This is one of my favorite exercises for both strength and conditioning. Some in the training realm don’t see the point of swinging anything overhead and believe that if you can swing it overhead than why not snatch it instead.
I have been doing Dumbbell swings since 1997. I learned this exercise from a magazine that showed legendary fitness pioneer the late Jack Lalanne demonstrating the exercise. What got my attention was that within the article Jack states that at his peak he could swing a 140# bell overhead. That is quite powerful for a man who weighed as light as he did.
I figured if it works for the great Jack Lalanne then it should work for me. And it did just that. I was able to do 20 repetition sets with a 125# dumbbell. My heaviest weight I have been able to throw overhead is 165# for 8 repetitions, and a 200#bell up to my forehead, but not overhead yet. You can see this in my Conditioning Machine 5 disc DVD set.
This exercise is great for conditioning or building power. It is a complex exercise with many little nuances. I will try to share these with you as best I can.
*1- Proper foot placement is everything with this movement. I like having my feet slightly outside shoulder width. I teach all my clients this foot placement. But everyone is different so see what works for you.
*2- Bend at the knees, stick your chest out, head up (remember where the head goes the body follows) this helps you maintain a flat back. A flat back is very important throughout this exercise. Pull your shoulders back.
*3- Now I want you to pick up the dumbbell and start swinging it back and forth through your legs. This is to get it moving, make sure you use plenty of leg power, use the legs to drive your hips forward.
*4- Do not rely on your shoulder strength, as if you were doing a front raise. This is bad, you will fail.
*5- Once you have your initial swing going I want you to explode through the legs, driving your hips forward and lean back at the waist.
*6- Once the bell is overhead do not let it come too far behind your head. This will put too much strain on your shoulders. Try to keep the bell level with the top of your head.
*7- Now let the bell come right back through your legs and then pop it back up again. You will continue this motion throughout the exercise. The only time you swing it more than once without going over your head is at the very beginning when you first pick it up.
*8- Pay attention to keeping your abdominal tight, glutes tight and again keep that head up and shoulders back. These keys equal a flat back.
Some benefits of the Dumbbell Swing: Increased hip power, this will act as an accessory to your deadlifts and squats. Increased shoulder strength, stronger legs, a more powerful lower back, increased thickness in the upper back, improved speed on your throws and a stronger base if you are a practitioner of any type of grappling or football, even basketball for all of you that play center.
I like to use 2 different programs for the Dumbbell Swing 1A) Conditioning= 12 repetitions and higher. 1B) Power= 8 repetitions and under. It all depends on what your goals are. Let me tell you once you try 5 sets of 20 repetition Dumbbell swings you will see just how great of a conditioner this exercise is. You can also try doing the Dumbbell Swing for power. Some examples of Power schemes you can use are: 5 sets of 5, 3 sets of 3, you can do a whole program of 4 sets of 12 for 4 weeks, 4 sets of 8 for 4 weeks, 4 sets of 6 for 4 weeks and finally 4 sets of 3 for 4 weeks.
No matter what training method you choose for this exercise you will greatly reap the rewards.