Exercise of the Week: Contralateral Row with KB Swing

This chilly winter week, on "exercise of the week", we wanted to highlight this variation on kettlebell (KB) swings and rows, that will help you develop coordination, strength, and elastic ability in the upper body.

To do this exercise properly, a few key pre-requisites are:

  1. Learn first to do the row correctly. These cable rows, with shoulder health in mind, should not involve rowing the elbow past the body, as that will emphasize scapular elevation, anterior rounding of the shoulder, and biceps tendon and supraspinatus impingement.

  2. Secondly, be able to do a staggered stance KB swing that biases the hinge rather than the squat pattern before you continue. You can see here, our karate-kid model does a great job of a narrow staggered stance, and of hinging from the hip.

  3. Utilize the momentum created by the KB to create forward motion into the opposite side row. Similar to running, punching, and throwing, we need the opposite side of the extended side to shorted to further allow for momentum forward to happen.

  4. When your skill and technique is better, you can practice this with a heavier weight, a heavier cable row, or you can work on multiple steps forward or backwards in a row to increase complexity, demand on coordination, and difficulty.

Some key coaching points are:

A) Keep 80-90% of your weight on the leg in front, at all times

B) Use your hip to initiate the swing of the kettlebell, and don't use your shoulder to lift the kettlebell into the air

C) Reach the bell up into the air at the end range, while you row elbow to side. When you get good at this, think about adding thoracic rotation to the exercise

D) Maintain a pelvic posterior tilt at the top of the end range, as the tendency will be for most people who lack shoulder flexion, to use their low back to gain the extra range.

We use this exercise both for conditioning purposes and for accessory exercises demanding coordination or a progression on upper body pulling for athletes. We like this exercise because similarly to most athletic endeavours (throwing, running, skating, jumping), there will be a demand on the thoracic spine, hip, and kinetic chain, similar in some specific ways to this exercise. This exercise would likely not be suitable for those looking for upper body hypertrophy gains, by contrast.

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