December 8, 2012
December 12, 2012

In an on-going effort to stress the fundamentals of movements in these few weeks of “minimalist” work-outs, we turned to one of the most often used, yet most often-under-taught movements: the kettle bell swing. We reviewed a lot of information on Sunday with regards to the KB swing, with multiple turns at the KB utilizing a multitude of techniques. Suffice it to say that there was something for everyone in the program presented. 

Warm-Up 1: 
2 x 
50 Jumping Jacks, 
10 Squats, 
20 Spider Lunges, 
10 Squats, 
20 Scorpions 
Warm-Up 2: 
2 x 25 Band Good Mornings + 30 second Samson Stretch Hold 
KB Swing Review 

A variety of KBs were lined up for the day, enough so that everyone could find something to work with. Before touching the KBs, however, a couple of key points were reviewed:

  • Pick the KB up just as you would a Deadlift; 
  • Use your hips to drive the kettlebell, not your arms or shoulders; 
  • Keep your weight on your heels; 
  • Maintain a tight core; 
  • Don’t let the kettlebell pull your shoulders down (pic below @ Lf); Instead, keep your chest up and shoulders blades pulled back (pic below b @ Rt);

  • The swing finishes with your hips fully extended and the kettlebell directly overhead; 
  • Try not to over-arch at the top of the swing (pic below @ Lf); Rather, concentrate on keeping your mid-line stable by flexing your glutes and your abs, almost as if you were expecting a punch to the gut (pic below @ Rt);

  • Lastly, when finished, put the KB down in the same manner you picked it up: tight back with the lumbar arch maintained, placing the weight down between your feet – you’re more than likely tired, and so this is not the time to get sloppy!

Class then set about working through a steady progression of swings, constructed to not only teach everyone how to properly approach the KB swings, but where to scale to during a workout. This included both Russian Swings and American Swings. Confused about the differences? There’s an older CF Journal article (2004) explaining why CF prefers the American-style, overhead swing to the Russian, eye-level swing. However, I really like this breakdown of the two styles from CF Silicon Valley entitled “Ending the Kettlebell Swing Controversy.” I highly recommend you check both of them out.

Sunday’s KB Swing Progression:

  1. 2 x 10 Russian KB Swings; 
  2. 1 x 1 Full Court + 1/2 Court Broad Jump (to emphasize the amount of force the hips can, and should be, generating during the swings); 
  3. 1 x 10 Russian Swings w/ Double Breathing (exhaling at both the bottom at top of the swing); 
  4. 1 x 10 “Mid-Range” KB Swings (add a little more power and height to the KB so that it was at roughly a 45-degree angle above the head – a bit more than Russian, but a bit less then American); 
  5. 1 x 10 American Swings; and,
  6. 1 x 10 American Swings, Snatch Style (a normal American swing, but with a shortened arc that travels closer to the body that the full arc of the American Swing).

Of course, no tutorial would be complete without a quick discussion about scaling. Unlike the profusion of information above, this one is simple and straightforward: Safety over Intensity!

In other words, choose the most advanced standard which you can perform safely and effectively over the course of a workout, rather than the one which would require you to resort to sloppy technique and poor body posture. Of course, the other side to this is not to scale down to a lesser standard simply because you want to go faster, or want more reps in a given amount of time. We’re talking safety, not better final results.

Team WOD: 
1 Team Builder Suicide; 
5 x 5 American KB Swings/person w/ plank hold; 
1 Team Builder Suicide

Time to put all that information to good use. Class was split into teams of three for the met-con, which began on the court with a team-builder suicide: teammate 1 runs a full suicide (half court & back, full court & back, half court & back) as an individual, then teammates 1 & 2 run a full suicide together (arms locked or around the shoulders), the teammates 1, 2 & 3 run a full suicide together, at which point teammate 1 drops off, and teammates 2 & 3 run a full suicide together, and then, finally, teammate 3 runs a full suicide as an individual. 

Upon completing the suicide, the whole team headed up stairs, and while one partner performed 5 KB swings, the other two held a plank position. This continued for 5 rounds, where-upon the whole team headed back down to the court for another team-builder suicide.

Of course, there was also that whole pesky safety rule about not crossing the lane inside of the door, which caught one team on the way into the studio, and another team on the way out, both of whom got stuck with a quick, but costly, 10 burpees.

Inter-Team Indian Balance Wrestling 

To close out, we decided to have a little fun while working on our balance. Teammates were now turned on each other for three inter-team wrestling matches. For the balance wrestling, opponents stand facing each other, slightly offset so their right feet can be placed forward and instep to instep. They then grasp each others right wrists and begin to push, pull, twist and turn, moving the left foot as much as needed, but keeping the front foot planted. The first person to move the forward foot loses.

A little something different to close out the week. We’ve been granted some storage space at the gym, so we’ll be slowly introducing some more pieces of equipment in the coming classes. Until then, stay tuned for more announcements. See you on Tuesday!



  1. Steph says:

    It was great to see a big showing on Sunday!

    Thanks to MC and Diane for working with me! It was nice to review the KB swing techniques. The hardest part of the metcon was definitely the plank holds. I think I was able to stay in the plank for the first two rounds, but after that I had to shift my weight a bit and even come out of the plank for a couple of seconds. I need to get better at the plank like Andraea!

    Looking forward to class on Tuesday!

  2. edgy reggie says:

    Damn! I got “busted” in performing a downward-dog for the plank hold (pictures don’t lie). My shoulders were getting tired, and I didn’t want to drop my knees to the ground; therefore…

    (An earlier picture showed that I did a better plank hold.)

    Anyway, this class (and the other “back-to-basics” classes) is/was a lot of fun (but still challenging). They remind me of some the classes (Coach) Tom had at CrossFit DC when I started six years ago. It all goes to prove that a lot of fancy equipment is not needed for CrossFit; good coaching and a highly motivated class compensates for a lack of equipment. Having said that, I do look forward to the arrival of the barbells.

    Greg, Charles, and I were a team yesterday; it made for an interesting “look” on the suicide runs. 🙂

    I did Winnie’s yoga class (as usual) which helped a lot with the soreness and stiffness that I am currently experiencing in my right hip, right knee, and right shoulder. Don’t get old! 🙂

  3. Tom Brose says:

    Another great turnout. As a coach, the lack of equipment has some drawbacks, but also provides us a real opportunity. Singular focus and repetition of a movement as skill is the basis for improvement.

    See you all tonight!