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Swing with Intent

December 19, 2011 08:00 AM

FawnFriday article swingwithintent 
Imagine your exercise plan for the day includes five sets of 10 two-hand swings with a medium weight. You’ve done these sets many times before and will have no trouble getting through another five sets without much effort. You can put in your reps, and punch the clock. There is nothing wrong with this approach if your goal is merely to complete the sets. If you want to get better at swinging, though, you should take a different approach.
When I do barbell squats, I have a setup ritual: address the bar, position my grip, dip under the bar, find the wedge, get tight, un-rack the bar, and walk it out. I perform this ritual the same way every time, whether I’m warming up, performing work sets in the gym, or actually lifting in competition. I practice all squatting with the intent to become a stronger and more skillful lifter. I am training myself to lift more weight than I have ever lifted.
We can approach swing training with a similar intent. If your typical working weight for two-hand swings is 16kg, for example, and you would like to become strong enough to use 24kg, you should keep striving for better technique during the sets you consider easy. Pack your shoulders, lift your chest, load your hips, and prepare to launch that bell. Bring the mindfulness, the focus, and the intensity that you imagine you’ll need to swing the 24kg, and apply that to the 16kg (and the 12kg you warm up with). Do the most perfect swing you can, every time you swing. Set after set done with intent will help you cultivate technique and body awareness that won’t deteriorate when the weight gets heavier and/or the sets get longer.
When I attended the RKC 2 certification in 2010, Geoff Neupert corrected my swing. He said I needed to squeeze my glutes harder at the top of the movement. I was a little surprised to get this correction. I thought my swings were pretty good. The good news is, yes, they were pretty good. The even better news is that he was right, and I was able to swing even better after taking his advice. I squeezed harder, and my swings became more crisp and explosive. And, interestingly, I noticed that the workload was being distributed more evenly through my body, which enabled me to swing longer without fatigue. Stronger intent; stronger squeeze; and more endurance… What’s not to like?
Nothing is going to replace having a Master RKC checking your technique, but there is a drill that will help you cultivate more awareness and diligence in your swing practice. That drill is the "power swing," introduced by Mark Reifkind.
A power swing is simply a swing single (i.e., one rep) done with a perfect setup and follow through. Set the bell down between reps so that you are forced to begin each rep with the proper attitude and posture. And, yes, each rep is explosive.
Try this simple ladder workout, remember to start with a perfect set up and follow through for each rep:
1 power swing – then stand and shake it out quickly (Pavel’s Fast and Loose) after each set of reps, then reset and go...
2 power swings
3 power swings
4 power swings
5 power swings
4 power swings
3 power swings
2 power swings
1 power swing
I had a chance to work with Senior RKC Dan John this summer as his assistant at RKC 2 in Saint Paul. He told me that it is impossible to think through a ballistic movement, which is why drill work is so important. Drills give the lifter a chance to break down the movement into parts. I also love the hip-hinge drill, which forces you to load your hips instead of your knees as you reach your hips to the wall, and the static stomp deadlift, which is a simple way to train whole-body tension in the lockout position.
Bringing focus and intent takes practice. Visualization, drills, and coaching are all things that can help you to become more tuned into your own movement. If you ever have the chance to watch world-class lifters train, you will notice that they are dialed in as soon as they step up to the bar. No matter the weight, every attempt gets the same amount of attention.

Fawn Friday is RKCII -certified and NSCA-certified personal trainer and yoga instructor who can help you lose weight, become stronger, more fit, more flexible, or all of the above at the same time. When she’s not teaching kettlebell classes, she’s either teaching yoga or training clients one-on-one. Fawn trains senior citizens as well as youths, with goals ranging from post-rehab to sport-specific conditioning. Residing in St. Paul, MN, Fawn can be reached here:,