American Kettlebell Swing Vs Russian
The kettlebell swing’s popularity has grown, especially in the United States after Pavel Tsatsouline, a man from Russia, introduced it in the market.
Kettlebells, according to folklore, were first used in Russia as counterweights, and later on farmers would toss, swing, and juggle these weights both for exercise, and fun in equal measure.
Today, the kettlebell swing that is practiced in areas where it is popular is a variation of the traditional Russian version, which is shorter yet effective.
When properly taught, the kettlebell swing delivers athletic power, while improving your performance if you intend to improve yourself, or gain an edge over your competitors.
Among the benefits of the swing include increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity, better muscular endurance, increased power, and full training for your body.
Like fat burners, the kettlebell swing also changes the composition of your body in favor of muscle mass, thus leads to high amounts of fat getting burned.
All these benefits are accrued owing to the large number of muscles worked through the swing as it works on your hamstrings, hips, lats, shoulders, glutes, pecs, abs, and grip.
American vs Russian Kettlebell Swing: Are They Different?
While both American and Russian kettlebell swings may have the same principle and effect on the body, there are some subtle differences to note.
As stated earlier, the Russian kettlebell swing was introduced to the United States market about a decade or so ago, and has since gained popularity among athletes and bodybuilders alike.
While the Russian kettlebell swing is performed by a swing where the bell finishes in line with eye or torso level, the American version has the bell overhead, with your arms straight, and the bell’s bottom points straight to the ceiling.
This debate over which version – Russian or American – is best is a long-running one especially among people in the fitness segment.
However, there isn’t a clear answer to the debate as there are compelling arguments for and against both types of kettlebell swings.
Additionally, there isn’t one way of getting things done, so depending on the kind of athlete you are, you may settle on one of the two that is suitable for you.
For instance, athletes with prior injuries or who may be new to the kettlebell swing may find the Russian kettlebell swing easier for them as they build a solid strength base.
On the other hand, athletes who intend to competitively do the CrossFit may look to the American kettlebell swing for their training, as it is the standard CrossFit-style competition movement.
Ultimately, the decision on which kettlebell swing to go with depends on the version that matches your goals.
Let’s look at a few arguments put forth in favor of the Russian version and American version of the kettlebell swing.
Arguments for the Russian kettlebell swing
Image: BoxLife magazine
Besides being the original kettlebell swing and the most widely practiced in the world, the Russian kettlebell swing is popular for its ability to maximize posterior chain and hip power and strength.
As the athlete performs the Russian kettlebell swing, they load their glutes, quads, and hamstrings while hinging at the hips, thus the tension produces a powerful hip drive.
The swing, which ends at the chest level, ensures all these muscles and your entire core contracts.
The difference between the Russian and American version here is that for the latter, once the bell is at eye or chest level, you have to engage your arms to get the kettlebell overhead.
Proponents of the Russian kettlebell argue that herein lies a few problems including:
- Using your arms vis-à-vis a powerful hip drive to get the bell from eye/chest level to overhead
- There’s no increase of power even though the range of motion is greater
- The athlete has to compromise on force, by using lighter weights, and time
- The power output is reduced, unlike in the Russian version where a heavier weight is used that allows for faster time and higher production of force
- Overhead bell swing compromises shoulder joint’s mobility and health causing a ripple effect of loading the back improperly, thus you have to hyper-extend the lower back to get to the finishing position
The argument therefore is that with the Russian swing, the weight is below the head, the shoulder joint is more stable, and there’s less risk of injury due to the shorter range of motion.
The Russian swing thus keeps a neutral, fixed posture with a proper hip drive all through the movement.
Arguments for the American kettlebell swing
Proponents for the American version of the kettlebell swing argue that it unlike the Russian swing, which is like performing partial reps, the American one uses a fuller range of motion.
There are no half rep pull-ups, squats, or push-ups with the American swing, as all motions are completed.
They also argue that the natural range of motion results in the bell swing being finished overhead, unlike at chest/eye level with the Russian swing.
Another argument put across by advocates of the American kettlebell swing is that athletes can produce more power to lift the bell overhead owing to the increased range of motion.
This, they argue, is much easier and faster than the Russian swing where double work gets done with every stroke.
The only difference here is that the American version uses lighter kettlebell loads than the Russian swing.
What’s your take on the two arguments?
Do you prefer the American or the Russian kettlebell swing? We’ve shared the differences and what makes each one of them unique, so it’s up to you to decide which one of the two fits your goals for staying fit best.
If, however, you have tried one of the kettlebell swing versions exclusively, your best bet would be to give the other one a shot, and maybe then you’ll find the arguments for both more compelling.
Nikky Watson -
Catch me on Twitter – @Nikky_Watson