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Crossfit Swings

caberboy

New member
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.
 

stego

New member
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
instruction?
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
fitness.
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 Crossfit.com 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?
 

jimmyboy

New member
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.
 

caberboy

New member
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."
 

jpd28

New member
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?
 

ddn

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

 

RJ79

New member
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!
 

sruiz

New member
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...
 

stratcat

New member
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.
 
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.
 

stratcat

New member
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.

I agree totally about the ROM. American swings really hurt my shoulders, because I'm fairly broad-shouldered, and it has nothing to do with flexibility. I have no problem locking out a KB, bicep to ear.
 

Lone Star Jason

New member
I've had to debate this personally before and I revert back to RKC principles. The swing is about projection of energy, not the bi-lateral external ROM of the shoulder joints. You want shoulder ROM, go to snatches. If you can extend the body to a fully erect position with a kettlebell in hand, who cares if the bell gets to the naval, the chest or forehead?

In the CF explanation this struck me, "We would argue that partial reps are neurologically incomplete." I agree with this, but they're missing the point of the swing. I can put both arms overhead and continue to externally rotate them several degrees past vertical behind my head as well. Does this mean if I chose to do CF swings that I should continue the kettlebell behind my head as this is my natural ROM? Don't think so! Bottom line is they're different just to be different.

There is however a proper way to swing a bell overhead, but as mentioned before, not until the Hardstyle swing is near perfect. When swinging the bell past chest level, a problem occurs. You open the abdomen up, losing compression in the low spine. That's why we brace the abdomen with the diaphragm during the Hardstyle swing...to protect the low back. If you can do this while simultaneously packing the shoulders and fully extending the hips, swing overhead all you want. I'll personally stick to Hardstyle swings and snatches.
 
My take on it is that if you swing the way they do, after a certain point you are either using too light of a bell to really work what the swing is supposed to be working or you are muscling it towards the top to get it there, thus forcing the ROM, and also missing what the swing is supposed to be working. Yes you can do it that way, but the form breaks down much sooner, or you are using too light a bell to really make it worth your time. In the former case, one ought to know what it is they are doing and why. In the latter, it is similar to what I see on an almost daily basis at the gym that I go to, where the form is a horrible monstrosity of a squat and a front raise, which they think is the swing.
 

plyometrics

New member
What is the goal?

:confused:Not sure why there is so much debate about this way or that way is the right way. I generally to about chest height but would have no problem with "occasionally" going overhead. Of course I would want to be able to control the weight and if I was going high rep would use a lighter bell. I think it would take a while to get the timing right too. Your hips would have to absorb and load at just the right time. Plus if your shoulder flexibility was bad I don't think it would be the correct exercise for you.
If your goal is to work on Heart/lungs and fat shedding then going to the chest would be fine. If your goal is to put your shoulders through the extra range then you might want to do them this way, but again I would always switch around the heights and the weights.

Robert Troch
 

stratcat

New member
One of the problems with most who do CrossFit is that all the stuff you are describing will go straight over their heads (no pun intended), because they haven't built a firm enough foundation with the basic swing to understand.

They see the WOD online, grab a kettlebell and then think lifting it up overhead is the way to go. Some I have seen don't even know what they are doing wrong at all...to the point they think YOU are smoking crack when you show them a correct swing.

Ah, and then there is the the ever-present dumbell swing substitute that further compounds the problem, that usually turns into a front raise/squat. When I program a workout, if it calls for swings and they are not using kettlebells, they usually get the dumbell power snatch.

Now, I know this is a gross generalization, and there are lots and lots of quality CrossFit boxes that are not committing any of these mistakes.

I've had to debate this personally before and I revert back to RKC principles. The swing is about projection of energy, not the bi-lateral external ROM of the shoulder joints. You want shoulder ROM, go to snatches. If you can extend the body to a fully erect position with a kettlebell in hand, who cares if the bell gets to the naval, the chest or forehead?

In the CF explanation this struck me, "We would argue that partial reps are neurologically incomplete." I agree with this, but they're missing the point of the swing. I can put both arms overhead and continue to externally rotate them several degrees past vertical behind my head as well. Does this mean if I chose to do CF swings that I should continue the kettlebell behind my head as this is my natural ROM? Don't think so! Bottom line is they're different just to be different.

There is however a proper way to swing a bell overhead, but as mentioned before, not until the Hardstyle swing is near perfect. When swinging the bell past chest level, a problem occurs. You open the abdomen up, losing compression in the low spine. That's why we brace the abdomen with the diaphragm during the Hardstyle swing...to protect the low back. If you can do this while simultaneously packing the shoulders and fully extending the hips, swing overhead all you want. I'll personally stick to Hardstyle swings and snatches.
 
Now, I know this is a gross generalization, and there are lots and lots of quality CrossFit boxes that are not committing any of these mistakes.

