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Kettlebell Pros and Cons of Different Swing-Types?

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
What do I mean with "swing types"?

I know three different kind of swings:
  • Two-handed swings
  • One-handed swings
  • Double kettlebell swings
That is what I mean with "swing types" and I am wondering about the pros and cons of every type.

Here are a few suggestions:

Two-handed swings: One can go very heavy which can result in hypertrophy in the legs

One-handed swings: One has to work against the rotational force, more core work. Additionally, more taxing for the grip

Double kettlebell swing: ???

What other advantages and disadvantages do you guys see in those types of swings? Conditioning, hypertrophy, muscle groups worked, ... ?

In what situations do you prefer the one over the other and why?

Any other swings that are out there I have never heard of. I remember @Pavel Macek writing about dumbbell swings for example. Do they have any pros and cons compared to the others or are they just useful when stuck in a gym without any kettlebells? ;)

EDIT: Did some corrections to my initial post. Have mixed up one- and two-handed swings, barbell for dumbbell.
 
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elli

Level 9 Valued Member
I prefer 2 H. They feels safer snd more symmetric for me. I do pretty much uni-lateral/ single limb exercises so 2H are complementing e.g. bouldering - for me. One could argue that 1 H would be more beneficial but I am too afraid of twisting/rotating my spine too much under zhe load.
Goal is to go heavier with 2H sevely and be able to do 10x10 with 20kg in 5 min.

Essence: 2H swings are enough and serve purpose.:)
 

Maine-ah KB

Level 7 Valued Member
double swings have the advantage that each hand can move relatively heavy weight, if you can 1 arm swing a 32k then double 24 (48k total) or 28s (56k total). you also have to widen your stance comapared to the other to types which for me makes me feel my gluten and quads a lot and very little from my hamstrings. 1 arm swings are still my favorite though, feel the strongest and the anti-rotation does a lot for me.
 

Hasbro

Level 5 Valued Member
One-handed swings: One can go very heavy which can result in hypertrophy in the legs

Two-handed swings: One has to work against the rotational force, more core work. Additionally, more taxing for the grip.

That seems backwards to me or did I read that wrong?

I’ve always thought of one handed swings as favoring strength and two handed swings as favoring endurance. No cons for either...it just depends on the goal. I’ve only recently delved into double swings but I’ve decided against using them anymore. The con being that the extra wide stance required aggravates my knees. I would rather just do a heavy two handed swing.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
2H swing
  • Pro
    • Easiest to learn
    • Easiest to progress in load; bigger load means more eccentric loading, hip power, tension
    • Best for power projection
  • Con
    • Doesn't challenge asymmetrical stabilization
    • Usually doesn't challenge the grip to its limit
1H swing
  • Pro
    • Asymmetrical stabilization
    • Challenges the grip
  • Con
    • Lots of people do it less than optimally, leading to issues or less than optimal results (solution: see an SFG instructor or post a form check here on the forum)
    • Grip or other limitations limit how much you can load or challenge the hips and rest of the body
Doubles
  • Pro
    • Heavy loading
    • Additional challenge to use a lot of power, yet maintain good control of both bells. Technique must be good!
    • Works well as part of a complex or chain
      • Doubles complex example: 5 swings + 5 cleans
      • Doubles chain example: swing, clean, press, swing, clean, squat
  • Con
    • Wider stance, often wider than comfortable for knees
    • Power projection sometimes limited by ability to control the kettlebells
 
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Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
The heavy two handed swings tire out the body very quickly, which means great all-body workout in a short period of time. 1 handed swings are naturally going to take longer to do because you have to do them on both sides separately, and with less weight, meaning that overall you're challenging your big power muscles less. However, the challenge of one armed swings to your anti-rotational muscles all throughout your body is a HUGE plus as it engages it seems just about every little wee muscle and big muscle all through your body. I guess we could say that with 1 h swings the big muscles are getting less exercise but the little muscles more exercise than with 2 h swings. To choose one only, probably the 1 h swings, because everything in your body is getting exercised, albeit not all of it as strongly as with the 2 h swings. 1 ha swings are more delicate and perhaps "more intelligent" if I might put it like that. The 2 h swings are going to transfer better over to absolute strength lifts like deadlifts, the 1 h swings better to sports, where asymmetrical application of strength is most common.

The double swings look too clumsy to me and I haven't done much with them yet.
 

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
@Tobias Wissmueller Dumbbell, not barbell swings. Actually, "swing snatch" - quite different from the kettlebell swing or snatch. Great exercise - check out the tutorial here.

Yes, dumbbell not barbell, thank you for spotting that. Have edited my first post. That tutorial is awesome, thank you as well for pointing to it! I know what to do now in my summer vacation when we are in the same hotel again as last year. They don't have any kettlebells, but lots of dumbbells (y)
 

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
That seems backwards to me or did I read that wrong?

