All About That Swing

This weekend see’s the Irish National Kettlebell Sports Championships taking place in Meath.

I’ve two from my Kettleheads GS Team taking part. I was meant to be taking part too, but if you read regularly, you’ll be well aware of my recent injury.

But enough about me, lets talk Kettlebells.

There is Hard Style Kettlebell Training.

There is Kettlebell Sport

And there’s everything else.

Look around the internet and you’ll see die hard followers of Hard Style vigorously defending their system as the best thing ever.
You’ll find a similar attitude from many in the kettlebell sport world.

And then there’s a smaller number who are a bit more open minded.

But I’ve got to hand it to the Hard Style lads, they are right in their opinion that the Swing is one of the best conditioning exercises one can perform.
In fact, if you only ever used a kettlebell for swings and nothing else, you’ll not be doing the tool a disservice.

And at Wg-Fit, we do a LOT of swings.

Few exercises will hit so many common weak areas in a persons armour as the humble swing.

And by that I mean:
Stretch loading the hamstrings
Grooving a good hip hinge
Dynamic core strength, particularly with the one hand swing
Scapula control
Grip endurance
and of course, cardio.

One of the reasons the 1 arm swing is such a top core training drill is that it adds a rotational element to the movement.

As the bell travels down and back through the legs, your upper back will turn to allow the arm to come in towards the midline. If you don’t rotate the bell will either slam into your leg (done that, it aint fun!) or you’ll dramatically shorten your back swing.

As you progress in skill and strength, you’ll gradually be able to turn the upper back more and more, swinging the free arm behind you and really loading up the posterior chain and what is known as the glute to opposite latissimus sling.

posterior oblique sling

This gets even better if you use a staggered stance with your swing.

You get to load up two of the biggest muscles in the body, stretch loading them and then having them both powerfully contract to throw the kettlebell back outwards.

I’ll admit not everyone is ready for this, but then not everyone is ready for one arm swings of any sort.
You must go through all the prerequisite stages building strength and skill along the way before jumping into staggered stance, one arm swings with a deep back swing.
But once you get there, prepare to see your potential for force production skyrocket.

I’ve put together the Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing, which is free 26 page PDF download.

Get your copy by clicking on the image below and following the instructions:



Dave Hedges

Efficiency Over Duration

The_Persistence_of_MemoryTime is sparse.

Many people say they don’t have time to exercise.

I don’t believe them.

What most people mean is they can’t be bothered training. If they just said that, I’d be fine with it, I appreciate honesty, but saying you don’t have the time? That’s poor.

What some other mean, is that they don’t know how to train in a limited space of time.
Most people think a workout must be an hour or more of sweat and grind.

But does it?

Absolutely not.

Efficiency and intensity will trump duration in every case with the exception of developing endurance.

Even still, frequent, short, intense sessions will build work capacity which can then be honed into endurance when time allows.

So how do we get a full workout in in under an hour. Scratch that, that’s too easy. How about in 20 minutes?

Lets look at the major movement patterns. I stole these from Dan John, but since he includes them in almost every article he produces, I don’t think he’ll mind…

We have:

Upper Body Push
Upper Body Pull
Hip Hinge
Everything else (ie, Gait, Core, Prehab/Rehab etc)

Pick one exercise from each category, pick a rep range and go for it.
That’s it.
I tend to use the “Everything else” category for the warm up, you may choose it for a finisher.
But a sample short sharp workout may go like:

1A: Pull Up x 5
1B: Clean & press x 5
1C: Front Squat x 10
1D: KB Snatch x 10L/R
As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes with good form.

Ensure you adhere to good form!

kb front squat Neghar

If you’re following a progressive program rather than a WOD format, then pick 1 or 2 big lifts per session.
Maybe on day 1 use Deadlifts and Presses, on day 2 it can be Front Squats and Pull Ups.
Set a stopwatch for 15 minutes and get as many reps as each done as possible in that time span.
This is so effective, Charles Staley wrote a book on it and called it Escalating Density Training or EDT.
I use it a lot with my clients, especially those looking for fast results with little time used.