I agree. It's like anything else. I've met Crossfit trainers who are sharp as a tack, and some that are actively dangerous, just as with any training system.
 

adamadkins

New member
I've had to debate this personally before and I revert back to RKC principles. The swing is about projection of energy, not the bi-lateral external ROM of the shoulder joints. You want shoulder ROM, go to snatches. If you can extend the body to a fully erect position with a kettlebell in hand, who cares if the bell gets to the naval, the chest or forehead?

In the CF explanation this struck me, "We would argue that partial reps are neurologically incomplete." I agree with this, but they're missing the point of the swing. I can put both arms overhead and continue to externally rotate them several degrees past vertical behind my head as well. Does this mean if I chose to do CF swings that I should continue the kettlebell behind my head as this is my natural ROM? Don't think so! Bottom line is they're different just to be different.

There is however a proper way to swing a bell overhead, but as mentioned before, not until the Hardstyle swing is near perfect. When swinging the bell past chest level, a problem occurs. You open the abdomen up, losing compression in the low spine. That's why we brace the abdomen with the diaphragm during the Hardstyle swing...to protect the low back. If you can do this while simultaneously packing the shoulders and fully extending the hips, swing overhead all you want. I'll personally stick to Hardstyle swings and snatches.

As with most things Crossfit, they reach a logical conclusion by illogical means. The logical conclusion is that American-style overhead swings work better in achieving their specific goals. Unfortunately, the rationale used to arrive at this conclusion awful.

As Jason pointed out, the swing is about projection of energy, not the bi-lateral external ROM of the shoulder joints. However, in most of the WODs I have looked at, the objective to is achieve the ROM in the shoulders. Thus, the overhead swing is more appropriate. Jason also stated that the snatch is the best way to achieve the ROM, and I agree. For me there is no question that the snatch is a much better movement to achieve this goal. But there is no denying that the snatch is a much more complicated movement than the overhead swing. Thus, again here the overhead swing is a better choice for crossfit's limited purposes.

The problem I have, which is the problem I have with nearly all crossfitters, is that the logic is embarrassing. They claim they would never do partial ROM exercises yet just a quick review of the WODs reveal a high concentration on hanging snatches and hanging cleans. Are these not just partial ROM versions of the full Olympic lift?

Range of motion is defined by the movement and often time the movement does not require the body move to the fullest possible extent. Instead, the movement is used to achieve some specific goal. Crossfit's suggestion that there is something unworthy about partial ROM movements is ridiculous. Someone better tell Louis Simmons that his board presses and floor presses are not actually making his Westside disciples stronger. No more top deads either?

As I said, I would agree that the overhead swing is the best way for a Crossfitter to get the benefits of a snatch without investing the time necessary to learn how to properly snatch a KB. For this reason it makes sense to me that Crossfit recommends the overhead swing in its WODs. But Crossfit's insistence that the overhead is somehow superior to the russian swing is ludicrous and shows a gross misunderstanding of both movements.
 
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stratcat

New member
As with most things Crossfit, they reach a logical conclusion by illogical means. The logical conclusion is that American-style overhead swings work better in achieving their specific goals. Unfortunately, the rationale used to arrive at this conclusion awful.

As Jason pointed out, the swing is about projection of energy, not the bi-lateral external ROM of the shoulder joints. However, in most of the WODs I have looked at, the objective to is achieve the ROM in the shoulders. Thus, the overhead swing is more appropriate. Jason also stated that the snatch is the best way to achieve the ROM, and I agree. For me there is no question that the snatch is a much better movement to achieve this goal. But there is no denying that the snatch is a much more complicated movement than the overhead swing. Thus, again here the overhead swing is a better choice for crossfit's limited purposes.

The problem I have, which is the problem I have with nearly all crossfitters, is that the logic is embarrassing. They claim they would never do partial ROM exercises yet just a quick review of the WODs reveal a high concentration on hanging snatches and hanging cleans. Are these not just partial ROM versions of the full Olympic lift?

Range of motion is defined by the movement and often time the movement does not require the body move to the fullest possible extent. Instead, the movement is used to achieve some specific goal. Crossfit's suggestion that there is something unworthy about partial ROM movements is ridiculous. Someone better tell Louis Simmons that his board presses and floor presses are not actually making his Westside disciples stronger. No more top deads either?

As I said, I would agree that the overhead swing is the best way for a Crossfitter to get the benefits of a snatch without investing the time necessary to learn how to properly snatch a KB. For this reason it makes sense to me that Crossfit recommends the overhead swing in its WODs. But Crossfit's insistence that the overhead is somehow superior to the russian swing is ludicrous and shows a gross misunderstanding of both movements.

The only thing I would argue here is the notion that a overhead swing is somehow easier to do than the snatch. I think a CORRECT overhead swing is extremely hard to do, which is exactly why it is such a poor choice for the average CrossFitter that maybe touches a kettlebell once a week for a WOD, and maybe has only done 100 reps or so prior to being turned loose to do sets of 30 32kg swings after a set of burpees a 400m run, or ????


I think the snatch is a much more natural and safer movement than the overhead swing, provided a firm foundation has been built with the swing and swing-variations, which most simply don't have.
 
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