On Friday I posted Get a lil more swang in your swing. It created a good conversation on my facebook page, which was sort of the common argument of “why add variety to a swing…variety for variety’s sake is useless…you can’t be specific in transference of skill to a sport, it must be sport specific”, and these are all good arguments. Some very respected people in the field make these arguments all the time.
And I agree MOSTLY. Variety is a slippery slope… where some find themselves doing kb swing backflips on a bosu ball while juggling a shake weight. I definitely agree for the upper elite performers, these are Dan John’s 4th quadrant people who’s needs are so specific that its easy to program for. Even when the needs of an athlete are greater, upper elite performers are already so advanced that they don’t need much to maintain that level. Quoting Eric Cressey here “I’m always surprised at how much volume it takes to attain a level of fitness, but how little volume it takes to maintain that level of fitness.” Other less advanced people, and non athletes, IMO, would benefit from additional challenges. These challenges come after they have mastered the basics. **point of clarity here: I mean mastered the form of a drill, and gone the amount of time when gains come big and fast. So while it is always a good time to do the basics, there comes a time when doing more than the basics is good also.
In the example here, my very smart S&C coach amigo argues that “The swing is designed to load the hip hinge motion”. I agree. And so does Pavel, who calls it the best hip hinge exercise. Again, I agree. (I actually think one reason it’s the best hip hinge exercise is because of the higher rep ranges it tends to be performed in, and so you approach the magical 10,000 rep number where a new skill ‘sticks’ faster than if you chose deadlifts, for example.)
Onto the swing varieties: With the triple extension and walking swings, my thought is they are still designed to load the hip hinge motion. Every rep STILL sees you come down into the same hip hinge that you would have from regular swings, but places an additional demand of being able to ‘sit back into and load the hips’ from changing foot position. I believe the main reason we teach the hip hinge loading is to try and have that “quality” transfer over to the various sports/activities that our clients perform. So, in the basic swing we are hoping to have the hip hinge quality transfer to other activities where the client will then be able to call upon the hip hinge quality in order to more safely/better perform a task. These other activities will most likely occur with changing foot positions. So I think it is fair to say that if you train swing varieties where you have to enter the hip hinge from changing foot positions you could expect to see someone improve their ability to sit back and into a hip hinge at another activity when their feet are moving. Also, another thing my buddy argued the KB swing does is improve ‘body coordination’…well, once you have it in a static stance, why not continue to improve that further with changing stances? Remember, the goal of the original swing was to teach them the hip hinge quality, and we believe it works, or magically transfers to sport. So why wouldn’t another quality also transfer?
With the split stance swings, my thought it is more tailored to loading one hip/leg at a time. Why take the time to do this? Because the ability to hip hinge on two feet does NOT necessarily transfer to one foot. If you are a trainer, you have seen people who can squat or deadlift on two feet and hip hinge nicely, but when they lunge (laterally, forward, curtsy, etc) they CANNOT sit back and load the hip. I saw this COUNTLESS times with the 1,100 people I instructed in workshops. Most were gym goers (crossfit, KBs, etc) and their bilateral squat and deadlift pattern was fine…but when we started going one legged, they could not get back without falling. Maybe it’s balance, maybe its single leg stance stability, maybe I just got unlucky as an instructor. No matter what it is, I know that in order to teach people to hip hinge on one foot, I need them to practice hip hinging on one foot. And while I don’t train athletes who compete in high school/college/etc, I was an athlete and still see that athletes need to be able to cut, change direction, and produce power off of one foot in many directions. I and other athletes can create more power off of one foot in various directions if we have practiced doing that, either for years on fields of play and practice, or if that is not the case, then in the weightroom. This is why a lunge matrix is part of my and my clients’ warmups/workouts. I think learning that specific movement skill is important. The split stance swings is a progression from the lunges, simple as that. It adds another element of challenge that the client must respond to. Is it something that will be done exactly on the basketball/football/etc court? NO. But neither will power cleans, box squats, or bench press. So that argument is fairly useless-but the comment that we are training qualities is not. I like that a lot. I just happen to think there are more qualities that can be trained
Mark Reifkind stopped by the facebook discussion and reminded us of the genius saying “same but different”. The fundamental quality, the hip hinge, is still being trained, albeit slightly differently.
If you haven’t tried the walking swings, do me a favor and try them. First do a set of 20 traditional swings with a 24kg. The do 20 walking swings with the 24kg. I’ll bet you that you had stutter steps, or balance was whacky, or you got pulled forward a bit—congratulations, you now have to control that weight in a new way that allows your body to continue to develop mastery of movement! And if you didn’t fall forward, you are a stud(ette). (I’m an equal opportunity congratulator). I’ll also bet that it was more ‘tiring’ than the 20 traditional swings.
This leads me to another thought, that probably should be it’s own post. How do you describe swing mastery? Is it making every single swing look exactly the same? Or making every swing look exactly the same with different weights? The second one is a pretty cool definition. But my definition is “being able to swing slightly differently when asked to, and do it with power, control, and ease”. I mean upswing height, knee flexion amount, stance width, arm bendiness, weight,and more.
Brett Jone’s said that “he has never done a perfect swing”. Man, he is hard on himself. That or he’s way more deep than his fun aqua sandals would have you believe.
What’s the goal of a swing? At it’s most basic its what was said above by my pal, designed to load the hip hinge motion…elaborated with: to produce power from that motion, to be able to switch between tense and loose, to develop grip, and on and on and on. It really is a phenomenal exercise, and like Pavel said it has the “what the hell” effects that seem to vary from person to person. If we are getting good and even great results from our swings, and they are safe, then you are doing a good job.
I may alienate some people here, but down with swing nazziism!