2-4 short sharp sessions per week may just be enough to get you the results you need, but only if you put in the required effort.

Each day in WG-Fit we run a lunchtime session with a short sharp “WOD” written up and many people following specific training protocols developed for their needs.
Most attendees only have a 30 minute window in which to train. A few can stay longer, but all of them get in on their lunchtime and get it done.

Join them.

Click here for details

Dave Hedges

If you’re interested in my classes / private training, CLICK HERE

Kettlebell Workshops, CLICK HERE

The Windmill, an Underrated Exercise

The Kettlebell Windmill is a classic exercise that also opens up a gateway to some pretty cool, more advanced drills.

To be fair, most people never need the more advanced versions, but the windmill really ought to be in everyone’s tool box.

Here’s why:

It teaches us to hinge into our hip with an emphasis on one leg. As we sit into this leg, the hip moves into internal rotation.
The hip both flexing and internally rotating will load up our glutes nicely, meaning that even when performed without a load, say in a warm up, we are putting some stretch load into our glutes and giving them a good reason to contract.

The raised arm is supporting rather than lifting a weight.
This is important as reduces the risk of damage in the shoulder joint and can actually have a therapeutic effect on the shoulder.
If I were to move my arm in the pattern it goes through during the windmill, but unloaded and either standing or lying down, it would look very much like a standard physio rehab drill for your rotator cuff.
But in a windmill, the arm is static while the body moves kinda like a weird closed chain / open chain combo, plus we can add significant loading to the movement.
These two points ask a lot more from the shoulder muscles than you might think and can replace all pressing actions, at least temporarily, while maintaining or even building pressing strength.

In the video below, watch the orientation of my hand as I go through the lift.
You’ll notice it doesn’t (or rather, shouldn’t) change as I move. If I do my best to keep the palm facing forwards, or even orient the thumb slightly backwards, I take the shoulder into a nice external rotation.
This puts a bit of a stretch into the pecs and allows the back to take most of the strain.
This is important as all the best pressers, be it in bench press or military press, will tell you the press from the back.
As we usually load the back with pulling actions, it can be difficult to visualise this, or even feel it happening.
The windmill, with its overhead support, almost feels like a press but much of the load is in the back. This helps a lot in getting people to use their back musculature to stabilise the shoulder during the more standard pressing actions.

I’d talk about the core training benefits of the lift, but that’s been done to death on every other kettlebell blog everywhere on the internet.
I actually don’t use it for “core training” I use it as a complete upper body strength drill.
That said though, go heavy on this, especially with both hands loaded and you’ll feel the midsection working like mad to keep the spine safe.
And that’s a good thing.

Have a look at the video:

The lift is not owned by the kettlebell community, although that’s where you’ll see it the most. There’s no reason not to use a dumbbell, even a barbell to load the movement.
But as it’s the movement itself that holds the benefit, be sure to practice a lot with either no, or very light weight before trying to load up.
Once you have it nailed and are adequately warmed up, feel free to load it all you want.
In this picture, I have 40kg in the top hand and 64kg in the bottom hand, for a total of 104kg. I weighted just below 90kg at the time.
I rarely lift this amount in this lift, but with regular exposure to submaximal loads with 24’s and 32’s I can perform this feat from cold. But the key point here is repeated practice with submaximal loads.

triple windmill

Have fun with this lift, and be prepared for some funny looks if practised in a standard public gym.

I’ll follow up this post with a look into the more advanced version of the movement, the Side Press and the Bent Press.

Dave Hedges

If you’re interested in my classes / private training, CLICK HERE

Kettlebell Workshops, CLICK HERE

Everything You Need to Know About the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the only exercise you need a kettlebell for.

Yes, there are a multitude of other exercises we do with the kettlebell, but really the swing is the foundation, it’s the core, baseline movement that all the other kettlebell lifts (as opposed to exercises using a kettlebell) grow out of.

So this post is the top posts all collected into a single place.

