The Kettlebell Coaching Series Part 4: “Play Chicken With Your Manhood”

There I was, standing in front of a class of 7th grade boys trying to teach them the intricacies of the Kettlebell Swing “KBSW”.  Many in the group were exhibiting the same common flaw most students have when they learn the KBSW.  They lacked patience with the hips.  Instead of waiting until the KB gets very close to the body on the way down before hinging the hips and loading for the next swing, they were early.  The sequencing error of an early hip hinge reduces the “snappiness” of the movement and greatly reduces power.  The early hip hinge also can wreak havoc on the lower back as the action of the movement gets transferred away from the proper muscles that act on and stabilize the spine (glutes, hamstrings, abdominals).

After many demonstrations of correct technique and saying things like, “be patient with the hips” and “let your arms fall more,” I stumbled across a coaching cue that greatly improved understanding:  “Play chicken with your Manhood”.  When the giggles stopped, I was asked, “what if I hit myself!?”  The reply to this question also flowed effortlessly out of my mouth, “It is not in our DNA as men to purposefully hit ourselves there”.  More giggles and nods of understanding ensued.

What came next showed the efficacy of a properly executed coaching cue.  About half of the group improved their swing immediately.  Some weren’t ready for the increase in speed in the bottom of the swing and were pulled forward, but they felt the power of patience and learned that no good swing goes unpunished.  If you do it right, you must be ready to act when the KB gets to the bottom of the swing.  Because this cue was so effective it has become a regular part of the instruction when coaching the swing.  And it is not just for men or boys, women get it too.

So why didn’t the others improve after the countless visual demonstrations and verbal cues?  It’s because there are all different types of learners.  Learning styles are typically broken down into three categories; visual, verbal, and kinesthetic. Visual learners are adept at taking in information by watching, verbal learners do best by listening, and kinesthetic learners need to learn by doing.  Most people are some combination of all three, but everyone have a preference to one of the types.  As a coach you need to present information in a way that appeals to all learning styles.

While a large majority of the group were able to improve their downswing, patience, and sequencing by watching a demonstration and understanding a poignant cue, there were still others who were unable to grasp the concept.  For these people, tactile and specific drills are in order.  Below are a few of the drills we like to use to teach students how to improve their sequencing in the KB swing.

Medicine Ball Drill
Kettlebell Spiking Drill
Chop and Pop Drill
Core blaster / Rope Swings (this was originally filmed to with the intent to fix shrugging, but also applies here)
You’ll notice that these videos are titled sequencing and power… why is power in there you ask? Simple. The better the sequence, the more efficient/powerful the movement. Another way of wording this is…  When you have an ideal sequence “energy leakage is minimized”. BUT there’s  more to it than that!  Its time to drop some ex phys on you…

The Stretch Shortening Cycle:

An eccentric contraction followed by an immediate concentric contraction. The concentric phase/contraction when the SSC is excited is more powerful and has the potential to produce more force than a concentric contraction which is not preceded by an eccentric contraction.
Potential Energy: Stored energy ready at any moment to perform work. This energy can easily be transferred to kinetic energy.
Kinetic Energy:
Energy working.
From the perspective of the exercise physiologist an ideal sequence maximizes the power produced via the stretch shortening cycle… think back to the Plyometrics section of one of those thick exercise physiology texts you likely read (or at least skimmed through) at some point.  This occurs because when the bell “pulls” the student into the bottom position of the swing the posterior chain is loaded with greater force (stronger eccentric contraction in some of the prime movers) which produces a greater amount of potential energy that can be converted into kinetic energy. If there is a quick transition from the bottom of the swing into the next swing the potential energy is converted… otherwise, the potential energy simply dissipates as heat.
With that said, here’s a quick scenario to make this a bit more clear:
There are 2  identical twins. The twins have identical mobility, muscle mass, strength, power, etc.  Twin 1 performs a swing with an ideal sequence. Twin 2 performs a swing with a bad sequence (doesn’t wait for the arms/bell to lower in the eccentric phase). Twin 1 will generate more powerful in their swing because of the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy (which did not happen for twin 2).
Back to the drills…
As we always say… please keep in mind that there are many, many more options (for example: for some students all you need to do is cue and they get it). However, we have found these drills to be some of the most effective in helping students fix their sequencing when cuing alone doesn’t get the job done.
Unfortunately, sequencing issues are very common and many trainers/coaches are quite sure how to fix this other than trying to explain and cue over and over again until they… give up. So… when you see a student having difficulty waiting for the kettlebell to lower in the descent try some of the drills above.  Try other drills too… find what works. Go with whatever drill helps the student understand ideal movement.
For more coaching fixes and tips check out our new site: OR attend our next Certified Ketttlebell Instructor Level 1 Seminar on 10/3/15 in West Chester, PA.

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