Over the last 5 years few exercises have gotten as popular as Kettlebell Swings. With it’s blend of hip power, cardio and grip strength it has a lot to offer mountain bikers.

However, over the last few years I’ve started to thing that we can do better than the Kettlebell Swing. In fact, I know that we can do much better.

A couple of months ago I shared blog post and video showing the Indian Club Swing and several variations that I think are more specific to what we really do on the bike. It is also much easier to learn and has a higher margin for error before you get hurt, making it my current “go to” swing variation for the riders I work with.

But as great as that option is, after learning some new stuff at the recent Perform Better 3 Day Functional Training Summit I came home and worked up a new swing variation I’m calling The Perfect Swing.

My big insight was that the glutes – which are the biggest muscles in the body – act at the hips in 3 different ways.

The first in hip extension. This is the most common form of hip training and is usually referred to as the Hip Hinge movement pattern. It was you work on when you do Deadlifts and regular Swings and it the basic movement pattern behind good body position on the bike.

The second action is rotation at the hips. Rotating through the hips and not the lower back is a key skills to cornering on the bike and lack of this skill is the #1 reason most riders struggle with that skill.

The third action is abduction, or pushing the knees out. This helps keep your knees from caving in during the pedal stroke and placing extra stress on the knees.

As you can see a regular Swing only addresses one of these things. And while you can work these other two elements seperately to round things out you also need to have a way to integrate these things since that is how they will function on the bike.

With the Perfect Swing you are using a Rotational Swing with a band around your knees to combine all three of these actions into one movement, addressing all the main functions of the glutes at the hip joint in one exercise.

Here is the catch, though…you can’t do it with a Kettlebell. The nature of the movement requires a different loading pattern and this isn’t possible with the way the Kettlebell is shaped.

The best training tools I’ve found so far are the Steel Mace, a single heavy Indian Club or a RAMRoller. To see how this looks in the video below:

My favorite variation is the RAMRoller, followed by the Indian Club and then the Steel Mace. You can also do this movement with a Sandbag but I personally prefer these other tools.

I use these where I would normally do Kettlebell Swings in my workout, hitting 2 sets of 10 reps on each side and call it good. My hips are definitely feeling it by then and pushing your glutes too hard in the gym isn’t a great idea if you plan on pedaling you bike in the next week.

The functional training movement has made a lot of progress towards helping people train better for the demands of their sport instead of just “looking good”. Exercises like the Kettlebell Swing were a giant leap forward from the bodybuilding inspired stuff we were drowning in at the time.

But like everything else things evolve with time. Tools like the Mace, Indian Clubs and RAMRoller and exercises like The Perfect Swing that you can do with them promise to help us advance the Functional Training movement.

One last thing – this is an advanced Swing variation. If you have not mastered the basic Kettlebell or, preferably, the heavy Indian Club Swing then this is not a good choice for you. However, you can get an idea from this post of what is next for you once you do.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

2 thoughts on “The “Perfect” Swing for Hip Function and Power?

  1. Benjamin Sims says:

    James, as you know, Dan John doesn’t speak very highly of rotational ballistics. But I definitely see how this exercise could work all three hip movement patterns. But I also see some dangers. Thanks for your content!

    • bikejames says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t give this to someone on Day 1 of working with them. Definitely dangerous in the wrong hands but, then again, so is a regular swing. But overall I think it’s good to think about other ways you can train the function of the glutes and hips rather than regular swings.

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