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Swing into winter

From Tracy Reifkind, author of The Swing!

Summer is over and so is training outdoors. Whether it’s running, hiking, cycling, swimming, or those kick-ass bootcamps…many of these outdoor opportunities are gone. As the change of weather brings you inside, you may find yourself getting in your best shape ever! Getting fit and staying fit couldn’t be easier than learning the kettlebell swing.

Most people want to lose weight, get fit, and build a muscle in the safest way possible, not to mention the quickest way! As kettlebells—those little, black, cannonball-looking weights with handles—become more and more mainstream, what’s not becoming mainstream is how to use them for the best kind of high intensity, no-impact, efficient workout. Thus far kettlebells have been most commonly used as part of a cross-training program, but surprisingly to many, they’re not just for weight training. Used correctly, they can offer a total body and total cardio workout.

To swing a kettlebell properly you must first learn how to move the weight, not “lift” the weight:

  • Start with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart with the kettlebell six to eight inches in front of you.
  • Get into position “hinging” back and down, keeping your shins vertical and your back straight as if you were going to hike a football. Place both hands firmly on the handle of the bell.
  • “Hike” the bell back and up behind you between your legs. This first part of the swing loads your hips. Stand up and swing the bell out in front of you as you quickly squeeze your glutes, contract your quadriceps, and exhale sharply through your mouth. This sharp exhalation will protect your lower back by tightening and shortening your abdominal muscle (think “crunch”!)
  • Each and every rep starts with hinging back and down, stretching and loading your hips to create the power and momentum. The bell will then naturally want to swing out and up in front of you as you stand up and contract gluts, quads, abs.
  • The swing is a back-and-forth gliding motion. You should never feel strain in your neck or back. The movement is not an up-and-down weighted squat or front raise. Never try and pull the bell up with your arms.

As your heart starts to race and that first bead of sweat runs down your back with your first set of ten swings, it will all be clear what an incredible workout kettlebells can provide!

All you need is about a three-to-four-foot space clear of furniture, children, or pets. You’ll also need one kettlebell, and a clock with a second hand, or interval timer. The most common weight for females is 15-25 pounds (8kg-12kg), and for a male, 25-35 pounds (12kg-16kg).

Once you have the space and the technique down, here is a simple routine to get you started with the Swing:

  • Set your timer for one-minute intervals. Start a set of ten swings every minute—in all, it should take fifteen seconds, and you will rest the remainder of the minute.
  • Complete five sets of ten swings, and then evaluate whether or not you can increase it by one or two swings per set, until you get to twenty swings per minute total.
  • If doing twenty swings each minute is too many, do as many as you can, rest, and then resume the exercise when you’ve felt you’ve had enough rest (even if it’s before the end of the full minute).
  • The first goal is to complete fifteen to twenty sets, swing counts of ten to twenty reps to be determined by you. The next goal is to work up to fifteen to twenty sets of twenty reps.

Once you have this routine down, you can incorporate even more variations of the swing into your indoor workout. You can find more workout tips in my new book, The Swing!


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