T Nation

One Arm Kettlebell Swings, Is It Worthy?


#1

Hello everyone again and happy new year to all.

I've started doing swings as part of my finishers, with the usual aim of burning fat and keeping muscle. I've done them a few times using a dumbbell but now it's time to buy a proper kettlebell.
I've been doing swings with a 9 kg dumbbell (please don't laugh at me), doing them one arm at a time, because it's difficult to grab the dumbbell with two arms. I do two sets of 20 swings per arm. The following day my glutes and hamstrings give me hell and it's a good feeling!

Now the question: are single arm swings a good excercise respect the usual two armed swings? Or should I go with two arms?
I think about buying a 12 kg kettlebell with the aim of using it with one arm at a time. With that same weight, would the swing be too "easy" with two arms? So, how much of a difference makes the use of one or two arms?
What are the benefits of single arm swings?
Or, should I buy a heavier bell and go for two armed swings?

Thanks in advance, I'll probably have more questions as the answers - hopefully - start coming.


#2

If you’re simply looking at the swing as a fat loss tool, the two arm swing will be more beneficial due to the higher power output. The one armed swing reduces power output by introducing instability. I would strongly suggest you go higher than 12kg though.


#3

Very useful reply, cheers.
Yes, the aim is fat loss, but also strength. I am a climber and my power to weight ratio is very important, so every excercise that can lead to increased power and strength is welcome.
It seems that two armed swings with a heavier kettlebell could benefit both the fat loss/control and the general power of the posterior chain.
Is this correct?


#4

Both are useful. And fun.

I’d have said the same as dagill - that two-armed swings are better for strength and power in a vacuum - but with the additional context (you’re a climber), the additional stability and grip in one-armed swings might make them a preferable choice for you.

How big/strong (ish) are you? If you can afford it, I think you should get a “light” bell for warmups, one-armed swings, Turkish get-ups, and a “heavier” bell for two-armed swings. But exactly what “light” and “heavy” is for you, I’m not sure.


#5

I would use at least a 16kg kettlebell for one armed swings, and a 20 or 24kg kettlebell for two armed swings. You can start with a 16 though; do two armed swings with it for awhile, then transition to one armed swings. That should help give you a good understanding of what you, personally, would get out of each of those.


#6

I probably can’t afford two kettlebells at the moment…
I am quite light for T-Nat standards, I weigh 65 kilos… But not so light for a climber even though I only do bouldering, hence the focus on power rather than endurance.
I think I have good overall power, I could deadlift 140 kg for a single rep when I put some time in the gym but struggled with form, my hips used to shoot up and I had little drive from the legs, that were quite straight and stiff. Not as in a Romanian deadlift, but for sure not good form.
My upper body power is good, but I’m sure it could benefit from swings and other power excercises.
I am quite sure that a 24 kg KB for two handed swings would be more than enough!

Thanks!


#7

Just build a hungarian core blaster as outlined in this article and then you can do 2 handed swings with whatever weight you want.


#8

Ah, cool. I had read that article today but I missed that bit.
Still a bit worried about the diameter of the plates though.
Cheers.


#9

I love swings. I do them multiple times a week, and the vast majority of them are one handed swings. I personally find them great for strength and conditioning work.

My recommendation would be to get a 16kg bell, and if you know you like them, just get a 24kg bell as well. Most bells in that size range are easy to swing with one or two hands (unless you’ve got monster hands).

If you really like them, you can move up to a 32 or 40kg bell. Getting too many intermediate sized bells can get expensive, and with swings, making a big(ish) jump in weight is generally not a problem.


#10

[quote]lorenzino wrote:
Ah, cool. I had read that article today but I missed that bit.
Still a bit worried about the diameter of the plates though.
Cheers. [/quote]

Consider using smaller plates. A stack of 5s will go a long way.


#11

I consider one-arm swings my only staple exercise, I think they are fantastic. I use a 40kg kettlebell for sets of 10, and I haven’t personally come across a better exercise for bulletproofing the body. If I was only allowed to do one exercise for the rest of my life it would be the one-arm swing.

I’d agree with what others have said: two-handed swings are better for fat loss and power output, while one-handed swings are better for strength. In the case of climbing I’d recommend the one-handed swings in preference - they are far superior for strengthening the core, especially in anti-rotation, which I imagine is very important for climbing. They are also superior for training the upper back and grip, while still doing a great job of training the glutes and hamstrings.

There is absolutely no point in getting a 12kg kettlebell. If money is an issue I would suggest going straight for the 24kg, because it is light enough that you’ll be strong enough to use it already, but heavy enough that you won’t have run out of things to do with it in a couple of months. If I were you I’d start with two-handed swings for sets of 5-10 for a month or two until the technique was really ingrained and then move on to training primarily with the one-arm swing. Add in some push-ups, kettlebell rows and goblet squats and you’re all set.


#12

[quote]furo wrote:
I consider one-arm swings my only staple exercise, I think they are fantastic. I use a 40kg kettlebell for sets of 10, and I haven’t personally come across a better exercise for bulletproofing the body. If I was only allowed to do one exercise for the rest of my life it would be the one-arm swing.
[/quote]

At risk of a thread-jack (we can move this discussion to your training log, or mine, if preferred), I’ll see your one-armed swing and raise you the one-armed clean and press. Something very primal about it, like lifting (somewhat) heavy stones over and over, and I think the combination of pulling, then pressing, is a bit more of a “complete” lift than the swing.

But we are getting sidetracked. Given that OP is a climber, I think the advice for a one-arm lift vs. two-arm is sound. OP’s going to have to decide on the right weight, but I agree that 12 kg is far too light, even though he’s a small chap. I encourage the idea of a 16 and a 24, but if the budget does not allow, I second furo’s advice to get a 20 or 24, start with two-armed swings, and build up to one-armed stuff.


#13

I definitely see your point, the clean and press is awesome! My favourite part of the clean is that impact at the top of the movement - it really forces you to brace and absorb the weight. I think the main advantage of the swing over the clean is the fact that you maintain tension in the muscles throughout the entire set, unlike the clean where you kind of reset for a second between each rep. But I can definitely see why you’d prefer the clean and press!


#14

Cheers for the very useful info!
As usual there is room for everything: single arm, two arms…
I will probably get a 24 kg and see how I do with double armed swings, then we’ll see. I could also build the Bulgarian core thing, seems cheap and functional.
I did swings tonight at the end of the climbing training, two sets of 20 per arm, teamed with 2 minutes spider crawls with a 6 kg weight vest. I ate like a lion at dinner and really feel the session. Ready for a good night’s sleep.
Please keep replies coming, they’re much appreciated.


#15

Consider looking into sinister and simple by Pavel. It’s a fantastic GPP program using just swings and TGU that should have some good carry-over to climbing.


#16

Thanks for the input.
I will get the book very soon. Super curious!


#17

good cardio


#18

Today I build a home made kettlebell using a duble loop of chain passed through the holes of the 5 kg plates and a plastic cylinder as the handle. It’s cheap and it works nicely, the chain isn’t rigid but the weights do not swing much. Plus, the plates stay parallel to the swing so they’re narrow and even with a few of them it’s not a big chunk of iron to pass between the knees.
I’ll post a pic when I get back home next week, if anyone fancy to try this easy setup.
Cheers.


#19

Here’s a pic.
Easy and good for small weights.