Making The Transition From 2-Handed Swings to 1-Handed Swings
When my wife and I decided to move back to LA there were a lot of things that needed to be sorted out:
- Where were we going to live?
- What kind of car we were going to get?
- And how was I going to layout the program of teaching my clients swings and getups!
The last part being the most important for course…
It’s been roughly 8 weeks since we’ve been back. In that time my clients have gone through a 6-week program designed to teach them the swing and getup – as well as basic strength exercises such as the goblet squat, push-up, and carry variations – and are now on week 4 of another 6-week program designed to teach them the one-handed swing.
On top of that I’m 4-weeks into a 6-week kettlebell workshop designed to teach trainers – you guessed it – how to master swings and getups. So I suppose you could say there’s been a lot of instructing going on lately with both the swing and the getup.
I wouldn’t have it any other way! Not only do I love both lifts, but also teaching the swing and getup to different types of students has taught me the variety of ways there are to teach both exercises. In the process, there have been some methods that have popped out as what, “works for everyone.” Those are the techniques, cues, and instruction that I tend to lean on now when teaching both lifts.
I thought I’d take today to talk about the transition from the 2-handed swing to the 1-handed swing. In my workshop, the goal is to do a session of Simple and Sinister (100 1-handed swings and 10-getups) on week 6. Considering 1-handed swings are on the menu, there’s a need to learn them with ample time to practice before week 6.
If you’re someone who’s new to kettlebell training take the tips here and apply them to your swing to fine tune it or help you progress to the 1-handed variation. If you’re experienced in both perhaps you’ll find an “ah-ha” here to help fine-tune your swing even more.
What To Expect
Chief SFG Brett Jones just wrote an article on patience leading to power in the swing. It’s a great article and one I’d highly recommend reading if you’re goal is to master the swing (I don’t now why it wouldn’t be).
In the article Brett talked a lot about perception and propriception. The big take away for me was when he talked about perception in relation to the swing.
“The student will combine their perception and proprioception to create a concept of what the “thing” you are asking them to do “is.” If the student “sees” a very fast movement, then they may try to do it even faster based on “seeing it fast” and their own proprioception telling them they are not doing it fast enough. The concept of the “thing” they are being asked to do may be different than the reality you were attempting to convey.”
This is HUGE!
Much like the same perception you might take on what the swing should look and feel like, I see a lot of people completely change their swing when switching from the 2-handed swing to the 1-handed swing.
Perception is reality. If you perceive the 1-handed swing to be an entirely different swing, then you will likely perform the swing in an entirely different fashion. In my experience I’d say this is about 99.9% true when teaching people how to snatch. For the record, a snatch is still a swing; it just finishes overhead.
So, the first thing to get out of the way is to remind yourself that the 1-handed swing is the same as a 2-handed swing, only performed with one hand. Once you accept that, you can move on.
I wrote an article recently on the set-up being more important than the actual lift itself. The problem I often see when teaching people the 1-hand swing is they adjust their set-up from the very beginning. I have two theories on why this is:
1 – The bell is likely lighter than the bell they’ve been 2-hand swinging so they don’t take it seriously and simply drop into position while reaching for the bell at the same time – a big no, no.
2- See my comment above regarding the quote from Chief SFG Brett Jones.
Regardless the point is clear, the student is treating it as an entirely new lift. To avoid this, start back at square one.
Step 1: Set your hinge as if you were to swing or deadlift
I typically teach the deadlift first and use a wall to cue a proper hinge. I have the student tap his/her butt to the wall THEN reach for the bell only when they’ve achieved a proper hinge. Instructing them to forget the bell is below them while hinging back helps break the habit of reaching for the bell. I then apply this same principle to the hike, the dead-stop swing, and finally the swing.
I’ve seen this pattern work best when finally making the transition from 2-handed swings to 1-handed swings. After 6 weeks of setting up for a 2-handed swings, then instructing them to setup the same way for a 1-handed swing, it’s rather easy to carry over the setup right away.
