Kettlebell Swing: Hardstyle vs Girevoy

Girevoy Swing (left) and Hardstyle Swing (right)

Q: Can you please clarify the different benefits that accrue from the hardstyle and soft style swings. Which would be better as an exercise? 

A:

Prefer to watch this answer as a video? Go HERE

Hardstyle Swing

Hardstyle swing has a movement pattern almost identical to the deadlift, with a slight emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. Its benefits are similar to those of the deadlift plus it also has a power component and an anaerobic conditioning component. 

So just like the deadlift, the swing strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, back, lats and abdominals, but unlike the deadlift, it also strengthens the heart and lungs and improves cardiovascular conditioning.

Additionally, in the one arm hardstyle swing, the abdominals, lats, and mid-back have to work especially hard to prevent torso rotation and keep the shoulder back and down, both of which help maximize power output.  

Because of all these strength and power benefits, hardstyle swings are used to improve vertical and horizontal jump, running speed, pull-up strength, as well as posture, grip strength, and overall conditioning. 

HardStyle swings, therefore, are best for someone who is after general physical preparedness which transfers to life and a wide variety of sports. It also suits someone who wants the biggest bang for their time buck in terms of training effect per minute spent. 

Hardstyle swing can be done two-handed, one-armed, alternating, or with double kettlebells, and is most effective when performed in explosive sets of 10-20 reps. The most popular format is 10 sets of 10 reps, on the minute for 10 minutes.

Girevoy Swing

Girevoy swing movement is more flowing, has a double knee bend, and is less explosive than hardstyle swing. The swing is generally performed with one arm or double kettlebells, with the thumb pointing back for snatch assistance or forward for clean assistance. Sometimes a torso rotation is used to add to the momentum of the swing. 

The double knee bend prolongs the arm-to-torso connection and momentarily relaxes the hamstrings on the backswing.

Girevoy swing is more about energy saving and riding the momentum rather than maximum explosiveness, as well as hanging on to the kettlebell for as long as possible. 

In order to understand the benefits of Girevoy swing, one needs to understand the objectives of Girevoy Sport, which is an extreme power endurance sport. Girevoy swing is used primarily as an assistance exercise for the Snatch and the Clean portion of the Long Cycle, to improve technique and fortify grip endurance.

A crucial component of GS is that you are only allowed to switch hands once throughout the entire 10-minute set. This means 5 minutes of lifting on one arm without putting the KB down, then switching straight to the other arm for another 5 minutes.  This means that grip fatigue is the biggest determining factor in the success of your Girevoy set. If your grip goes during a 10-minute set of Snatch or Long Cycle then you’re pretty much done, no matter how strong, powerful, and fit you are. 

So, Girevoy swing does three things: a) it increases extreme grip endurance, b) it teaches how to ride the momentum and save energy, and c) it teaches you to move in a way that spares the grip. 

For GPP, posterior chain strength, and power development, Girevoy Swing is a less optimal method, and it doesn’t transfer well into other activities and sports. However, it is a great supplemental exercise for Girevoy sport or pleasure. 

Girevoy swings are most effective when done for higher reps, such as 40,60 or even 80 reps per arm, as an assistance lift to Girevoy Snatch or Clean, with emphasis on practicing the flowing non-jarring movement, sparing the grip and hanging onto the KB for as long as possible. 

Since some people like the flowing feel of the Girevoy style, alternating arm swing can also be used for light endurance training by swinging non-stop for 2-5 minutes at a time. 

Summary

if the goal is General Physical Preparedness for sports and life in the shortest time, HardStyle swings do the best job. 

If the goal is Girevoy sport performance, grip endurance, or enjoyment of the flowing style, then high-rep Girevoy swings are best. Do them for sets of 40-80 reps per side.

If you decide to use both styles interchangeably, make sure that you learn the proper technique.  The correct technique delivers all the benefits of the swing and prevents injuries. 

Prefer to watch this answer as a video? Go HERE

Published by Kat's Kettlebell Dojo

Kettlebell Dojo is a philosophy that is about making your training time-efficient and maximally effective by consistently performing high-quality functional movements. Kat is a certified Movement & Performance Therapy Specialist, StrongFirst SFG Level 2 Kettlebell Instructor, Level 4 Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, IKSFA Kettlebell Sport coach, Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, Jump Rope instructor, and Certified Crossfit Gymnastics trainer.

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