The Rights and Rights of Kettebell Swinging


It’s fast become the exercise that everyone wants to do.  Girls, guys, big people and small folk.  The move that is said to work every muscle in your body.  You see people walk up and down that gym floor passing the kettlebell rack and thinking hmmmmm…how hard can it be?  Looks straight forward enough.  Just did a random search for the kettlebell swing on Youtube and it yielded 77,000 results.  I then proceeded to search for a video with atrocious swinging and I actually struggled to do so.  However, it wasn’t too long before I found one.  Better still found a proper WTF image of a bad swing.  Check it out:



So today, (or Saturday 3rd August) I attended a kettlebell masterclass with Steve Cotter.  All I can say is WOW, a true athlete; if only I had half of his ability.  This was one of the toughest training sessions I had attended and the combination of technical application and physical exertion actually had me emotionally drained forgetting that I was in the room with a true legend and beginning to hate kettlebells.  Still, it is just as well that through my training with another legend in Scott Sonnon that I am confident I can break down the movement in my head and work on taking small steps at a time towards mastery.

Anyway, this post is specifically about the swing.  Steve’s opening lines in the seminar were about how there are different techniques and he believed there were merits to all of them.  Indeed, apart from the atrocious example above I have probably performed four different methods of this exercise which are as follows:

  1. The squat swing:  This is ketttlebell heresy to a lot of      ‘kettlebell gurus’.  It is the      technique that most people do when first lifting the bell.  You assume it must be some sort of squat      and front raise. The likelihood is that most kettlebell classes deploy      this method.  Certainly it is easy      to teach as most people already know how to squat (ish).  Interestingly though, one renowned coach      actually applies the squat mechanic to the exercise, namely Brent      Brookbush.  He believes that it is      good for athletes to improve their vertical displacement of force.  Check his video out

What this means for me is that if a client just finds the ‘true-styles’ too demanding and all they want is a workout I will just give them this technique.  Heck, as long as the back is straight it is safe and will get the heart rate up so who cares.  My only worry is the indignation of those that only know the ‘proper’ method and are stubborn enough to abhor anything else.

  1. Hard Style:  This is the technique that most people      will use after decent training.  It      needs more coaching as it applies the deadlift mechanic to the swing where      the force is more horizontally displaced.       It’s about transmitting maximum power to every swing.  It looks close to the method I learnt      from one of my original trainers Jon Mills.  Check out his promo video

Jon is part of the team behind a new Gym App called Gym Chum.  Apps are a great way to structure your workouts and stick to something coherent so have a play.

I said that this style is a bit like the true ‘Hard Style’ epitomised by the RKC brand of kettlebell training.  The only slight difference is the slap down from shoulder height you will see in this video.

The amazing throwing coach Dan John also looks as if he is teaching the same technique in his own funny way here:

The idea is that we have maximum load both going up and down by slapping the bell down.  Another way of doing this is the banded swing demoed here:

  1. The third method is what we      covered in the class called ‘fluid-style’ where we aim to conserve      energy.  Kettlebell competitions      take place and some events are endurance events where you have to keep      going for long durations of time.       Therefore, you need a method that is fluid and economical.  So the movement doesn’t have the      greatest inertia but you could carry on for a long time.  You also have to make intelligent use of      all your available levers so it is very technical.  It also applies to one-handed exercises      more.  Here it is in action

And this is a very brief video of Steve Cotter demonstrating both methods.

And a more detailed article detailing the differences between the hard and fluid styles.

  1. Then there is the craziest      method which still passes as OK and that is the Crossfit style or American      style swing where you bring the bell above your head (OMG).  This swing is brutal and performed by      these dudes

So my position is that you can choose anyone of these techniques that you like.  With me it is likely to be the hard style but I will perform some protocols with other styles to keep the workout fresh.  With every new stimulus your body gets something new to adapt to.  The body needs to function and move in a different way and find a specific energy pathway.  One thing is for sure though.  It is always worth investing in learning kettlebells from someone qualified as it is something that requires that level of skill.  You can probably get away with learning other exercises from You Tube but kettlebells are demanding in that sense.

Happy kettlebelling!!


Masterclass with Scott and Alberto


Wednesday 1st May and the venue is the Field Training Lifestyle Centre, Marylebone, London. I was privileged enough to attend a master class with two awesome trainers who understand movement and practise what they preach. They have a system of training that is unique and innovative, yet still makes sense. A system that is always developing and just gets more and more interesting.

Number one was Scott Sonnon martial arts expert, fitness coach, and wellness speaker. He has worked with movie stars as well as Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts fighters. Scott Sonnon was voted one of “The 6 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 21st Century” by Black Belt Magazine in 201o and was named one of “Top 25 Fitness Trainers in the World” by “Men’s Fitness Magazine” in 2011. His fitness system, Circular Strength Training, has been adopted by members of the United States military and law enforcement community. He is also a published author, a public speaker, and an advocate in the fight against childhood obesity.

And number 2 is Alberto Galazzi, who recently featured in Men’s Health Italy. Alberto is an ESI approved protection agent, and head of the European wing of Circular Strength Training.

Learning from these guys is always an amazing experience and what gave me immense satisfaction is how much more I understand from Scott and Alberto compared to 18 months ago when I last saw them. Where other fitness related courses teach us how to perform conventional exercises or learn how to use the latest gimmick, sessions with these guys involve learning and refining the art of movement. We learn how movement is the manifestation of life. When movement is good, the quality of life is good. Perfecting movement does more for anti-ageing then any magic cream or pill. During the masterclass we covered three key areas of the body where movement becomes impaired; shoulders, hips and core. Remember, when our movement fails us in these areas we compensate by overusing other parts of the body.


When getting shoulder problems people turn to this nonsense to rectify it:

These cable or band rotations are unbelievably stupid. Shoulder problems are invariably a result of poor shoulder mobility so strengthening is the last thing we need. The dynamic duo taught us some amazing mobility exercises to encourage more rotation at the shoulder joint making sure that all four joints of the shoulder complex get the right amount of attention. Some basic examples of rehab exercises are in the following video.


When we have knee problems we turn to this

Strengthening your VMO the tear drop muscle again is a bad move as this is the thing usually pulling on the patella in the first place. The knee is slave to the hip and ankle so restriction in hip mobility, in particular internal and external rotation plays a big factor in both knee and back problems. The solutions to encourage more mobility in this area are quite simple and begin with the Russian shinbox.



As for when we have back problems that are blamed on weak pelvic wall muscles we are told to do leg raises.

I love Pilates but this is where it well and truly loses my vote. The pelvic wall is inactive in many of us that have an anterior pelvic tilt (where the ass sticks out) so the solution is to work on this position.


Scott and Alberto showed us some innovative exercises incorporating this ‘Power Chamber Workout’. The basics of it are detailed in the following article:

It was an amazing day and my clients are already enjoying the new instructions they are getting from me. I look forward to learning more from these guys.