I ran across an interesting scientific study this
weekend. Here’s why it’s important to you –
One of the reasons I went to the RKC back in
2005 was because the 2H Swing hurt my lower
back. I just couldn’t swing without pain.
Especially when you think about all the people
who have “cured” their low back pain with
So which is it – are Swings good for the lower
back or bad?
In the study published in “The Journal of Strength
and Conditioning Research,” (vol.26.1.Jan.2012),
McGill and Marshall from the University of Waterloo,
Canada, came up with some interesting conclusions.
They found that unlike traditional barbell lifting,
kettlebell swings, the loads on the spines are
Because of the arc-like trajectory of the Swing,
there is relatively high posterior shear forces*
in relation to compressive forces.
*In “regular speak” shearing force is a force
that can tear. Compressive force is just that –
compressing material together until it explodes/
In traditional barbell lifting, there are higher
compressive forces compared to shear forces.
So what does that mean?
It means, according to the researchers that
you should have sufficient spinal stability –
and sufficiently more spinal stability to
swing a kettlebell than lift a bar.
So what’s that mean for YOU?
1. Compressive forces are traditionally
associated with back injuries – herniated discs.
Kettlebell Swings have low compression forces,
therefore, when done correctly, they won’t hurt
your lower back.
They’re more “forgiving” than barbell lifting.
And that means that you can do a lot of them
to strengthen your back and keep yourself from
This explains why so many people experience
positive results from Swings.
2. Shearing forces can still cause back injury,
so if you’re swinging your KB and have back pain,
Your pain most likely means that you either have
insufficient spine stability and/or your technique
This means Swings actually ARE bad for your back
in certain cases.
And this explains why there are some people who
find that Swings and kettlebell ballistics in general
hurt their lower backs.
3. If you even suspect you fall into category
#2, you need to add in some spinal stability
exercises and polish your technique.
Well what about my Swing? Did it get better after
going to the RKC?
Did I have a spinal stability problem or a
I had been doing a bunch of spinal stability work
so for me it was learning how to “wedge” myself
between the ground and the kettlebell that cured
my back pain.
Keep your eyes peeled because I’ll be sending you
some “interesting” ideas to help you polish your
Swing and your other kettlebell techniques.
P.S. The other cool thing about this study is
that Pavel was actually in it – I think he was
used as the control – but don’t quote me on that.
Anyway, the point is, some of the numbers you can
get with a Swing – especially 1 arm Swings, is quite