Here is my previous post on swings. If you haven’t read it you should. This post will build upon that one. Here’s the basic summary on how to do swings (for those who don’t want to read it):
-Push you butt back (hip hinge)
-Crack a walnut (snap your hips through by squeezing your glutes)
-Keep you lats tight (aka, shoulder blades in your back pocket)
That’s the swing in a nutshell. (walnut shell that is). So after my RKC certification I have a few more pointers that will change the way you swing and make it a much more effective training tool. I’ll mention 3 things that dramatically altered my swing for the better.
Toes down and grip the floor. As a powerlifter, I was taught to keep my big toe up when I squatted or deadlifted as it kept the weight on my heels. We teach our athletes the same there here at SAPT. Aha! But, the mark of a good coach is adaptability. When I tried swinging (and I’ve since tried it deadlifting and in a body weight squat) with my toes gripping the floor for dear life, I felt immensely more powerful and in control. A great visual is to pretend you’ve grown roots into the ground through your toes (like an Ent) and then as you crack you walnut, push yourself into the floor as hard as you can through your feet.
Another way to think about is “spreading the floor” apart with your feet. The weight is still on your heels! Just dig your toes in and PUSH! Try it with a less ballistic movement first (squat or deadlift) and feel the difference*.
Be an upright plank. At the top of the swing, pretend you’re in a standing plank. Again, as a powerlifter I was used to leaning back at the top of my pull. You can witness this lean in the video of my (ahem, PRE- RKC) swing in the other swing post. (Ha! Now you have to go at least look at the old post.) Don’t do what I did (it’s so ugly, I’m ashamed…). I don’t know HOW many times my instructors had to tell me NOT to lean back (and to keep my toes down…old habits are hard to break.) but to finish my swing upright (straight line from ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle). Get down in a perfect plank and you’ll feel what the top should feel like.
To help groove the new movement, set up a barbell in a rack about your shoulder blade height. Now, facing away from it, swing. You’ll learn pretty quickly how to stay upright. This leads into the NEXT tip-of-power:
Breathe with your swing. We’re now teaching our athletes how to brace properly. The same thing applies to the swing. If you’re still trying to get a hang of it, don’t worry to much about this yet. But, when you’re ready, start thinking about the breathing. You should violently expel air (not all, but most of it) at the top of the swing and doing so should simultaneously tighten up your entire body from the neck down. Like a karate “HA!” at the top of each swing. I found that if I focused on the exhalation part, then the inhalation took care of itself without me having to concentrate on it.
The forceful exhalation increases the power output of the hip snap. It also helps protect your spine via intra-abdominal pressure. This is a crucial skill to know for those with back pain and/or the prevention of back pain. Trust me on this one.
Bonus: I’ve had a couple folks ask me about swings that go over head. Please don’t do this. That’s what KB snatches are for.
High (overhead) swings increase the chance for injury to the shoulders, neck and low back because a) it’s hard to stay tight in the midsection thus exposing the low back to hyperextension and b) the lats can’t stay tight thus unpacking the shoulders and wiggly shoulders + heavy weight overhead = shoulder pain. (not to mention the fact that the average trainee has terribly thoracic spine mobility and scapular stability and will compensate by jutting their head forward and putting heavy things over their head is a sure fire way to aggravate shoulders and necks.)
There you go. Three tips to make your swings more effective, powerful and people will say,
*there are sport-specific lifting techniques that the big toes stay up, but for general strength training, I’m a firm believer now in toes down and gripping the floor.