Olympic Dumbbell Swing

by Roger LaPointe

Chad Ullom performing a 150 Right Arm Dumbbell Swing at the 2012 USAWA Club Challenge in Ambridge, PA. Chad has the best Dumbbell Swing of ALL TIME in the USAWA.

As a competitive lift, the dumbbell swing has not been part of the Olympics since the first one, or maybe it was the second modern Olympics? I don’t know and the records are a least a little sketchy. So why do it?

Dumbbell Swings are simply AWESOME for your grip work.

Leading up to our last All-Round Weightlifting Meet, I hadn’t done any traditional deadlifting and hardly any clean pulls. Instead, I did a lot of stone lifting, snatches, cleans and the three lifts in that competition: the crucifix hold, one arm deadlift and thick bar Jefferson lift. I was doing the stone lifting because I was training Casey Pelton for the German American Festival Steinstossen event and because I just love summer outdoor stone lifting.

“Wow! Isn’t that actually over training you back?” exclaimed my Dad.

The quick answer, is “Yes… and No.” The volume of back training was pretty big, but most importantly, the volume of grip training was really high. I needed to hit my grip and single arm work, in a genuinely periodized fashion. I really needed to hit some lighter weights, with super high intensity. I felt like the dumbbell swing might just fit the bill.

There is no way to do a serious dumbbell swing being highly intense about it. Without intending to create this dichotomy, it also happens to be a nearly perfect lift to balance out the crucifix hold. Nice.

If you want to see the dumbbell I use to train the Dumbbell Swing, check out this shot. It is a very nice Olympic Plate Loading Rotating Dumbbell. The handle diameter and knurling is about as perfect as you could hope for and my York weights were not sloppy, like on the old one I was previously using. It was a wonderful upgrade.

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

One Hand Swing

by Roger LaPointe

Roger LaPointe, of Atomic Athletic, performing a dumbbell swing with an "old school" Jackson 80# globe dumbbell at the Ambridge Barbell Club.

Quick lifts seem to be all the rage right now, for good reason.

The One Hand Dumbbell Swing is one explosive lift you do not see a lot of, but you are really missing out if you aren’t doing it. It was one of the contest lifts in Ambridge, PA last weekend, at the Ambridge Barbell Club USAWA (All-Round) weightlifting meet.

First of all, the guys in that organization are a treasure trove of information. I had been casually training the lift for about a month. The deeper I looked at it and experimented with it, the more interesting it became. As with many All-Round Association events, I came out of the meet with a far greater understanding of the lift than when I went in. You may have noticed, that I tend to repeat lifts from one meet to the next. The idea is that in a 6 month period of time, you can then have two contests where you can show some improvement from the first to the second.

EQUIPMENT

To start with, you want to lift on the most appropriate equipment. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but there are certain key factors to consider. Now, my favorite dumbbell at the meet was the one I used for my final attempt, which was a good one. However, if I were trying to set a record, or push my absolute limit, I would NOT have used that dumbbell. I like that dumbbell because it was an antique Jackson solid, globe head, dumbbell. It was down right cool. Yet, the grip area was much too long and unknurled.

Ideally, you want a rotating Olympic sized plate loading dumbbell with a handle that is similar diameter to an Olympic barbell. I have one in my collection that measures 1 1/4 inches in diameter and it is simply too big. The goal of a swing is not just to work your grip. A swing should be a test of your back, hips and traps. You also need to have very solid collars. There is no way I would trust little spring collars or something made of plastic. I use leather lined Spin-Lock Collars that you can crank down on.

TECHNIQUE

1. Make sure you get a good grip. I also like to have the thumb side of my hand cranked in tight to the inside collar.
2. Don’t do too many swings, three should be enough. More than that and you are wasting energy and explosiveness. With your final swing you want to go up more than out with a genuine triple extension.
3. Don’t forget you can also drop under it and catch it in a split. There will be more looping of the dumbbell than in a snatch, so you will want to practice the split. You could could catch it in a quarter squat type movement, but you will probably have to jump backward to receive the dumbbell. That is possibly stronger, but chancy. I started off using that method, because of my Olympic lifting background. While that swing split is certainly different from a barbell jerk split, I am gradually switching and adapting to it.
4. Finally, lock your shoulder right into the side of your head. There is a really cool screw type motion that makes it stunningly solid.

