RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING VS. AMERICAN KETTLEBELL SWING: Are low top sneakers, half rep high tops?

What is a Kettlebell?

Per Wikipedia

The kettlebell is a cast-iron or cast steel weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform all types of exercises, including but not limited to ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascularstrength and flexibility training. They are also the primary equipment used in the weight lifting sport of kettlebell lifting.

What is the "Kettlebell Swing" and what's the difference between "Russian" & "American"?

The kettlebell swing is a posterior chain dominant exercise that starts with the athlete in an "athletic position", with knees slightly bent, and hinged at the hips. The kettlebell is out in front of the athlete. They will reach down with both hands, grab the handle, and with a flat back, braced midsection, and neutral spine; swing the kettlebell back, behind and under their butt. 

Then, with powerful hip extension, the athlete will explode their hips forward, the kettlebell will follow suit, their upper body is there to guide the "up", and to chest level. 

Gravity will take the kettlebell back down towards, the ground. The athlete will keep a flat back, braced midsection, neutral spine, and allow the kettlebell to swing back and under their butt, where they will repeat the afore mentioned movement. 

The athlete's feet are to remain grounded throughout this entire movement, never rocking and extending on their "tip toes". 

This is the "Russian" kettlebell swing. 


The "American" kettlebell swing doesn't stop at chest level. It continues overhead with the handle of the kettlebell being directly over the spine.

The athlete shouldn't bend their knees to compensate for the additional force required to propel the kettlebell to the overhead position. Addition hip drive will generate this force. Often times, a lighter kettlebell must be used to all this to safely happen. 


So which kettlebell swing is better?

The age old question. 

Well, in my opinion (which should always be taken as fact, jk), it depends. 

You've got to ask yourself, what are your specific goals. 

If your goal is to compete in the sport of "fitness", the American swing is what i'd recommend simply because that's what will be in the competition. The American swing is used as an objective way to count reps (hip and knee angles open, arms extended, kettlebell inverted overhead, etc.). With the Russian swing, the focus is much more on explosive hip extension, and not so much on where the kettlebell has it's apex.

However, if your goal is to become the best you, then I'd suggest the original "Russian Kettlebell Swing". 

Here's why. 

Besides competition, if the only other reason to do the American kettlebell swing is to make the swing harder by bringing it over head, then why not just grab a heavier kettlebell?

Don't have one?

Do a single-arm kettlebell swing.

Can't perform consecutive reps with one arm?

Mix them up; do a couple with one arm, go to two arms, then go to the other arm. Repeat.

Still want to take the kettlebell overhead?

Do a highpull or snatch.

Don't have the strength to do a highpull or snatch with the only kettlebell you've got, but for some reason still want to take the kettlebell overhead?

Then maybe, there's a reason to do an American swing.

However, if this is the case, you're clearly lacking strength in the previous mentioned progressions, and should evaluate your goals and methods of training.


Why the American kettlebell swing less than optimal for training

When performing an American kettlebell swing, the close double hand grip places the shoulders and upper back in unnecessary stress.

Why perform a ballistic exercise that places unnecessary stress on such a feeble joint?

The risk:reward isn't there to justify the risk of injury; when there are so many other exercises that spare the shoulder. *See previously mentioned progressions above.*


Why would anyone perform an American kettlebell swing?

So, knowing why the American kettlebell swing places the majority of athletes at a mechanical disadvantage, why would anyone continue to perform them?

Well, aside from the American kettlebell swing being a way to objectively count a rep, in the sport of fitness. There's also a small faction that views the Russian kettlebell swing as a "half rep" swing. While the American kettlebell swing, is a full rep. 


Are low top sneakers, half rep high tops?

Is a coupe, a half rep sedans?

Is a deadlift, a half rep snatch?


Of course not, that makes no sense. 


Final Thoughts on the Russian kettlebell swing vs. the American kettlebell swing

Plain and simple, if you're training in the sport of fitness, do the American kettlebell swing. The American swing is what you'll be judged on, so train for it. 

If you're training for general fitness and/or athletic performance, then the Russian kettlebell swing will yield the greatest results. 

And if you're wanting to take the kettlebell overhead, consider starting with the highpull then the snatch. 


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