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Is it possible to replace the squat with the kettlebell swing?

Researchers at the University of Chichester in the UK completed a study examining the mechanical demands of the kettlebell swing. The Kettlebell has its origins in Russian strength and conditioning, where it was used to improve posterior strength, muscle endurance, power, and aerobic fitness.

The kettlebell is a heavy ball with a handle, used to perform a traditional exercise called a "swing". A defining factor with the exercise is the hip hinging motion used to propel the kettlebell in an arch around the body, without articulating at the knee. The researchers were looking to provide a context in which to understand how the body responds to the exercise.

Sixteen young men were recruited as test subjects to perform 2 sets of 10 swings with kettlebells weighing 16kg, 24kg and 32kg. To provide a comparison measure, they also completed two sets each with various intensities of back squats and jump squats. Measures were taken of ground force on all 3 exercises, and sensors to measure sagittal plane motion provided data on articulation for the kettlebell swing exercise.

Several force measures were extrapolated: peak power was greatest with the jump squats, and the swing, but net force was greatest in the back squat. The swing also showed the highest reading for net impulse with the 32 kg kettlebell.

The results show that there is a great mechanical demand using swing exercises and that they have a place in strength and conditioning programs. Kettlebell swings can be a useful tool for those looking to improve and develop power and force.

Lake, JP, Lauder, MA. 2013. "Mechanical Demands of Kettlebell swing exercise. Journal of Strength and conditioning Research. 26(12) 3209-3216.

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