Dumbbell Swing vs. Kettlebell Swing

by Roger LaPointe

Denny Habecker performing a Dumbbell Swing at the 2012 USAWA Club Challenge in Ambridge Barbell Club with an "old-style" 75 pound Jackson Globe Dumbbell.

Everyone knows that kettlebells are extremely popular right now. With that popularity has come a re-introduction of some old exercises and lifts, especially the kettlebell swing. While the one hand and two hand versions of the kettlebell swing are great exercises, they are not competitive lifts.

What is the competitive lifter to do?

Keep training with those kettlebells, as they are great tools. However, now it is time to haul out your Plate Loading Olympic Dumbbell for the Dumbbell Swing. The Dumbbell Swing has rules and records in the USAWA. What makes it a lift great lift is the relative ease of judging a good lift. Basically, it is one of those lifts that is clearly locked out overhead.

To give you an idea of how much a really good lifter can do with a One Hand Swing, we turn to two time Olympian (1932 and 1936) Stanley Kratkowski. As a middle weight (165 pound) lifter, in 1934 Kratkowski held the Right Hand Swing US Record of 178 1/2 pounds… Not too shabby. In the modern All-Round Association, the current World Record is 78.3 Kg (172.6 lbs.) in the 75 kg (165 lbs.) weight class, by R. Meldon of Great Britain. Looking at the other weight classes, I believe there is considerable opportunity for improvement in this lift.

I have found the two hand kettlebell swing to be a really fantastic training exercise for the one hand swing. As a shorter athlete, I find that my grip is the first thing to go. With the two handed kettelbell swing I can concentrate on that triple extension, really working my hips back and neck. The two handed nature of the lift also lends a balance to the body, decreasing spinal torsion issues associated with one handed lifts. As it is an exercise that does not exactly replicate the competitive lift, this is something that I would do for higher reps, particularly working some portion of the lift where I have identified a common problem. Achieving full extension of the hips seems to be a problem for many lifters.

Live Strong, Roger LaPointe

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