The Kettlebell Swing is ballistic exercise. There is an explosion, then something travels. In the swing, the hips explosively extend, the kettlebell travels forward and arcs upward. then it falls, you hinge and repeat.
So the question has come up “How can we do that with a heavy swing?”
I have been informed that “A heavy swing can’t be done ballistically because you lose “snap” from your hips and as a result, the weight will no longer “float” at the top and the swing is no longer productive.”
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I have done as many (or more) swings than just about anybody writing about them today, unless your last name is Reifkind or possibly Jeffries.
As for HEAVY swings, I believe that Matt McBryde and I have explored this area as deep or deeper than anyone else (admittedly there is a LOT more experimentation to be done though) and I believe that there are a couple of problems with this bias against heavy swings.
1. Heavy is relative. I have jokingly said before that the weight is never too heavy, it’s that you are too weak. There is more truth in this than you may realize at first glance. In the beginning of your training, 16kg may be very heavy for you to swing. I vividly remember snatching a 16kg for 10 reps on each side and falling on the ground waiting for the buzzards to come peck out my eyes and feast upon my quivering body, like Conan on the Tree of Woe.
As you get stronger, “heavy” changes. At Nashville Kettlebell I have a LOT of clients, especially females, who began with 12kg kettlebells for short sets of swings and over time have worked p to 32kg, 40kg and some have even gone beyond that. I assure you, these are ballistic, hip snapping productive and HEAVY swings. Consider the Olympic lifts: Heavy and ballistic at the same time. You just have to get strong first.(I didn’t even mean to do that….StrongFirst….get it?)
2. Productive is relative. Productive for what? Productive is defined by moving you in the direction of a desired outcome. If your goal is to get stronger and you are swinging heavier and higher volume than you used to swing, you are being productive. If your goal is to get leaner and you swing heavy and get your diet together, you will make progress. Real productive progress.
Heavy swings also make better snatches, at least in my experience. A while back I did a snatch experiment after doing mostly swings in my own training. I detailed the results HERE.
A quick aside on light weight “power production” and that being the key to strength: Brandon Hetzler, who could legitimately carry one of the same business cards Wile E. Coyote carries…….
…..did some force plate studies on power production with a medium weight swing, roughly 30% of bodyweight being the “sweet spot”.
I know Brandon has also done some of his own training in the world of heavy swings, because he is smart enough to know that different tools provide different effect.
“Heavy swings allow you to do more work.” Brandon told me, pointing out the obvious. “A fellow “swinger” and I decided to see who could do more work in 15 minutes. With 2 48k bells I did 160 swings in 13:00(34,000 lb of work). She swung the 16kg and did 515 swings (18,000 lb of work). I win. There is more work being done.”
I am not down on light swings at all, they have their place, but think of it this way-doing light swings and calling it “strength work” is like listening to Limp Bizkit and calling it “heavy metal”. You may as well be listening to Justin Bieber. Weak people may think you are awesome, but strong people know better.
Swings Rock. Heavy Swings Rock MORE.