So You Wanna Be A Swinger?

You might call me crazy, but I’m going to openly admit something to you guys.

I love swinging. To me, there’s nothing greater than swinging while I’m sweaty. Swinging heavy, and as hard as possible. I leave feeling like I’ve gotten something fantastic out of it, I’m a little euphoric, and I’ve almost always learned a little something about myself.

If you haven’t tried swinging, open up your mind and join me.

Do you need help getting out of the gutter? Because I can tell that’s where your mind is right now. We’re not talking about that kind of swinging. We’re talking about the kettlebell swing, you perv.

The kettlebell swing.

There is no more screwed up movement in the gym than the kettlebell swing. Done right, the KB swing can be an effective tool in helping you burn fat, build muscle, sculpt your assets, or become a better athlete. Start swinging, and everything benefits.

Wanna be a swinger? You gotta learn to hinge.

First, we need to know a bit about hip hinging and basic human movement. For the most part every single movement we make can be broken down like this.

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Loaded Carry

I didn’t make that up, either. A very smart Coach named Dan John is the guy who is most widely known for distilling everything down into those 5 movements. Dan is a guy to listen to, mainly because he has worked with everyone from professional NFL, MLB, track athletes (he was a track athlete himself), Special Forces, to normal people who want to get fit.

He’s also been lifting since 1965. That’s no longer known as experience, that’s attaining what we call wisdom.

So what is the hip hinge?

The hinge involves pushing the hips back, loading the hamstrings, and then standing back up. There’s usually not much knee bend, but maximal hip flexion taking place. The hip hinge is what you do when you pick something up off the floor.

Sounds exactly like how you go around picking up your room, bending down the fix the cuff on your pants, or wipe the shit off your shoe, doesn’t it? Didn’t think so.

That’s why moves like the deadlift and the KB swing are so important. Done well, they ingrain proper hinge patterning. Proper hinge patterning has the potential to help your long term lower back health, increase overall strength, melt fat, and give you the title of swinger.

Get your mind right. We’re going swinging.

Swinging is by far and away one of the most fun things I can do in the gym. It’s fast paced, it’s explosive, and it gets your heart rate through the roof. Again, we’re talking about kettlebell swinging. Not the other kind.

A properly executed KB swing involves violent hip thrusting, and let’s be real with one another, most good things in life involve violent hip thrusting. Click To Tweet

Because of the explosive nature, you elicit a strong contraction of the muscle fibers along your entire posterior chain. This involves your:

  • glutes
  • hamstrings
  • spinal erectors
  • upper back muscles
  • calves

If you’re keeping count, that’s a lot of muscles working at once. Because of the dynamic effort and hard contraction, that makes the KB swing an awesome candidate to help torch through calories, and build strength simultaneously.

Here’s where people screw up swinging.

Much like swingers parties where people get jealous and let their emotions get involved, people screw up the KB swing when they start confusing the hip hinge with the squat.

These are two fundamentally different movements.

The hip hinge looks like this:

The squat looks like this:

They both have their spots in a program, but they don’t mix well together. The squat is a quad dominant move where a lot of knee bend takes place. The hip hinge is a hamstring and glute dominant move (that whole posterior chain thing) where hip bend takes place, but little knee bend.

There are a lot of people who do a KB swing that looks more like a squat swing. The squat is not a swing, and the swing is not a squat. They’re both awesome, but different.

Anytime that weight starts to drift further and further away from your body, the more stress your putting on your spinal erectors, or lower back. When you squat swing and shoulder raise the weight up, you’re neglecting the glutes and hamstrings, which are some of the strongest muscles in the body.

The entire goal of the swing is to get those bad boys involved. How do you do that? By keeping the kettlebell as close to your body as possible. One cue I love is to never let it drift below the knees.

Which leads to a pretty funky looking move if you’ve never seen it before:

What’s important to note is how dynamic this is. I’m swinging an 88lb bell in this clip, and there are a few things I could clean up. The hip hinge is good though, and that’s the most important factor. Notice, very little knee bend goes on, but a ton of bending at the hips takes place. My hamstrings, glutes, and entire posterior chain are loaded and working.

Interesting note as well: I did 4 sets of 12 swings this day. After each set my heart rate was well above 160 bpm. I can run at 12 minute pace for 30+ minutes and my heart rate won’t touch that.

Any experienced swinger will tell you that opening up your mind to new experiences is key to enjoying it, and getting better at it. You don’t just walk in one day and swing with success. You’ve got to learn new techniques, try new things. Most importantly, you’ve got thrust your hips, really fucking hard.