How Kettlebell Swings Helped Me Do A Pull-Up

I’m a kettlebell enthusiast.  The kettlebell swing is probably my all time favorite exercise.  There’s so many ways to swing the kettlebell and challenge yourself.  You could go light, you could go heavy (you could do both!), you could swing for reps, swing for time, one hand, two hands, alternate hands, ladders, it’s really endless!! It’s such a unique movement that leaves me feeling totally invigorated and spent all at the same time!!  My favorite workout is the 15 sec work, 15 sec rest interval. I absolutely love the cardio challenge and grip challenge!   Whenever I finish that workout I feel simply amazing!  And I got really good at it….

The more you swing the better you get, and I found that out during the 10,000 swing challenge I completed in January.  My swing and I became one.  I started the challenge knowing I would swing with purpose and not swing just to swing.  I made a plan and I stuck with it.  I challenged myself with different programs and progressed to heavier bells while getting stronger and more in tune with my body.  And I did get stronger….

I hit a personal best.  I also got something I did not expect.  Like I said, the 15 sec work, 15 sec rest workout has always been a favorite, I line up the 16K, 20K and 24K and stay one minute at each bell before moving to the next.  I complete 10 swings every 15 seconds so I get 20 swings per minute on each bell.  I usually would spend about 15 minutes on this swing interval, going down the line, which is a pretty darn good workout!  During this challenge I was able to progress myself to 30 minutes! That’s 600 swings on a 15/15 work/rest! I also experienced an inspiring "kettlebell high" during that 30 minutes, where my swing was perfect, effortless and I felt I could go on forever!  But, I stopped at 600 for fear of overtraining since I was in the middle of the 10,000 swing challenge!!

I think what amazed me even more was something I didn’t expect which is directly related to my swings.  Before the 10,000 swing challenge I could not do a single pull-up.  And sure, I kept consistent with kettlebell classes twice a week throughout this and we would practice pull-ups in some of those classes,  but mine were always assisted pull-ups.  It wasn’t until I finished the challenge that I was able to complete my first un-assisted pull-up!  I was not swinging with that in mind, in fact, I didn’t even consider it.  What I realized is that as I swing the bell I actively engage my lats to "pull" the bell down between my legs and as I swing up, of course my glutes are squeezed tight in the hip snap, and at the top of my swing I continue to keep my shoulders  packed and down.  It makes sense that this would make me stronger for pull ups, I just never realized it!!  And as I progressed to heavier bells  I became more focused and stronger in my lats, my glute squeeze, and actually my whole posterior chain!

Now I love swings even more, I continue to challenge myself with different swing combinations and different sized kettlebells.  I can also do one handed swings with the 20K and the 28K is a regular part of my combinations now!  I’m looking forward to continually getting stronger, moving up to heavier bells, perfecting my swing even more, and reaching my goal of completing three pull-ups!

~Mary Ellen Coffey, HKC

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