I’ve always thought of one handed swings as favoring strength and two handed swings as favoring endurance. No cons for either...it just depends on the goal. I’ve only recently delved into double swings but I’ve decided against using them anymore. The con being that the extra wide stance required aggravates my knees. I would rather just do a heavy two handed swing.

Sorry, I have mixed it up: Have written one-handed swing where I thought of two-handed swing and vice versa. I have now corrected my initial post.
 

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
2H swing
  • Pro
    • Easiest to learn
    • Easiest to progress in load; bigger load means more eccentric loading, hip power, tension
    • Best for power projection
  • Con
    • Doesn't challenge asymmetrical stabilization
    • Usually doesn't challenge the grip to its limit
1H swing
  • Pro
    • Asymmetrical stabilization
    • Challenges the grip
  • Con
    • Lots of people do it less than optimally, leading to issues or less than optimal results (solution: see an SFG instructor or post a form check here on the forum)
    • Grip or other limitations limit how much you can load or challenge the hips and rest of the body
Doubles
  • Pro
    • Heavy loading
    • Additional challenge to use a lot of power, yet maintain good control of both bells. Technique must be good!
  • Con
    • Wider stance, often wider than comfortable for knees
    • Power projection sometimes limited by ability to control the kettlebells

Awesome! This is what I was hoping for. Clear and concise as always. Thank you, @Anna C!

Lots of people do it less than optimally, leading to issues or less than optimal results (solution: see an SFG instructor or post a form check here on the forum)

What issues you see the most that people have with one-handed swings?

Power projection sometimes limited by ability to control the kettlebells

I vaguely remember a post from @Steve Freides where he wrote that power projection is also limited due to the wider stance. I might be wrong and not remembering correctly. Trying to find that post, but am not able to.

Despite that cons you have mentioned for double kettlebell swings and the need for a better coordination. Can they be viewed as similar to two-hand swings in some ways? Would a two-hand swing with 24kg be the same as double swing with 2x 12kg?
 

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
The heavy two handed swings tire out the body very quickly, which means great all-body workout in a short period of time. 1 handed swings are naturally going to take longer to do because you have to do them on both sides separately, and with less weight, meaning that overall you're challenging your big power muscles less. However, the challenge of one armed swings to your anti-rotational muscles all throughout your body is a HUGE plus as it engages it seems just about every little wee muscle and big muscle all through your body. I guess we could say that with 1 h swings the big muscles are getting less exercise but the little muscles more exercise than with 2 h swings. To choose one only, probably the 1 h swings, because everything in your body is getting exercised, albeit not all of it as strongly as with the 2 h swings. 1 ha swings are more delicate and perhaps "more intelligent" if I might put it like that. The 2 h swings are going to transfer better over to absolute strength lifts like deadlifts, the 1 h swings better to sports, where asymmetrical application of strength is most common.

The double swings look too clumsy to me and I haven't done much with them yet.

They might look clumsy because they are harder to perform / coordinate for most people?

From what you write, maybe the double kettlebell swings are somewhere in between the one- and two-handed swings? You can load them heavy, plus it taxes the grip, although you lose some of the "working against rotational force" aspect?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
What issues you see the most that people have with one-handed swings?

It varies in manefestation, but the root issue is that their 1H swing looks different than the 2H swing, and it shouldn't. I've often said that if I see you doing swings from a distance and I can't clearly see your arms, I should not be able to tell if you are doing 1H swings or 2H swings. The body's movements except for the arms should be the same. One great way to get closer to this is to practice hand-to-hand swings, as Pavel recommends in S&S. Another way is to envision 2H swings and mimic the motor pattern as precisely as possible as you do 1H swings. Another is to switch within a set, i.e. right, right, 2H, 2H, left, left, 2H, 2H, right, right, etc. Try to make all swings as similar as possible except for the arms.

What you're acheiving in making the 1H swing look like the 2H swing is 1) great shoulder packing, 2) good shoulder alignment at the bottom (not dipping the working shoulder), 3) good shoulder alignment at the top (working shoulder not getting pulled forward, OR pulling back in an effort to lift the bell), 4) good torso asymmetrical stabilization, 5) the lower body working equally no matter what the upper body is doing with the bell.

I vaguely remember a post from @Steve Freides where he wrote that power projection is also limited due to the wider stance. I might be wrong and not remembering correctly. Trying to find that post, but am not able to.

Yes, I find that too.

Despite that cons you have mentioned for double kettlebell swings and the need for a better coordination. Can they be viewed as similar to two-hand swings in some ways? Would a two-hand swing with 24kg be the same as double swing with 2x 12kg?