Finally, if you are not already doing full barbell Olympic weightlifting, then start. The application of that type of training to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing is so obvious as to not even warrant discussion.

Have fun. Today is a good day to lift. Live strong.

John Grimek and the One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

John Grimek performing an One Arm Dumbbell Swing.

I can’t finish the story on the One Arm Dumbbell Swing without mentioning John Grimek.  As most All-Rounders know, John Grimek has had a tremendous influence on the USAWA.  He is one of the very few USAWA Hall of Fame members who didn’t earn his way into the USAWA Hall of Fame by competing in USAWA competitions.  He got nominated and inducted with the first USAWA Hall of Fame Class in 1993 because of the way he trained, how he promoted odd lifting (or all-round lifting as it is known today), and the great respect all-round lifters have for him.

Most lifters know John Grimek the bodybuilder.  After all, he is the only man to ever win two AAU Mr. America titles (1940 and 1941).  He had the “perfect physique” and was way ahead of his time in bodybuilding. He also won the Mr. Universe title in 1948 and the Mr. USA title in 1949.

Most lifters know John Grimek the weightlifter. After all, he was a National Weightlifting Champion and member of the famous Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Berlin in 1936.

But I argue he was foremost an All-Round Weightlifter!!!  His training program consisted, as he put it, of using “1001 exercises” to not only increase muscle size and strength, but flexibility and athleticism as well. He excelled at one arm lifts like the bent press, one arm snatch, side press, and the one arm dumbbell swing.  He even did support lifts like the Harness Lift and Hip Lift. He was also a great gymnast – and often did handstand pushups with ease.  But this is not intended to be an autobiography of John Grimek – I don’t have enough space for that -  instead just an article showing his great ability in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I was hoping that I could find proof that John Grimek had done a Swing that would have put him into the Top Ten of All-Time.  I have read that he did swings with over 200 pounds in training – but I couldn’t substantiate them.   An article by one of his training partners, Gord Venables in 1943,  stated that he and Grimek had both done 175 pounds in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing in training.

I ran across this old YouTube Video showing John Grimek doing some lifting and posing at a weightlifting picnic at York around the year 1940.  The quality of the video is not the best – but it clearly shows what a great lifter and performer John Grimek was!!

John Grimek died on November 20th, 1998.

Top Ten ALL-TIME One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

It is a difficult task to try to come up with an All-Time Top Ten list for any lift, and the One Arm Dumbbell Swing is even more difficult than others. I used many resources in formulating this list and want to state that I have tried my best to make this list as accurate as possible but I know that the list is not perfect.  Several factors made this research difficult.  Were the lifts official or unofficial?  Was a dumbbell used or a Kettlebell used?  Was the lift actually an One Arm Swing or was it an One Arm Dumbbell Snatch?  I want to thank everyone on the Iron History Forum for helping me with this project -  their knowledge on lifting history far exceeds mine!!!

TOP TEN PERFORMANCES ALL-TIME
THE ONE ARM DUMBBELL SWING

Rank Pounds         Lifter                                                           Date
1. 220
Hermann Goerner  (Germany)
1920
2. 219
Charles Rigoulot  (France)
1932
3. 202
Maurice Deriaz  (Switzerland)
1912
4. 199
Jean Francois LeBreton  (France)
1907
5. 198
Ernest Cadine  (France)
1925
6. 194
Emile Deriaz  (Switzerland)
1904
7. 190
Ron Walker  (England)
1937
8. 187
Arthur Saxon (Germany)
1905
9. 178
Stan Kratkowski  (United States)
1934
10. 176
Gabriel Lassortesse (France)
1907

As you can see from this list – all the top ten lifts of ALL-TIME in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing happened before the year 1937.  The swing is definitely a “forgotten lift”.  As I said the other day, one arm lifts were often contested in lifting competitions in the early 1900’s.  Today, the only opportunity to do an One Arm lift is in an All-Round weightlifting competition.  And given the large number of All-Round lifts – the chance to do an One Arm Swing in competition does not come around that often.  It takes extra time to load a swing dumbbell during competition which leads Meet Directors in not selecting the One Arm Dumbbell swing for a competition lift.

