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Thread: Crossfit Swings

  1. #1
    caberboy is offline Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Default Crossfit Swings

    Hey everyone,

    Had an interesting experience this morning. I just discovered that there is a Crossfit organization here on the base I'm at in Iraq. I headed over there this morning to use some of the equipment and check it out. Because they were doing a workout that consisted of only of Push Jerks, I grabbed some of their kettlebells (they have a bunch) and my guys and headed outside. We put together our own circuit of swings, burpees, pullups, etc.

    When I headed back into the tent to do some more swings and finish our workout, we were immediately "instructed" on the proper way to do a swing, which was to bring the bell all the way overhead. Now I've done lots of Crossfit workouts, and I know that's what's taught, but I was wondering if anyone knows how they arrived at that method?

    Don't get me wrong I'm really impressed with what they've put together out here, and I'm a big fan of Crossfit. I'm going to keep using their gym. I also know that there was a little cross-service rivalry this morning, as these Marines were all to happy to "square away" us Army guys. So it doesn't bother me.

    Where did they come up with this swing though? I've seen some interesting things done with a kettlebell, and I won't ever make corrections on someone unless I'm asked of my opinion. But the problem I see with this swing overhead though is you have to unpack your shoulders and it takes a great deal of arm strength to do it. Plus, you can only do a few before you are smoked.

  2. #2
    stego is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Ottawa, Ontario Canada


    Direct from the horse's mouth:

    At CrossFit we swing the kettlebell overhead while the
    kettlebell community swings to eye or shoulder height.
    No matter how many times we’re admonished for our
    excessive swing we proceed unabated? What gives? Are
    we in need of additional, more “qualified”, kettlebell
    While admitting a penchant for iconoclasm, we are
    not contrary solely for the sake of being contrary.
    Rational foundations for our programming, exercises,
    and technique are fundamental to CrossFit’s charter.
    We swim against the current only when we believe that
    doing so delivers a stimulus truer to our product – elite
    In the March 2004 issue of the CrossFit Journal we
    stated that, “Criteria for (exercise) selection include,
    range of joint motion, uniqueness of line of action, length
    of line of action, strength of line of action, commonness
    of motor pattern, demands on flexibility, irreducibility,
    utility, foundational value, measurable impact on
    adherents, and, frankly, potential for metabolically
    induced comfort.”
    On first being introduced to the kettlebell swing our
    immediate response was, “Why not go overhead?”
    Generally, we endeavor, somewhat reflexively, to
    lengthen the line of travel of any movement. Why?
    There are two reasons. The first is somewhat intuitive.
    We don’t do half rep pull-ups, we don’t do half rep squats,
    and we don’t do half rep push-ups. If there is a natural
    range of motion to any movement we like to complete
    it. To do otherwise seems unnatural. We would argue
    that partial reps are neurologically incomplete. The
    second reason deals with some fundamentals of physics
    and exercise physiology.
    From physics we know that the higher we lift
    something, and the more it weighs, the more “work”
    we are performing. Work is in fact equal to the weight
    lifted multiplied by the height we lift the object.
    Taken from the website, kettlebell swing article.

    The main point it raises, is that the intensity level is greater in the american swing style, than RKC style....

    I've heard mentioned before though... why bother with this swing, why not simply snatch it instead? I'm pretty sure the snatch is as, if not more, intense as the american swing. Anyone who have completed the SSST or USSST can attest to that I'm sure.

    The other thing to consider would be risk of injury? I'm not saying there is, but more asking if there is? Having both hands on the bell, in the overhead position might make a it a little difficult to keep the shoulders in their sockets. That's just my opinion though.

    In short, why not snatch it instead?
    "[I]Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.[/I]"
    [B]Proverbs 3:7-8

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  3. #3
    jimmyboy is offline Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Blog Entries


    While the "intensity" is higher with the Crossfit swing, I've found them to be borderline dangerous. When you start tiring, there is a tendency to jerk the upper body up and back which causes the bell to move up and back. With the bell overhead, you're okay, until momentum keeps the bell moving back.

    I agree that you'd be better served using the snatch if your desire is to take the bell overhead and the RKC swing if you want to jump on work capacity.

    Also, God bless you caberboy. I pray you guys are safe and well.

