upon if you need to without physically falling apart.
I found that I developed a problem – I had gained massively in strength and was still flexible and in theory I should have been able to run, but every time I did such as running sprints I would pull a hamstring. I was doing massive stiff legged deadlifts – I’d done everything else necessary to logically correct that, but it still wouldn’t go away. Once I started really cranking out the volume on the swing I tested myself running again and voila I was running with no pain and no had no further problems with pulled hamstrings.
What does that mean? I believe the explosive movement in the swing which is actually a stretching and shortening cycle of the muscle is so akin to the explosion of sprinting that you immediately prepare the muscle for sequencing in the right way and contracting in the correct order as well as strengthening under a stretched load that it literally eliminates hamstring problems.
For many people the swing takes away the back problems that they experience in life. Why? Because it actually works the muscles that you need to keep strong to keep your posture correct and to keep yourself from falling apart when you bend over to pick something up. That stretching effect carries over in that you can bend over to pick something up off the floor without having a problem. The contract/relax feature of a high rep swing builds an auto-tightening of the body.
What does that mean? Most people hurt themselves in lifting things carelessly, but if you do enough swings you automatically go immediately into that movement to pick something up off the floor and you’re far less likely to throw your back out picking up groceries if you automatically pick up in safe manner. Since you’ve done a thousand repetitions of that motion you literally downloaded that movement into your cells and your muscle structure auto-defaults to the movement without issue. You’re far less likely to injure yourself when you’re hardwiring the muscles.
The swing can be adjusted for whatever performance vector you wish to build. In other words:
You want to get stronger? Swing heavy and explosively.
You want to get incredibly enduring? Swing for long periods of time.
I personally lost 120lbs of fat with the swing. I know that Dave Whitley – my man, super guy and super strongman who I’m proud to have had a hand in helping with strongman has also recently radically lost a massive amount of body fat. Many others have done the same. More than fat loss you build an incredible jumping off point for every other kettlebell exercise as well as every other type of exercise. For me personally my heart rate dropped over 30 beats a minute and my cardiovascular fitness went to an incredible level. I stopped getting sore doing bodyweight exercises or any of the other hundreds of ways I like to test myself for strength and strength endurance.
Everyone knows me for the high rep swing, but I also do many reps of other implements including maces, sledgehammers, Indian clubs, heavy bag work, sprawls, sled dragging, tire flipping – incredible world class strength endurance feats and I rarely ever get muscularly out of sorts from it because my whole body is now prepared for it because of that base of swings. In fact with that base built it allowed me to set personal records in many other areas, because in building the swing I believe you build a primal movement.
You’re building the raw capacities of the muscles and that raw capacity transfers over to more contrived and complicated movements in a very simple way. You’re not just building the specific movement you’re building the pure raw, horsepower of the body from a strength and endurance perspective and you can apply that endurance in any other way. I’ve set PRs in both the kettlebell snatch and one arm push press which are my two other favorite kettlebell movements that would seem difficult for most people to manage all because of the base of the swing.
It is literally the jumping off point for the kettlebell world, but I believe it’s the jumping off point for every other strength and athletic capacity you might want. Why not use the smartest thing you can do to create the most gains at the same time when you’re going to have to do the work anyway. If you’re session is taking you nine hours a day to lose fat, you’re missing the point. You could be doing it in 20 or 30 minutes if you just put the work in with the swing. You can build in a couple of hours per week and a few months the ability to swing non-stop for 20 to 30 minutes or almost non-stop and build the ability to have the endurance like no one’s business and strength and muscle that you keep and build along the way. That’s why I went crazy with the swing and you should too.
When you’re building yourself why not get every ounce of your capacity that you could. Truthfully everybody wants to look good and that’s why most people workout, but to refuse to build physical capacity along the way is for most people a set up for failure. Iin other words if you won’t actually get good at what you physically do you probably won’t actually look better. You’re going to have to build some real physical capacity, but more than that it’s like saying, “I want to invest in the stock market, but I don’t want you to give me back every penny I earned and interest I only want a quarter of it.”
If you’re not building into your physical capacity you’re not building into your health as well as your performance and daily life – you’re not adding to your life savings account, adding to your years, adding to your enjoyment of life, to living pain free, to living vitally and with incredible energy and your ability to build into those things. If you really want to take it to the next level – begin to think consciously of using the subtle energy of your body and breathing while you’re training the swing. Then you’re training muscular strength, incredible cardiovascular capacity, fat loss and endurance. You’re also training the rhythm, muscular and electromagnetic pulse of the body to work together. You’re doing what the old style Kung Fu master wanted to do in their training. You’re doing a living, breathing, moving Qi Gong by focusing energy, strength, muscle, endurance and breathing all in the same direction.
The swing also because of its simplicity and non-stop movement allows you to concentrate on those things very quickly without a million other technical details to focus on at the same time. You build a tremendous mental focus, physical focus, physical power, and you rip body fat off like nothing else. You can turn your hormones around and in fact your whole life around if you just train the swing hard enough. You can build the ability to train any other thing you want by building a base first. The people who are the best in the world at what they do are so because they are the best at the basics. The swing is a basic primal movement – it’s the basic of kettlebell movement. Get really good at that and you can be really great at the other stuff too. Just do the work. Dave does the work, I do the work – Everyone who wants to get really great at what they do puts in the work. Why not be world class? You can be if you just do the work.
Bud Jeffries is the owner of Strongerman.com where you can read much more about in combining super strength and super endurance together, with partial training, kettlebell swings, and much more.