Steve Angell, in an IAWA competition, did an One Arm Swing with 165 pounds.  Rick Meldon, weighing only 160 pounds, did an One Arm Swing with 172 pounds in an IAWA event – the highest over bodyweight One Arm Swing ever in competition!!!

History of the One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom has the Top One Arm Dumbbell Swing ever done in the USAWA with a lift of 143 pounds. This was accomplished at the 2007 IAWA World Championships in New Zealand.

The One Arm (or one-hand as it was originally known as) Dumbbell Swing has been contested in weightlifting competitions as far back as the late 1800’s.  In the early days, One Arm Swings were often done with Kettlebells. The USAWA rules only allow the use of dumbbells today.

There were originally two basic styles of One Arm Swings – the Classic French Style and the British Style.  The French Style was the technique used first in the late 1800’s to early 1930’s, whereas the British Style became more popular after 1920.  The differences between the two styles are significant. The French Style used equally loaded, balanced dumbbells and when swung overhead used a straight arm throughout. The British Style allowed the use of “Backhang” and the bending of the lifting arm.

Backhang is allowed by the USAWA Rules when doing Swings. What is Backhang? Backhang is the unequal loading of a dumbbell where more weight is put on the back end of the dumbbell prior to the lift. The USAWA rules allow backhang up to 10 kilograms or 22 pounds.  Several of the old time strongmen would use backhang up to 40 pounds!! Once you master the technique using  Backhang, it is possible to lift more in the One Arm Swing than with an equally loaded dumbbell.


Single-handed Dumbbell Swing

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon perfoming a One Arm Dumbbell Swing

The muscles called into play are practically the same here as in the one-handed snatch , but the bell must be placed on end between the feet as shown in illustration. Keep the head down, then, with a perfectly straight arm, pull up, using a combination of muscular efforts and concentration as described in the snatch lift. Lean back and watch the dumbbell with your eyes, and when it is at a suitable height suddenly dip beneath same and twist your wrist violently, so that you may place a straight arm beneath the bell.

Credit: The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

The One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

My training partner Chad Ullom and I just spent a training session training the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. This is a lift not well understood today, but at one time was a very popular lift among old time strongmen. One arm lifts were once trained as much as two arm lifts – but not anymore. The USAWA rules for the One Arm Dumbell Swing are quite simple – but certain things must be done for a Dumbbell Swing to be “legal”. These include:

- once the dumbbell leaves the platform it must be in continual motion until lockout

- the rod of the dumbbell must maintain a 90 degree angle to the body

- the non-lifting hand must not touch the lifting arm or dumbbell

- the arm must be straight in receiving the dumbbell overhead – in other words – NO PRESS OUT

- the lift ends on command once the feet are in line and the dumbbell is in control overhead

Al Myers with a 145 pound Dumbbell Swing.

There are two styles that are used the most when doing an One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I use the more traditional style of “swinging” the dumbbell between my legs once to gain momentum to propel it overhead. Chad uses a “snatch style” where he takes it from the floor overhead in one motion and drops under the dumbbell when he catches it overhead. This is difficult in the sense that the hand is turned different than a Dumbbell Snatch. The USAWA Rules allow the lifting arm to bend during the lift and the feet to move.

Top Ten All-Time USAWA One Arm Dumbbell Swings


1. 143 Pounds Chad Ullom
2.
140 Pounds Mike McBride
140 Pounds Frank Ciavattone
4. 121 Pounds Al Myers
5. 120 Pounds Ed Schock
120 Pounds Jim Goviannini
120 Pounds Abe Smith
120 Pounds Robert English
9. 115 Pounds Scott Schmidt
115 Pounds Jason Weigle

Coming SoonThe Top Ten One Arm Dumbbell Swings of All-Time.

Will any of these USAWA lifters make the list?