Kettlebell Swing vs. Olympic Lifting: Which Is Better?

STACK Expert Doug Fioranelli makes a convincing case that Kettlebell Swings are better than Olympic lifts for most athletes.

Many athletes train for power with high-velocity movements such as Olympic lifts (e.g., Clean and Snatch) and Kettlebell Swings. Both types of training target the posterior chain (primarily hamstring and hip muscle groups) through dynamic hip extension.

But if you're short on time in the gym, the Kettlebell Swing is overall the better exercise.

Olympic Lifts do have their advantages. With their 1 to 3 repetitions of moving a relatively heavy weight from a dead stop at high velocity, they're great for enhancing all-out maximal effort movements like the start of a sprint or getting off the line in football. With Kettlebell Swings, the bell weight usually can't come close to the bar weight, and the constant motion does not have the same training effect as moving weight from a dead stop.

Most sports, however, don't emphasize all-out maximal efforts. Soccer and basketball consist of a series of repeated sprints and stops of sub-maximal force production. Kettlebell Swings train those sub-maximal repeated efforts because the weight used is lower, allowing for multiple-rep sets that simulate the stop-and-go movement.

Kettlebell Swing sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of a quarter to a half of your body weight are perfect for training the hips and hamstrings for these repeated actions.

Kettlebell Swings also train for muscular endurance and cardiovascular enhancement required in sports that go beyond one big explosive movement. The constant state of motion allows you to perform longer sets than with the Olympic Lifts.

Also, Kettlebell Swings are much easier to learn than the very technical Olympic Lifts. I have had athletes of all ages and ability levels who can learn the swing movement quickly and plug it into their training program immediately. And improper technique is easy to fix.

Constantly learning how to perform a movement takes valuable time away from training sessions, and the chances for a training injury are higher with a higher learning curve. Poor wrist flexibility in the Clean or immobile shoulders in the Snatch can be disastrous.

The kettlebell can also be used unilaterally to account for strength, mobility and flexibility differences between sides of the body—as in baseball, where one arm throws more than the other. Olympic lifting requires simultaneous movement on each side.

RELATED: Troubleshooting the Kettlebell Swing

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