american vs russian swing

American Swing vs Russian Swing

The biggest difference between the American Swing and Russian Swing (AKA Conventional Swing) is the height that the Kettlebell ends at, that and the involvement of the shoulders. Secondly, there is the fact that you simply shouldn’t do an American Swing with a very heavy weight.


The title says “The American Kettlebell Swing: Why You Should Never Do It” but that’s just to cause a stir and get you hyped up to click. What I meant to say was – within the right context it is perfectly ok to say “You should never do an American Swing”, but to say “You should not do an American Swing” without proper context and generalise it is just plain stupid and ignorant.


“CrossFit is a great system, but they don’t utilize kettlebells well because of a lack of qualified kettlebell instruction.” – T.C., RKC


Context is the key

It’s all about proper context, if I’m working with a novice, then I will certainly not do the American Swing with them, and if I saw some other trainer with a novice, I would say “You should not be doing the American Swing” and explain why. If I am working with someone who has shoulder issues, then I would say … well you know know what I would say!


When it comes to programming, if you want to work the shoulders in a workout, then throw some American Swings in, of course people will say “but there are better ways to work the shoulders”, this is true, but it’s not always about what’s better or the best, we’d have some really boring programmes then, and clients would get bored quite quickly.


If you want to swing really heavy, I’m talking 32kg or over (all depending on the individual), then you don’t do American Swings, yeah of course Greg would say “most of our guys can easily do an American Swing with 32kg” (in fact, he said it), I’d be really surprised if by “most of our guys” he meant “most of our guys from all boxes across the world” because that sounds really unlikely and very dangerous for ‘most of his guys’. To be honest, I’m sick of the war between the American and Russian Swing, stop trying to make one look better than the other, they’re both good, but only within the right context.

The context you should consider when deciding to include one or the other, or both, are:

  • safety
  • weight
  • repetitions
  • objectives
  • audience
  • experience


I’ll leave the rest of the American Swing promotion to Greg.

Greg Glassman“On first being introduced to the kettlebell swing our immediate response was, ‘Why not go overhead?’ Generally, we endeavour, somewhat reflexively, to lengthen the line of travel of any movement. Why?


There are two reasons. The first is somewhat intuitive. We don’t do half rep pull-ups, we don’t do half rep squats, and we don’t do half rep push-ups. If there is a natural range of motion to any movement we like to complete it. To do otherwise seems unnatural. We would argue that partial reps are neurologically incomplete. The second reason deals with some fundamentals of physics and exercise physiology.


From physics we know that the higher we lift something, and the more it weighs, the more ‘work’ we are performing. Work is in fact equal to the weight lifted multiplied by the height we lift the object. Work performed divided by the time to completion is equal to the average ‘power’ expressed in the effort.


Power is exactly identical to the exercise physiologist’s ‘intensity’. Intensity, more than any other measurable factor, correlates to physiological response. So more work in less time, or more weight moved farther in less time, is largely a measure of an exercise’s potency.


When we swing the kettlebell to overhead, the American swing, we nearly double the range of motion compared to the Russian swing and thereby double the work done each stroke. For any given time period, the power would be equivalent only if the Russian swing rate was twice the American swing rate.” – Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit


As for the comment made about CrossFit being a great system, but not utilizing kettlebells well due to the lack of qualified kettlebell instruction. In general I have to agree with the person who made this comment, as I also believe that this is the case with most boxes, however, this applies not just to CrossFit, this applies to most gyms across the world. I also don’t think the comment just referred to the American Swing, but to general kettlebell exercises employed within CrossFit boxes. If you do Olympic Lifting, you get in Olympic Lifting Coaches for teaching, if you do Kettlebell Training, you get in ….


the kettlebell swing ebookIf you want the scoop on the Russian Swing, have a look at this ebook

Join the Kettlebell Swing group on Facebook

Footnote: if you’re really against the American Swing, a great alternative is the Snatch. However, there is still a lot that can be said about this comparison, more on that next time.