I got this question from Taylor the other day which got me
thinking and will definitely twist your noodle –
“Thanks again for the emails. I enjoy them and learn much
from them. I especially enjoyed the series on crossfit.
I have seen you mention several times that swings are an
excellent developer of strength. I saw on the SF forum
that Mr Whitley mentioned swings for strength. It is my
understanding that if we want to develop strength we use
a rep scheme of 1 to 5. 6 reps or more is hypertrophy
or endurance depending on how you cook the rest intervals.
Why is it that even with heavy swings we have a rep scheme
of 10 or more if they are a strength exercise?
I can swing a pair 32s for 10 to 12 reps on the top of the
minute every minute for 10 minutes. That is heavy for me.
My cardio is the weak link in those sets.
I LOVE swings. I am not trying to punk out of doing them.
In my mind they are more of a conditioning tool and less
of a absolute strength building tool. What am I missing?
Since you are my Jedi Master I thought I would ask.
Thanks for your time.”
First of all, it’s obvious that Taylor is weak.
As a kitten.
And a de-conditioned slob.
He can only perform double swings with a pair of 32s for
10-12 reps on the top of the minute for 10 minutes.
That’s only about 100-120 swings with 140lbs.
Or 14,000 pounds moved in 10 minutes.
Obviously, I am being sarcastic here.
And it’s obvious, that since Taylor loves swings, that he’s
done a lot of them, and gotten very strong.
That’s a serious workload. If you doubt it, go give it a
shot yourself and report back in.
How did he get so strong with swings?
Well, that means we have to answer his [very insightful]
This is actually a two-part answer.
1) Ballistics play by different rules than grinds when it
comes to gaining strength.
Grinds subject your body/muscles to a tremendous amount of
tension for relatively long periods of time. So there is
always load on the target muscles.
(Target muscles – sound like TV infomercial there – sorry.)
And that tension produces the necessary neural, tissue and
metabolic changes that induce the strength adaptation.
Therefore, because tension is so high, and so constant, we
don’t have to do that many reps. 1 to 5 is all that’s
necessary for pure strength training.
(Incidentally, you will get strong in the 6 and over range,
but there are also more tissue changes in that range – hence
the need to define it as a hypertrophy or muscle-building
Now, ballistics by their very nature have very little tension,
at least on the concentric.
You literally load your hips, and then BAM! unload them. As
soon as you snap your hips you impart energy into the bell
and it floats on its own accord, simply directed by your arms.
Sure, there’s a lot of tension on the backswing as you load
your hips, but how long’s it last? Maybe a second? And then
the actually Swing itself is less than a second?
So compared to a grind, there’s very little time under
And since tension = strength, you can get away with doing
10+ reps on the ballistics to gain strength.
See how that works?
But there’s something else pretty unique about Swings:
2) The Swing – especially the Double Swing – plays by
different rules than any other ballistic exercise.
In the Clean and the Snatch, you can rest – in the rack or
the lockout. There is no rest with the Swing, unless you
consider that momentary pause at the apex a rest.
And that creates tension in the entire body, especially
the midsection, shoulders, and arms. (Yes, the arms still
guide, but they’re still under a lot of tension.)
So one can make the argument that the Swing is the best
ballistic for building strength.
Again – more tension per unit of time than the other
So all that begs a question –
How EXACTLY Would You Use Swings To Get Mutant
Strength & Conditioning?
Well that’s a question I asked at the April 2012 RKC during
my Program Design lecture.
I answered it by describing in great detail the “One” program.
It’s quite simple really. It involves “only” doing Double
Swings 2 to 3 times per week.
Total workout time = 30 minutes a week.
That’s right. 30 minutes a week.
After describing it to the candidates, I could see some of
the lightbulbs going on. But some of them still didn’t
So I asked this question, “How strong and well conditioned
would you be if you could do this program with a pair of
Not only would you have incredible conditioning levels
to complete it with Beasts, but you’d get really strong
in the process to be able to use a pair of Beasts.
Then it clicked for them.
Collective head-nodding and simultaneous “Ohhhhh’s” ensued.
And it’ll click for you too (like it has for Taylor) when
you dive down the Double Swing “rabbit hole” known as the
“One” program found only in “Kettlebell STRONG!.”
P.S. You certainly don’t have to use a pair of Beasts to
achieve freakish strength and conditioning with the “One”
program. Just starting with a pair of 24s if you’re a guy
or 16s if you’re a lady will transform you.
The best part is that the “One” program is designed to be
“recycled” – when you reach the top with your 24s, drop
back to the start with a pair of 28s or 32s and reload for
even more stimulation – and results.