It’s Swing Time!
June is almost here, and at Breakthrough, June is all about kettlebell swings! We’ve got a couple exciting annual events coming up for you to practice and perfect your swings while helping us raise funds for The Alzheimer’s Association:
- Swing Seminar – Saturday June 13th from 10am – 11:30am! We will be sharing our favorite technique tips, and helping you perfect your swing in a video Seminar via Zoom, so you can join in from anywhere you are! The cost to join this seminar $20, all of which will go to the Alzheimer’s Association. This can be made by making a donation, or by joining our Longest Day Team here! We will be notified of your donation, and will email you a link to join the Zoom Seminar.
- The Longest Day – Saturday June 20th! For several years in a row now, Breakthrough has assembled a team who commit to using our 16 hours of daylight to do 1600 kettlebell swings as a Fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. This is always a fun event where we typically start at sunrise and end at sundown, having people come into the gym throughout the day. While we can’t do this together at the gym right now, we can still participate from where ever we are! You could do your swings spread out throughout the day… you could see how quickly you can get them done… you could go live on social media to raise funds and awareness… you could do a virtual “You Go/I Go” with a friend who is also participating… lots of possibilities to make this a fun event! You can join the team by using the same link above.
We’ve long had a couple jokes in the kettlebell world that we train with bells “in case civilization is temporary”… and “our gym comes with a handle”… and now those of us who do have some skills with the bells are pretty thankful for the ability to keep training even under these challenging conditions. If we had to pick one exercise to do with the kettlebell, it would be the swing because there are so many exciting benefits that are unique to that exercise:
1. Strength and cardio at the same time – This is one of those cases where too good to be true, actually is true! Kettlebell swings help you build muscle and burn fat at the same time. Very few exercises provide the same level of cardiovascular conditioning and caloric burn as swings. And the type of muscle being built is lean, strong, functional muscle. Not only are you working most major muscle groups all at once, but you are experiencing three different types of muscle contraction – concentric contraction as you stand up with the bell, isometric contraction as you hold your body in a “plank” as the bell descends, and eccentric contraction as the bell swings behind you.
2. Healthy back – The abdominal engagement required at the top of the swing will not only help your abs get stronger and look good, it will strengthen your back as well. Swings require a technique knowing as “bracing”, which can help stabilize the spine. In addition, the swing’s unique ballistic nature develops “dynamic strength endurance” (as opposed to static strength endurance like holding a plank). This type of strength endurance has been found by the leading spine biomechanist in the world, Dr. Stuart McGill, to be extremely effective in reducing the odds of back problems. Now, if you have seen swings and feel worried about your back, or have tried them and have experienced back pain, you might be doubting that this is true. If you experience back pain when you swing, most likely there is either something faulty in your technique or you need to spend more time working with hip hinges, planks and deadlifts first. We have seen people with a variety of back issues get out of pain and build strong backs when they have been patient in building their skills gradually with swings.
3. Strong and supple hips – Hips are primarily meant to be mobile, but for optimal function they should be stable as well. The sad reality is that most of us spend lots of time sitting at desks and driving cars, and as a result we have tight hip flexors and weak hip extensors. Kettlebell swings provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen the hip extensors by maximally contracting the glutes at the top of the swing, and stretching the hip flexors by allowing the hips to fully extend. Weak glutes and tight hips can also contribute to low back pain, so this is another reason swings can help your back.
4. Happy joints – Jogging, treadmills and plyometric exercises are what most people turn to for cardio conditioning, but they can be very tough on the joints, especially if you are older, overweight or have existing joint issues. Kettlebell swings allow the feet to remain planted, and are very low impact on the joints. In fact, ballistic loading like you get from doing swings has been shown to strengthen the joints and cartilage, and even reduce the risk for osteoarthritis.
5. Power and explosiveness – There is nothing quite like a set of explosive swings to make you feel powerful and exhilarated. Especially as we get older, we lose a lot of our ability to move explosively and generate power. Again, the low impact nature of the swing allows us to retain this ability even if we can’t jump, sprint or throw punches like we used to.
6. Focused mind – Kettlebell swings are a great way to connect the mind and body. Granted, this particular benefit is not unique to swings. But there is just something special about getting into that perfect swing rhythm, coordinating your breathing to the movement, and focusing your mind so that nothing else matters but the next perfect rep. Challenging moves that require you to stay mentally focused on the task at hand provide benefits to your brain as well as your body, as opposed to watching reality TV while you zone out on the elliptical machine like a hamster in a wheel.
We’d love to have you join us for either or both of these events – you don’t have to be a Breakthrough member, and you don’t even have to live anywhere near us! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!