Russian or American Kettle Bell Swing? Which is Right For You?

The kettle bell craze of the fitness industry is not going away any time soon.  Kettle bell exercises are such a great way to combine strength training with cardio output for workouts that really blast fat and target lean muscle building.  As a long time personal trainer, I’m always looking for ways to get the most out of any workout for my clients.  Using Kettle Bells is a great way to get people of all fitness levels into better shape.

The Kettle Bell swing is one of my favorite exercises because it targets so many muscle groups, including the core, and requires cardio output.  So you’re getting more bang for your buck…or bell :-)

In my personal training workouts and especially in the Cross Training boot camp I run in Monmouth County, I incorporate kettle bell swings often.  Depending on the client, we may either do a Russian Swing or the American Swing.   If you’re trying to decide which type of swing is best for you- you should know that the answer largely depends on your personal mobility in addition to the goals you have for the workout.

The Russian swing stops at about mid chest with the arms extended straight out in front of you. It’s better to choose a heavier weight for this swing and let your lower body force drive the kettle bell up to your chest.

The American kettle bell swing brings the bell all the way up above your head, so at the top of the movement the kettle bell is directly in line with your spine.  It requires a little more force from your lower body, and for that reason you should swing less for an American than you can normally do for a Russian.

Is the American Swing safe?

It’s a complicated question.  First- if you have strong shoulders and good shoulder mobility, the American kettle bell swing is generally safe for you. I say ‘generally’ because every person is very unique and we can’t look at fitness as a one size fits all situation.  The danger people point out in the American swing is that having the arms extended all the way above the head, bearing weight down on the shoulders while the hands are in a close grip position can be unstable for the shoulder joint.  If you don’t have strong shoulders or good mobility (or in some cases, even if you do), you could injure yourself.  Now, that doesn’t mean we should never do American swings.  Like anything else in life, it means we practice with proper form, caution and with appropriate weights for our ability. It also means we don’t over use the shoulder joints by performing American KB Swings several times a week and at high repetitions.

Whenever I’m personal training anyone with shoulder joint issues, we work on a Russian swing. If my client or my boot camp clients are capable of doing the American swing, then we work with the American.  Fitness is very unique to you as an individual and that’s why you need to seek out a gym or personal trainer in Monmouth County that can accommodate  your personal needs.

American Kettle Bell Swing

Here is an example of one of our clients doing the American Kettle Bell Swing.  You can see force is generated from the lower body and the Kettle Bell travels all the way up above her head.  She happens to have excellent shoulder mobility, more than most people, and very strong shoulder joints.

 

I hope I was able to shed some light on the topic of kettle bell swinging.  For information about our Cross Training boot camp in Monmouth County, visit our sister website UltimateFitZone.com.

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