  4. #4
    caberboy is offline Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Default No arguments here

    Roger that. I'm not about to attempt high-repetition overhead swings with a 32kg or heavier bell. The guys I was with today are relatively new to KBs, so we worked in sets of 50 swings into our overall workout. They are still working on their snatch form.

    I've seen lots of swings in Crossfit workouts but I can't remember many snatches, although they will incorporate Barbell Snatches and other Olympic lifts. Those can be very dangerous too without good instruction.

    Again, I'm a fan of Crossfit. Its another tool for meeting your fitness goals like Kettlebells. They just have some different perspective on a few things. I've noticed Jeff Martone is now associated with them, and he calls the overhead swing the "American Swing" vs the "Russian Swing."

  5. #5
    jpd28 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    I believe that Pavel said you could swing to any height in the original RKC book and he or someone else referred to them as California swings.
    I like to do 2 hand swings overhead which really makes it a 2 hand kb swing snatch. You get the conditioning of the snatch without the hand issues.
    I wonder if you could get even more out of KJ's mvo2 workout with 2 hand overhead swings?

  6. #6
    ddn is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Minneapolis, MN


    I'd like to know on what planet this would be a good situation to be in:

  7. #7
    RJ79 is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2008


    Guys explain this to me because I'm not getting it.

    They say they take their swing overhead because of the range of motion? How much more range of motion does that get them in the posterior chain? Your arms and shoulders shouldn't be doing any of the work correct?

    Ok so maybe it takes more hip snap to get a bell overhead than to shoulder height. Why not use a heavier bell and have a safer workout then? They could say that the downswing is harder due to the height but using a heavier bell and going to shoulder height would have the same effect.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong fellas.

    And thank you for your service brother!

  8. #8
    sruiz is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2009


    I too like several of the Crossfit protocols, however, safety does not appear to be paramount in the typical Crossfit mindset. I believe the "American" swing sets up the opportunity for injury...
    Stephen "Steve" Ruiz, RKC, Z-Health Movement Performance Specialist (R,I,S)

  9. #9
    stratcat is offline Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Blog Entries

    Default CrossFit Swings

    I went through Jeff Martone's instructor course and although he did teach the American Swing (spent all of about 5 minutes on it, the rest were Russian Swings). He really didn't place the emphasis on it like some devout CrossFitters do.

    Martone says there is a time and a place to do the American Swing, but that time and place is not until the Russian Swing is perfected.

    CrossFit's idea is that more work is performed if the KB goes higher. Well, as others have said, if you are going to swing it up there, why not do a snatch? I always say that, and never have gotten a good answer.

    Here is my other big problem with CrossFit and their "default" American Swing: If you watch CrossFit videos, you will invariably see a good number of the folks lifting it with their arms and doing all sorts of weird stuff, that I would never let one of my training clients get away with.

    It really doesn't seem like that many CrossFitters are following Jeff's advice and working on the Russian Swing enough before jumping into the American Swing.

    Watch some videos of the recent CrossFit games, and you will see some pretty spectacular failures, like the kettlebell crashing behind the person and such. Not a good thing with 32kgs. They are definitely not following Martone's advice of "train, not maim."

    In my opinion, if CrossFit wants to go for difficulty, they should just adopt the DARC swing or the 2-hand swing and release for their WODs. Those get my heartrate up way faster than the American Swing, and would also add some hand-eye coordination.

  10. #10
    Jordan Vezina RKCTL is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Blog Entries


    Here's what I always come back to on this. In the article they put up defending the American Swing Crossfit states that we perform 'Russian Swings' at a rate of 47 per minute.
    Not true. Not even remotely close. Everyone swings at about 40 swings per minute give or take if using good form. This whole thing was based upon people swinging with poor form. This statement just emphasized the quote they mockingly put at the beginning of the article. They did lack proper instruction, that's why they brought in Martone. You can't be good at everything, so you have to be an adult about it and accept that you will make technique mistakes if you're trying to do every exercise in existence, for high reps, for time. It doesn't mean you have to stop, just deal with the reality of the situation and be open to constructve criticism. The key word being 'constructive'.
    I really don't have a problem with the 'American Swing' so long as it's performed properly. I see the shoulder ROM of the average person walking into my studio, and no way should they be whipping a weight over their head.
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