Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Do Kettlebell Swings Really Do? (Part 1)

The most common question I get about the kettlebell swing is: “Dr. Fung, which muscles does the swing actually workout?”  Below is a list of muscles recruited by the ballistic kettlebell swing from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes:

  1. Finger flexors/extensors (intrinsics & extrinsics): By gripping the kettlebell during pre-swing, full swing, and controlled reversal back to the pre-swing, your body must fully engage all the muscles of the forearm which control your fingers.
  2. Wrist stabilizers: The gripping of the kettlebell requires that the carpal joints of the wrist are also stable so they do not jar in awkward directions causing discomfort and/or injury. This means that the rest of the forearm muscles are being recruited in the swing to link with the kinetic chain of your fingers.
  3. Biceps/Triceps via elbow co-contraction: Since the swing has an up and down component, all elbow muscles must contract together simultaneously to stabilize the elbow joints and prevent any dislocations or slipped mechanics.
  4. Chest/Shoulder muscles, Rotator cuff, and Scapular stabilizers: The entire chest & shoulder girdle is powerfully recruited to control the pendulum motion of the shoulder joint itself. It also properly aligns shoulder mechanics with the spine. This is one of the biggest benefits to the kettlebell swing in how it positively affects shoulder health.
  5. The Entire Core: Since a swing pulls away from the body, from the fingers all the way to the shoulder girdle, the shoulder girdle then begins to pull away from the core which applies a torque force against the spine.  If the core is properly activated, one should not experience any twisting of the spine. This means that from the upper ribs all the way down to the pelvic girdle, EVERY core muscle is being activated to prevent twisting of the spine yielding a strong, well coordinated, powerful core.

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