Step 2: Hike the bell with two hands
I started doing this because the cue of hiking back with one initially threw people off. To fix this I simply had them setup as if they were swinging with 2-hands, slide one hand to the middle of the bell, and place the other hand over top of the hand on the bell. This also aids them in physically hiking the bell back.
Step 3: Take the hand away
Once the student has hiked the bell I simple instruct them to take the top hand off the bell and keep swinging. I’ll later tell them to mimic the position of the loaded hand with the free hand. I instruct this particular cue in the beginning to simply give them something to do with their free hand. A lot of people get confused as to “what to do” with their free hand so this helps. It also helps them find a good rhythm.
When followed in this sequence I’ve seen a rather smooth transition in my students from 2-handed swings to 1-handed swings.
It should be noted though that my students have usually spent 4-6 weeks on 2-handed swings only. Because the swing is a foundation lift in kettlebell training, it only makes sense that you’d want to make sure students truly OWN the lift before progressing. Even if a student shows great ability to perform the swing, I’ll still have them try to create more tension, relax more or enjoy the float at the top more, drive through the floor more, etc. etc. before progressing them (unless there’s a specific goal/timeline we’re dealing with). There’s always more than can be tweaked.
Some Common Problems and Solutions
The loaded arm starts to drift towards the middle of the body
In the 2-handed swing one of the teaching points I stress is the mid-upper forearm of each arm coming into contact with the upper-inner thigh. This helps protect the back and also maintains efficiency in the swing.
The 1-handed swing makes it easier for this to not happen because, well, there’s no arm on the other side to stop you from drifting. A simple cue I give here is “find the inner thigh with your forearm on the way down.” I’ll usually show them what happens in the 2-handed swing (without a bell) then take away 1-hand at the bottom of my swing to show that it should still in fact be the same move, just with 1-hand.
Doing this also requires core strength not needed as much in the 2-handed swing. The 1-hand swing is an anti-rotation lift. The bell is trying to not only get away from you, but also twist you at the same time. This is where students stand to develop a rock solid core (especially when paired with getups!).
Rushing The Swing
Getting back to my point about the bell likely being lighter than the bell you 2-hand swing, students tend to get lost in what to do with what feels like an “eternity” at the top of their 1-hand swing. A drill I’ve seen work well is the Air Swing – a slo-mo timing drill (performed without a bell) that helps the student become more aware of how long they have to hold their lockout before breaking and hinging back for the next rep.
To do this, simply mimic the motions of a swing, setup and all, without a bell. Once in the standing position, hold your lockout tight until your upper arms come in contact with your ribs. I’ll cue that or “play chicken with the bell but make sure you win.” Some people like that one, most get it more with the idea of their ribs being ignition buttons to initiate the hinge.
I’ve also seen that after learning the 1-handed swing you realize that you can really rip into your 2-handed swings. In fact, I often have my student’s wave between 2-handed and 1-handed swings to feel the effects of both. The 1-handed swings help my students drive into the 2-handed swings more, creating more power and “pop” or “float.” The added power applied to the 2-handed swing helps the student feel the need to be more patient on the way down, which they can then apply to their 1-handed swing. I’ve seen it work great to ping-pong these teaching points back and forth with both lifts.
Putting It Altogether
If you’ve been 1-hand swinging for a while and feel like you need to make some adjustments, take a step back and start from square one with these tips. I’m willing to bet it’s likely something in your setup that’s throwing the rest of your set off.
If you’re new to swings and will be trying 1-hand swings for the first time, I’d recommend again spending some appreciable time with your 2-handed swings before attempting 1-handed swings. Then remember:
- 1-handed swings are the same as 2-handed swings only performed with 1-hand
- Focus on a strong setup – respect the bell no matter how heavy or light the bell actually is
- Use both variations to help gain mastery in both
If you’re looking for specific program to help you perfect your swings, look no further than Simple and Sinister. If you go through these steps and still feel something is off, I have recently started working with people online and I’d be happy to take a look at your swing for you – but chances are I’ll have you start from the beginning and find a spot that might have been rushed!
Be patient, be grateful, and