The kettlebell swing is a commonly used weapon in many strength coaching circles. The lift itself fortifies the body in a special way by calling on the trainee to perform some of the most dynamic movements the human body is capable of producing.
Enter The Single Arm Kettlebell Swing…
The kettlebell swing fills the gaps in human performance and if there are any gaps left unfilled after the kettlebell swing then there are variations of this movement to serve and pick up the slack. Today we’re talking about the last part of that statement!
For the last 6 years I’ve utilized kettlebells in my strength and conditioning program. In a flashback I remember the UPS guy delivering a package to my front door grunting and complaining about trying to haul this heavy cardboard box up to my front doorstep.
The box included a 32kg (72 lb.) kettlebell that I intended on taking straight to the weight room to test out on my own. After 8 to 10 weeks of solid training with the iron cannonball I remember walking into the weight room with intentions on including this instrument into my day’s training after some heavy squatting.
My legs were pumped and I remember looking and feeling the growth of my grip strength, forearms, and shoulders from having utilized the bell for almost 3 months up to this point. I could now crank out some aggressive swings with the 72 lb bell and felt strong when doing so. I had dabbled with other movements, but I was intent on mastering a couple of moves at a time before worrying about moving on to the next lift… and the next one after that.
However on this day I realized that I needed a challenge. With a 72 lb. bell who would’ve thought I would be seeking another challenge? The point is when you’re consistent with the basic kettlebell swing movement you get strong and adapt in a hurry.
The challenge that I decided to transition to was the single arm kettlebell swing! This had an immediate impact. Boy what a different experience that was for the first time.
The single arm swing quickly forced me to seek out stability for my entire body. Because the weight is swinging from one hand I could immediately tell the movement was different than that of the more conventional double arm kettlebell swing.
When performing the single arm kettlebell swing I had to make more certain that my feet were firmly grounded and that the arc of the swing was close to my body. If I got overextended with it then the lift started looking and feeling sloppy in a hurry. In addition to this I would immediately find myself unstable and off balance.
Aside from all of this my grip was being tested like crazy and I found it more challenging to square up my shoulders at the top of the movement. To clarify some of this a bit further I created the following video to describe some of these issues associated with this experience by giving you 3 solid tips to implement during your single arm kettlebell swing.
As you can see the mechanics of the single arm swing are very different and along with that so are the challenges. At the beginning of this article I spoke about “filling gaps” in one’s training. The double arm swing offers a lot, but the single arm kettlebell swing can fill those needed gaps once one is comfortable with the technique of the double arm swing.
The point is that you want to pay attention to the details and paying attention to the details means you need to be able to identify the problems. Chances are the first time you attempt a single arm kettlebell swing you will experience some of those problems. When you’re confident in your technique the outcome should look something like this.
As you can see the move should be seamless and continuous just like the double arm version of the swing. Also take notice of my hand and bell rotation. As I pointed out in the video prior to this one I like to teach my trainees that the loaded hand (with the kettlebell) can rotate from a palms down position to a thumbs down position at the bottom of the swing.
Of course, at the top of the swing this process is the other way around. In my experience this helps with the transition of the movement and allows for a more seamless lift.
Tackling the single arm kettlebell swing can be challenging and if you are going to do so you need to make sure you’re 110% confident in your double arm swing and that you’re ready to buckle your chinstrap and get to work!
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