In the kettlebell world the 2-arm swing might be the most common dynamic movement, however, when it comes to kettlebell versatility it is very important to establish a solid 1-arm swing because most of the 2-arm swing movements initiate through the 1-arm swing. 2-arm swings are great for establishing proper swing mechanics and for conditioning exercises but the real kettlebell world opens up with the cleans, long cycle and snatches.
In every case of moving up in weight you want to have a solid technical foundation for the movement; keep that in the forefront of your mind and progress accordingly. Sometimes during max effort lifts, or squeezing out that one last push up or pull up our technique breaks down, that is ok however you want to keep this to a minimum and build your strength alongside proper technique.
With that we move on to my three tips for increasing your 1-Arm kettlebell swing strength.
Build More Grip Strength
When I see the 1-arm swing fall apart for someone when they move up to the next weight it usually starts with the grip. When the grip goes the technique is quick to follow. People will tend to over grip during the back-swing, slowing the decent of the bell and causing the lifter to muscle up the following reps.
There are many ways to train the grip and its does merit its own article and video. However, before I do that, some simple ways to train your grip are to always make sure your grip is being worked while lifting. Do not have a loose grip while rowing, deadlifting, pressing or performing a kettlebell get up; when you are moving weight your grip is on. Other ways you can work the grip from an endurance standpoint, perform bar hangs or farmers walks for time. Stay tuned for more grip training ideas to enhance your kettlebell swings in a future article and video.
When moving up in weight it’s initially OK to swing low when you are getting acclimated. A low swing is what I consider one that does not break parallel to the floor and you do not get that float at the top with the bell. This float allows for momentary relaxation during the movement when the bell transitions between the upward and downward trajectory. During this momentary relaxation phase is where people tend to relax their grip and other muscles getting a slight break that allows one to continue the movement for a much longer amount of time. This relaxation of the muscles allows for you to prolong your swing and maintain your technique as you progress with a new weight, so it is a good idea to keep your low swing training to a minimum.
Initially a low swing with proper form is much safer than to try and manipulate the kettlebell to the final position by using your bicep or low back to get the bell higher. Swinging low will get you used to the new weight and build up more grip strength because you never really get a rest during the low swing.
Remember the low swing is a means to an end not a proper stand alone movement. If you are always low swinging a kettlebell that is heavy for you, you are not actually owning that bell and progressing. If you can’t get your new bell to parallel within a few sessions go back down and practice with a lighter one and sprinkle the heavier one in from time to time until you can swing it freely.
The 2:1:1 Swing
One of my favorite swing variations to increase the 1-arm swing strength is what I call the 2:1:1 swing. The theory behind using this drill is that the kettlebell you are trying to move up to is relatively easy to swing during the 2-arm swing and more of a challenge during its 1-arm variation. The 2:1:1 swing breaks up the 1-arm swings intermittently with a 2-arm swing giving your 1-arm rest in-between swings and focuses your training to make both swings the same.
When performing this drill you should focus on the 1-arm swings looking and feeling technically similar to your 2-arm swings; the movement should be fluid and seamless during the transitions. If you get tired add more consecutive 2-arm swings into the training until you are mentally ready to transition to the 1-arm swing and be successful with them.
Check out the video below for more detailed explanation of the information I covered above:
Have a few extra minutes at the end of your workout? Want to do a quick kettlebell challenge and get your heart rate up? Grab your favorite kettlebell and give this top to bottom to top finisher a try.
At the Level 1 RKC Kettlebell certification at Rise Above; Master Instructor Keira Newton put together an article for DragonDoor discussing the two biggest mistakes she see when performing the kettlebell deadlift and 2-arm swings and providing tips on how to and how to correct them.
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