Bookmark it, share it, enjoy it and feel free to leave your feedback.


The Tutorials:

Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part I – the Basics

Start here. This is method that I’ve used and refined since the inception of WG-Fit and has successfully taken hundreds people from zero to successful swinging, some even further onto kettlebell sport or RKC.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part II – Common Errors

Building on the first instalment of the series, here we take a look at the most common errors seen when people learn the swing and how to correct them.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part III – the 1 Handed Swing

Now that we’ve mastered the 2 handed swing we can up our game with the 1 hand swing.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part IV – Personalising the Swing

By now you should have the basics of the swing down. In this instalment you get to look at how we can adjust the swing to make it better fit our individual strengths, weaknesses and goals. Does that mean we don’t have to adhere to any one style or dogma?
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part V – Double Kettlebell Swings

So you swing like a champion but that’s still not enough for you. Well, lets double the intensity by swinging a pair of kettlebells
Click HERE for more

and finally a couple of posts regarding specific aspects of kettlebell swing practice, this first post is one of the most read and shared to date:

So How High Should you Swing Your Kettlebell?

Ever since the inception of Crossfit and the “American Swing” there’s been a debate on how high a swing ought to travel. This is post will provide the answer to that debate.
Click HERE for more

Ask Dave: Should I Prevent My Body Rotating During Swings?

This is a damn good question, especially as we hear so much about spinal stability and preventing movement at the core. So what’s the case with the kettlebell?
Click HERE for more

Are the Kettlebell Lifts the Answer to Shit Posture?

Had a lovely conversation in the gym yesterday.

One of the my competitive Kettlebell Lifters, a member of the Kettleheads GS Team, was in and was marvelling at how incredible she felt after working on a few spinal extension drills and breathing techniques.
Drills that I gave her to improve her kettlebell lifting technique, but cross over into the real world as well.

A couple of days ago I was watching her train and was concerned that her lockout wasn’t as settled as it could be and started to look at what was missing in her motion that needed to be fixed.
It then became apparent that she had very little thoracic extension which meant that she wasn’t performing an efficient Jerk, wasn’t getting the breath she needed and couldn’t relax the shoulder at lockout.

So at the end of her set I took her through an Anatomy in Motion exercise known as the Wall Cogs. This allowed her to feel her spine in its full extension and its full flexion.

The we added breath, as you extend lift the chest and breath in
As you flex the spine, breathe out.

In through the nose out through the mouth?

Who cares, just fill the lungs, then squeeze ‘em dry.

Try just breathing through the nose
Try just breathing through the mouth
Try in through the mouth, out through the nose
Try in through the nose, out through the mouth

It’s all a big experiment if it’s new to you, so forget what the guru’s tell you and explore, play see what fits you the best.
And anyway, half way through a set of Kettlebell Jerks, you’ll be past caring what the guru’s said and instead, you’ll be grateful for finding the best method for you.

This is exactly what Wendy took from our few minutes working on this, and she experimented.
She must have spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday practicing, because on Wednesday she back in and lifting like she’s never lifted before.
She was like a different person under the iron, she’d made 6 months progress in just 48 hours.

And not only that she commented that the breathing was like a “Jolt”
Which I assume is a good thing.

This lead into a conversation on posture, which is really what I wanted to get to in this post. Because we talked about how posture generally declines as we age, and how we’re seeing more and more people having poor posture at younger ages.

And we spoke about how the Kettlebell lifts are such a tonic to the problem of age related, or fear related postural decline.
Fear related?

Yup, it’s what the Somatics folk call a red like reflex, essentially moving towards a foetal position.

Look around you, how many folk can you see with a flexed upper back, rounded shoulders, forwards head posture and a tucked pelvis?
Do they look healthy and vital?
Do they look frail and unhealthy?

It’s what Dr Vladamir Janda describes as the Tonic and Phasic muscles of the body.
Janda spoke about how certain muscles developed early, pre birth even. These muscles were always prone to being short and tight. These would be the Tonic muscles, and mostly related to flexing the body or moving into that foetal position.

