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The Snatch: Not an "Advanced" Swing

November 25, 2010 05:29 AM

No matter what your goal, sport, or athletic ability is, you should be doing kettlebell swings.

A quick rundown of what the swing does:
  • It trains hip extension, which is the foundation of all athletic movements.
  • It stretches the hip flexors and strengthens the glutes. This is especially important when you consider that the entire population is, by evolutionary standards, sedentary. We sit too much. Swings help fix the problems caused by too much sitting down. In fact, a swing could be looked at as the OPPOSITE of sitting down.
  • It strengthens the lower back as a stabilizer rather than a dynamic flexor/extender (which could cause deterioration of the discs)
  • It teaches the abs to brace against dynamic force making them stronger without creating bad movement patterns (as many conventional ab exercises do)
I could go on, but I digress...

You'll notice in the list above the one thing I didn't mention was anything about the upper body. Shoulder stability is a side effect of a good swing, not the main focus. My biggest problem with the kettlebell swing, is that as SOON as someone learns the snatch, they substitute swings for snatches… And I HATE it.

The problem, I think, stems from the fact that the snatch is technically more difficult to learn initially which makes people think of it as an "advanced" swing -- and everyone is advanced right!?? It's not.

It's not.

It's not.

It's not.

Why you should choose the swing over the snatch in your training:
  • You can do more swings at a faster cadence--this means more work for your legs
  • You can use a heavier weight.
  • Less variables. This is key because it lets you focus on the hip extension (which is the main goal as well as part of a good snatch anyway).
Here's the funny thing; even if your goal is to snatch more, you should swing.

An example:
In preparation for a number of Tactical Strength Challenge and RKC Certifications that require a high number of snatches, I did almost no snatches, nor did I practice the tests. I did put in time initially to practice snatch technique, but that is the extent of it in my training, once my technique was down, it was back to swings. The result of this??? I have won every TSC I have competed in, my best score on the snatch being 111 reps in 5:00 with the 70-pounder, and I can easily pass the RKC snatch test standard of 100 reps in 5 minutes.

Interval training seems to work best for this, take a sample training session I did as part of my preparation for RKC Level II:

Bottom up Press:10x1
Pullup: 10x3
One arm swing 48kg on the :30 x 10 reps. 20 swings per minute, close to a 1:1 work:rest ratio. For 5 minutes. That's 100 swings.
Hanging leg raises to finish.

This finisher is far more demanding than 100 snatches with a 24kg--double swings could work well here too--and it will give you great explosiveness in the hips. If you throw in some finisher like this once or twice a week, you will be amazed at how everything you do starts to feel lighter and easier.

The next time you plan to snatch for high reps try this instead;
10 minutes of swings :15/:15 work/rest ratio with a 32kg and hit 10 reps/set and see how you feel.

More swings.

Trust me.

Snatches aren't bad, swings are just better.

Max Shank is a Strength Coach and RKCII instructor based in Encinitas, CA and is the owner of Ambition Athletics.