Indian Club Swing for Mountain Biking – Are They Better Than Kettlebell Swings?

One of the only constancies in life is change.

While I’ve been a huge proponent for Kettlebell Swings I’ve come across an exercise that has made me question if it really is the best option for us as mountain bikers.

To see why I’ve started using and recommending Indian Club Swings for building mountain bike specific power and endurance check out this new video where I show you how to do it and break down all the advantages it has over Kettlebell Swings.

Like I said in the video, if you have been using Kettlebell Swings then keep using them. But if you’ve found that they haven’t lived up to your expectations or are just looking for another, more mountain bike specific option then be sure to give Indian Club Swings a try.

I use and recommend the ONNIT brand Indian clubs which you can check out by clicking here.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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  1. Todd Coble says:

    James, any reason you couldn’t do this move with two kettlebells?

    Reply • July 9 at 10:39 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yeah, two reasons. The first is safety – I’ve actually tried this with KB’s in the past and your knees/ legs are in a pretty dangerous position, especially as you get into the heavier, bigger KB’s.

      You are also not able to rotate through the wrists and shoulders like you can with the Indian Clubs. The grip on the clubs lets you wind the arms up more and get more rotation for the release as well, just like when you jump.

      I’d stick with regular KB Swings if you want to stick with using KB’s, it is still a valuable exercise and there are a lot of great variations you can do with it.

      Reply • July 9 at 10:50 am
      • Todd Coble says:

        Makes sense. I imagine if I tried it tonight during my workout I would have discovered a few of these points right away. Thanks for the quick reply!
        p.s. what about using steel mace for this movement? Or is there a similar movement in your steel mace workout guide?

        Reply • July 9 at 11:12 am
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          You can use a 10 pound mace and hold it a little less than halfway up and do a similar exercise. Not sure if I have it in the manual but it is literally the same movement, you just have the longer handle you have to deal with but once you get the flow it works really well.

          Reply • July 9 at 12:45 pm
  2. empirical says:

    Hi James
    How about the Deadlift. You wrote an article in Pinkbike a few years ago about how to make it more ‘mountain bike specific’ and you demonstrate good technique whereby you raise the hips and the shoulders remain slightly forwards of the bar off the floor.


    I would say that the average mountain biker (trail rider) would benefit from gaining strength using linear progression of their Deadlift in the 5 rep range even more than they would from swings (which are essentially a conditioning/general physical prep exercise). I have certainly benefited hugely from lifting heavy and it’s possible to handle much more weight with a barbell.

    Reply • July 9 at 12:39 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I still use and recommend the deadlift and agree that it is the best place for a rider to start with.

      However, there is a specific skill behind an explosive hip hinge that you need for things like manuals and bunny hopping that the IC Swing can help with. Deadlifts first and then swings and if you are going to do swings then IC Swings may be the better choice.

      Reply • July 9 at 12:47 pm
  3. n barstow says:

    Hi James
    more great tipsm thanks

    I already picked up some indian clubs on your recommendation.

    Got a question already!
    Can I ask please, is the upward/forward movement almost entirely glute driven like with a swing?
    The arms are getting a bit more involved in my case? I can pass the kettlebell swing with a towel test so I guess I need to bring that same level of glute activation into the clubs.

    You’re holding them set upright at the top for like 10-15 seconds are you?

    You’re right about 10 lb, I had to choose 4 or 5 kg, so I went 4kg (9lb) as 5 is 11.2lb. I thought they may be too light but they pretty soon feel heavier

    again many thanks for keeping us all tuned up and on the trail


    Reply • July 11 at 8:22 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yes, the movement is driven by the hips and the arms are just conducting the energy rather than trying to create it.

      I may have someone hold it for up to 5 seconds if they need to dial in the top but in general I hold the top position for 1-2 seconds, I’m holding it longer in the video to show the position.

      Reply • July 11 at 11:08 am
      • N Barstow says:

        Hey James
        thanks for the clarification.
        and for recommending the clubs, I am en joying them.
        happy trails man

        Reply • July 27 at 12:15 pm

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