Squats, Barbell Cleans and Kettlebell Swings

You have probably heard about the wonders of Squats in developing your lower body kinetic chain, and how it is an incredibly functional exercise that can build applicable athleticism. Is squats always the best exercise for you? In what scenarios would other exercise be more useful?

Squat is King!

Not very elegant execution of the squat

You heard it a lot. In modern times, we tend to sit on our rear end most of the time. Hence our gluteus (butt) muscle became less active. As the result, we tend to walk with our anterior (front) chain of movement. Over-dependence on anterior chain can lead to knee, hip and low back problems. Proper squat exercise will train you to use both your anterior and posterior (back) chain of motion. Allowing you to grow your strength in a joint friendly way.

Barbell Clean for Power!

messy form of barbell clean

The squat is an excellent exercise for beginner and advanced strength athletes. However, any strength coach worth his or her salt will know the principle of specificity. Although the squat is excellent strength exercise, most sports requires a combination of strength and speed, i.e. Power. Squat exercises only train for strength.

On the vertical plane, Olympic Weightlifters are probably the most powerful athletes by bodyweight. In order to bring the barbell off the floor either to your shoulders (clean), or over your head in one single movement (snatch), you must to have the combination of strength, speed and agility. These attributes are highly transferable to different kinds of sports.

This is why some modern day rugby and American football athletes also do barbell cleans. If you want to be able to express your strength in the field, you could also combine your squat regimen with some barbell cleans. Unlike the squat, proper execution of the barbell clean requires you to master the momentum.

Why Kettlebell Swing?

Kettlebell Swing by a chubby chap

You might have heard of kettlebells or seen these funny looking weights at your gym. Believe it or not, most of the people I saw using them didn’t know how to use them correctly. Just like the barbell clean relies on creating momentum to drive the bar up, the kettlebell swing also relies on momentum to drive the kettlebell from the back to the front position.

The difference between a barbell clean and kettlebell swing in terms of athletic gain is the line of action. As you can see on the barbell clean video, the line of action for a barbell clean is straight up. The line of action for kettlebell swing is a forward arc. Based on the principle of specificity, for an explosive forward power, the kettlebell swing can be more transferable to the athletic field.

Another benefit of the kettlebell swing is that it is more forgiving on the joints compared to the barbell clean. A moderately fit person that have received proper training for one month can do 100 swings in 5 minute with extremely low risk of injury. The same cannot be said with barbell cleans. When you train for explosive power, you want it to be able to last for at least last for a short burst of power instead of a single leap or two.

Keen on incorporating the kettlebell swing on your regular training? Try the kettlebell for beginner and have your friend record and comment your movement.

Disclaimer: Improper squat, barbell cleans and kettlebell swings technique can cause injury to your knees and lower back. if your joints feel sore after training, its a good idea to consult with a good trainer.

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