The Phasic muscles then are the opposite. They fit into the Somatic’s Green Light relfex. These are largely the extensor muscles that we develop a little later, in the first few months after being born.
The problem is, the older tonic muscles can sometimes get the upper hand on the phasics.
Especially during the self conscious teenage years and then there’s all that time sitting at a bloody desk.

So many people surrender to the tonics. Their Pecs, especially the pec minor gets tighter pulling the shoulders forwards. Hip flexors and Rec Fem shorten pulling our hip and spine out.
The opposite muscles weaken, allowing this to happen.

Before we know it, we’re old.

Perhaps the kettlebell lifts, and I mean the proper kettlebell lifts, not the millions of exercises you can do with a kettlebell, are the answer.
Maybe they’re the tonic to the tonic muscles.

Done right and trained properly the KB lifts, ie the clean, jerk and snatch, all work into the extensor chain of the body. Which essentially means we work the phasics, or the muscles that are most prone to weakness.

Not only that we work most of them with eccentric load.
Which if you ask Gary Ward, the Anatomy in Motion founder is the key to proper muscle function.
During the jerk, we first sink into the first dip which puts an eccentric load (ie a stretch) into the Calves, Quads and Upper back.
As we spring out of this load, we take an in breath and put an eccentric load into the abdominals and chest before finally catching the bell and locking it out.

The Snatch is similar, but with a greater emphasis on the hamstrings and low back as they are loaded during the backswing.

Our assistance training will emphasis each stage of these action resulting in a body that can extend like a charm. Especially if targeted breathing exercises are utilised.

So it could be a case that the Kettlebell Lifts are the tonic to Janda’s Tonics.


Dave Hedges

Enhanced Athleticism through Unconventional Kettlebell & Bodyweight Lifts

“Bodybuilding is about time under tension, Kettlebell Lifting is about time out of tension” – Valery Federenko

anasenkoThis is a quote that has intrigued me for a while.

Over the years I’ve been coaching, especially the more recent years as I’ve visited other gyms as a guest instructor, I’ve noticed a trend amongst people.
It seems that while everyone I deal with does some kind of physical fitness training, and many are capable of greater feats of strength than myself, it seems that they are locked into a tight box of movement, unable to break out.

All their time under tension had created a body that was good at one thing, being tense. So while standing still and lifting something heavy came easy, anything else was a chore.

Strength training is great, don’t get me wrong, but to get strong for strengths sake isn’t the best approach in my mind.
Getting strong to improve performance is the key.

This means that even if you don’t play some sport, you must still do something that expresses the body’s ability to move, to celebrate the glory of movement, not simply be living statues.

On the Anatomy in Motion course I attended recently I was chatting with Chris Sritharan, the AiM no 2 man. In conversation he mentioned that strength training does not improve human movement. We’d already been taught how the AiM opinion is that a muscle must lengthen before it can contract, which falls in line with a lot of the martial arts tuition I’ve had.

So if strength training doesn’t improve human movement, what does it do?

Simple, it increases the potential for human movement. It expands the limits in which the human body can perform.

But only if performance is practised.

If you run, play sport, fight, climb or whatever, I dare say you are using your strength training to improve what you do. But what about those who just lift?
Those that train strength for strengths sake or for the aesthetic benefits are often the ones who become muscle bound, tight and uncoordinated.

It’s to these people that the lesser known kettlebell and bodyweight drills are most useful.
Not only will they round out your training, but they’ll ensure you stay agile, athletic and able to move freely, generating force in any direction at any time.
If you are a practising athlete, these drills may just give you that edges as well as elongate your career.
spiderman push up 4s
Bodyweight and kettlebell movements follow the AiM rules of stretching a muscle to make it fire, so keep the nervous system firing like its supposed to. Not only that, they break out of the standard linear movements that the majority of strength training lifts follow.

