What if I were to tell you there was a single exercise that did as much for alleviating back pain and improving your posture as it did for cutting up your abs and helping you build strong, beautiful muscle across your entire body? Would you be interested in hearing more?
While you may often hear the deadlift or squat is the best total body exercise, these movements often exacerbate back and posture problems, given their high risk factors when performing them. Even with proper form, it’s easy to tweak something when trying to up the weight with these movements. Still great movements, and I perform them personally, but if I were looking for something to build my entire body while helping to specifically improve my core foundation and posture, I’d go for something else.
This super exercise carries less risk than squats or deadlifts, and can be performed at a higher pace, thereby providing a cardiovascular element as well. Build muscle, burn fat, improve the functionality of your body….essentially transform your entire body with one amazing movement. This is why I (and so many other people) consider it to be the single best exercise out there….
This Best Exercise Is…
With that in mind, I’m pleased to introduce you to the kettlebell swing.
Why can the kettlebell swing be considered one of the best exercise for improving your entire body? Let’s take a look..
Lighter loads = less risk. I’ve seen wayyy too many people overload on a deadlift or squat and push their lower back past it’s limit. The higher loads associated with these exercises makes them hard to perform correctly, and open the door to serious injury. Since a kettlebell swing is performed by one burst of acceleration, rather than slowly pushed into place like a squat is performed. Given the nature of this type of movement, it’s nearly impossible to overload on a kettlebell swing.
It will help you make better and faster muscular gains. Your core muscles protect your spine. They help support the spinal column and keep things aligned. When performing a movement like kettlebell swings, the abdominals become actively engaged and tighten. Here’s why…
Put your hand over your belly. Next, slowly breath out as you would while doing a slow pushing movement, like a squat. What’s that feel like? Your core doesn’t feel very tight or engaged. Now, put your hand back on your belly and exhale strongly and sharply, as you would during a quick, intense movement, like a box jump. Your core tightens up and engages.
The nature of the kettlebell swing causes your core to become more engaged, thus strengthening the area of your body. As noted above, your core provides support for your spine. When the brain senses the core is stabilized, you are able to generate more power. More power means you’re lifting more weight on a variety of exercises. More weight means you’re making better and faster muscular gains.
It will improve your posture. When performed correctly, a kettlebell swing workout will dramatically improve your posture and alleviate lower back pain. Here’s why…
Renowned spinal biomechanics professor, Dr. Stuart McGill discovered a movement, such as the kettlebell swing, actually reverses posterior strain on the discs in the lower back (L4/L5). (1) Performing other posterior chain exercises (exercises targeting muscles on the “back” of your body) such as back raises, deadlifts, or goodmornings can magnify lower back problems. Given the “opening up” of the lower back while performing a movement like the kettlebell swing, pain may actually be reduced and help lengthen and align your spine, thus improving your posture concurrently.
It will RIP. YOU. UP. And I mean this in a good way. The kettlebell swing targets muscles in your core (noted above), as well as your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and other smaller hip, ankle, and knee stabilizing muscles and tendons. It doesn’t stop there; on the downward motion of the kettlebell swing, your shoulders will come into play as you control the negative portion of the lift. Simply put, you’re training the way an athlete does. Fatiguing major muscle groups, strengthening stabilizer muscles, and getting the benefits of the “negative” lift. Remember, training like an athlete will have you looking like an athlete with just a bit of consistency.
It’ll make you more flexible. As mentioned above, the kettlebell swing will strengthen and stretch stabilizing muscles and tendons. In particular, the nature of this movement will target the oft neglected IT bands and piriformis. By stretching things out here, you’ll generate greater hip flexbility, thus allowing you to generate more power on a variety of exercises, while also protecting you from injury. Not to mention, a tight set of hips and piriformis muscle is often responsible for that nagging lower back pain you think is the result of sitting in a chair all day. While sitting all day might not help, a little stretching of these bodily components could do you a world of good.
It’ll help you lose that spare tire. I particularly love strength exercises that can be slightly modified to include a cardiovascular component. Unlike deadlifts or squats (doing deadlifts fast is a big no-no), the kettlebell swing is an explosive movement that can be used to increase your heart rate as well as muscular fatigue.
By going slightly lower on the weight, but making sure to still maintain proper form, you’ll be able to perform a higher number of repetitions in faster succession. Instead of doing sprints for 30 seconds on/30 seconds off, try performing kettlebell swings. You’ll get all the great muscle-building/core stabilizing benefits as mentioned above, along with the fat burning, metabolism boosting benefits of high-intensity cardio. It really is the best of both worlds.
At this point, I bet you’re just itching to get going. Here’s where you start…
- Set the kettlbell squarely in front of you. Bend your knees, while lowering your hips, making sure they stay in line.
- Grip the kettlebell with both hands. With your weight on your heels, rip the kettlebell behind you, as if you were snapping a football between your legs.
- Just as the kettlebell begins to move forward, explode with your hips. Drive your hips up and come to a standing position, kettlebell at chest height.
- At the height of the swing, you should be tightening your core, keeping your spine long and neutral, while squeezing the glutes and “opening” up your lats.
- Control the kettlebell throughout the negative portion of the movement and return between your legs to the “hike” position described in step 2.
Check out the beginning of a kettlebell swing below…
The second half of the movement is as follows….
Give this a practice either with a very light kettlebell or no weight at all to start. Get your form down first before attempting to “workout” with the kettlebell swing.
Kettlebell Swing Workout
Now that you’ve got your form squared away, you probably want to know how to best use this awesome new exercise you’ve got in your arsenal. The workout below uses the double-handed kettlebell swing and is designed to jack up your metabolism, build athletic and lean muscle across your body, while burning maximum calories.
- 3 x 10 KB Swings (30 seconds rest between sets)
- 3 x 12 KB Swings (decrease weight by 10-15%, 20 seconds rest between sets)
- 3 x 16 KB Swings (decrease weight by another 10-15%, 20 seconds rest between sets)
- 2 x 24 KB Swings (decrease weight by another 10-15%, 10 seconds rest between sets)
From here, go back up the ladder, starting with 2 x 24 KB swings until you finish with 3 x 10 KB swings at the heaviest weight.
Check back next week when we give you a serious fat burning/muscle-building two-exercise combination workout using kettlebell swings and an equally amazing body weight only plyo movement designed to strip away body fat faster than anything you’ve ever tried!
Still not convinced the kettlebell swing is the best exercise out there? Comment below and tell us what you consider to be the best exercise for transforming the entire body!
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