Yes, a similar amount of work, but slightly different emphasis. I would say if I do 10 x 10 2H with 24kg I'll get a better "power and technique" session; with the double 12kgs I'll get a better "skill and finesse" session. If that makes sense.

I edited my post above to add that doubles are also great for complexes and chains.
 
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Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
A couple of additions:
--Two-hand swings con:
Hands may be cramped for space on the handle/fingers may chafe on the sides of the handle (whether pinkies in or out), and it may be difficult for large people to use such a narrow grip.

--Several people have mentioned that double swings are awkward. I agree, but find that double CLEANS feel very natural. When I want to go heavy on a ballistic hinge, I almost always go with double cleans instead of two-handed swings with one bell.
 
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North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
  • Two-handed swings
  • One-handed swings
  • Double kettlebell swings

-Two handed swings:

Pros - max possible load of the three. Easiest to learn and perform overall as the load is distributed over two hands and no rotational forces to deal with. Easiest on the back for folks with existing back problems.

Cons - lack of rotational stability and unilateral challenge
-------------------------------
-One handed swings:

Pros - max rotational and unilateral stability challenge, good training for grip strength

Cons - limited by grip strength. Anti-rotational aspect can aggravate existing back problems. More difficult to learn and execute identically with both hands.
----------------------------------
-Double kettlebell swings:

Pros - All of the benefits of the two handed swing plus added pec and lat activation to keep the KBs inside the knees at the bottom. Wider stance tends to target hamstrings more than narrow stance.

Cons - requires two kettlebells, wider stance is usually needed to clear the two KBs, which may or may not be desirable.
 

Sauli

Level 8 Valued Member
They are all good.. :)

Double swings make me feel very manly. Dbl snatch has same effect, but I have to go much lighter. Dbl swings allows me to use bigger weights. I have never done them heavier than Dbl 24kg, but I think I try Dbl 32kg soon.

Actually Dbl swing and Dbl press could be pretty good program for overall manliness. :)

I have done lots of Dbl presses, jerks, cleans and squats, but basically only Dbl swing makes that ”man”-effect. Maybe it’s the power, maybe something else...
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
They might look clumsy because they are harder to perform / coordinate for most people?

From what you write, maybe the double kettlebell swings are somewhere in between the one- and two-handed swings? You can load them heavy, plus it taxes the grip, although you lose some of the "working against rotational force" aspect?
In other words, are 2 24s different from 1 48? It would likely be a similar question to using one barbell instead of two dumbbells. I guess one difference is that the weight is centralized with the one weight but spread out with the two weights, meaning the angle of the exercise is different and thus different muscles are targeted differently. Swinging two kettlebells will have you extending both of them much more directly to the front whereas swinging one big bell will have your arms angled inwards on a slant. This will affect how your shoulders are coming into play and also probably other muscles through your arms and likely back too. There is also the added instability of the two bells over one. I am going to guess that you will be able to swing a little heavier with one big kettlebell (if you can procure one!) than with two smaller kettlebells, so the one big one will be better for absolute strength in the "big pull" but the two little ones more GPP type strength a little more like the 1 handed swings (albeit minus the anti-rotational strength.)
 

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
Double swings make me feel very manly. Dbl snatch has same effect, but I have to go much lighter. Dbl swings allows me to use bigger weights. I have never done them heavier than Dbl 24kg, but I think I try Dbl 32kg soon.

Actually Dbl swing and Dbl press could be pretty good program for overall manliness. :)

I have done lots of Dbl presses, jerks, cleans and squats, but basically only Dbl swing makes that ”man”-effect. Maybe it’s the power, maybe something else...

Don't know why, but whenever I see someone working with two KBs at the same time am thinking of Spartans ... :eek:

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread! You have helped me a great deal getting a better picture.

I want to try some double kettlebell swings, just out of curiosity to learn how they feel and what effect they have on my body.

From what has been written, I see them somehow between two-handed swings and one-handed swings, despite the fact of higher coordination effort.

Am wondering though why @Pavel did not mention double kettlebell swings in "Return of the Kettlebell"?

Right now I am doing sort-of S&S and building up my volume with two-handed 24kg swings. Will try some double swings with 12kg and then 24kg one-handed as by the book.

I could also add some double kettlebell work to the warm-up, by replacing the goblet squat with front squats with 2x 12kg.

It is always a thin line to feed my curiosity but still staying close to S&S :)
 
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JeffC

Level 7 Valued Member
This video is from the post “Russia”

I noticed in this Sport Swing, I am not familiar with Kettlebell Sport, the athlete using Double Knee Bend to add projection and elevation to the Bell like an Olympic Weightlifter. The scoop changes much of the horizontal hinge momentum to vertical momentum. The Hardsyle Swing is purely a hinge where as the Sport Swing is more like a jump.

From an outsiders prospective it seems like the GS Swing would transfer better to athletics.
 
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