This is some of what I’ll be teaching on March 9th during the Kettlebell & Bodyweight workshop.
Over the day we will look at:

Odd Kettlebell Lifts including:
  • Windmills, Side Press & Bent Press
  • “Zoro”
  • Lateral Swings & Circular Cleans
  • More if we have the time

We’ll also take on variations of the classical kettlebell lifts,  taking the kettlebell lifts away from the saggital plane.

We’ll also look at intermediate and advanced bodyweight drills, animal and agility movements, turning the Plank into a worthwhile exercise and……
Yes, burpees, we have 18+ variations on this already tough drill, dare you try them all?

This is a loose format, we will be taking questions and answering them as they come up.
The workshop is open to everyone, although a basic knowledge of the common kettlebell lifts is necessary to get the most out of the day.
We’re taking bookings now, our early bird price expires this afternoon, so move quickly!
THIS LINK will take you to the booking form.
And if thats not enough…….
I’ve just launched a new service for booking appointments/classes, tracking your membership and even allowing you to pay online. It’s a service called FrontDeskHQ and so far seems very user friendly, I hope to make it my primary system after I’ve finished trialling. So please get yourselves registered, or at the very least have a look and tell me what you think of the service, keeper or not? Here’s the link:

Kettlebell Snatch Tutorial part VI – Double Bells

Welcome to part 6 of the Snatch Tutorial series.
In case you missed them, here are Part 1 Part 2 Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

How you feel after a set of Double KB Snatch.

How you feel after a set of Double KB Snatch.

This is the post that didn’t want to get posted! First of all I lost the bloody video, probably deleted without thinking, and then wordpress herself decided to have a hissy fit for the whole morning!

So, all apologies, here is Part 6: Double Bells.

So far we’ve covered the Snatch in a fair bit of detail, but only wit one bell. However, everything you’ve learned so far is relevant here when we double up. Everything except the rotation from the waist.
And the staggered stance.
Or the diagonal flight path.

Everything ELSE is still valid….

What I’m trying to say is, make sure you can snatch well before moving up to doubles.

Once you make the jump though you will not be disappointed, it’s a monster lift for developing explosive power and power endurance. If you play contact sports, especially Rugby or any form of wrestling, this will add some real pep you you punch.

Do take care when you first start. You’ll see in the video my first demo started with a we swing to get the bells moving. This was simply because it was cold and I can feel my old back injuries sending out their wee warning s signs. I have another lifter who struggles a bit with his back does the same thing, he always starts his swings/cleans/snatches with a wee pre swing before the first rep. This is not poor technique, it’s simply recognising that going from a dead start (as I do in latter sets in the clip) requires good mobility and a strong back.
If the mobility is lacking, or the back isn’t great, the deep initial start position can be problematic.

Then there’s the drop.
To start with, segment to the drop into two stages. Bring the bells first to the chest, then down into the swing, as you would if performing  the Clean and Press or Long Cycle lifts.
Again, this will reduce the load on the back as the bells won’t have as much time / distance to accelerate in. And as we know from watching the Big Bang Theory, Force = Mass x Acceleration.
The further the bells drop, the faster they will be travelling at the terminus of the back swing, so a pair of 24’s as in the video will be exerting significantly more than 48kg’s of force as I arrest and reverse the motion.
As you get stronger, this is a good thing, but for starting out, not so much.

Here’s the video:

As I mention in the clip, there are many ways to implement the lift, here’s a few examples:

  • Prior to the heavy main lift, ie your deadlifts. Try 3 sets of 5 reps with 2 minute breaks before a heavy deadlift session.
  • Stand alone posterior chain work – 10 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 5 will smoke you. I recommend lots of low rep sets for this, it’s not a lift you want to take to fatigue, especially if you’re working heavy.
  • Finisher, you saw in the video one of the finishers we use, feel free to use it as a kickstart to your own ideas.
    5 x double snatch, 10 x sit thru, 10 x push up for time….or
    Press x 5, Front Squat x 5, Double Snatch x 5 for several sets
    the options go on….

Have fun with this.

I have another Snatch post in the pipeline for you offering some of the less common variations on the lift and a few ideas on how to integrate the snatch into your training.


Dave Hedges