Kettlebells have earned their niche in the strength world. Most programs today ranging from generalist programs to those of Olympians will include some kettlebell work. One major criticism kettlebells have long suffered over the past decade is the light load. Most kettlebells in use are 16kg or 24kg. This is because the majority of people perform many exercises with this modality. Swings, snatches, cleans, jerks, presses, bottoms up press, Turkish get ups, goblet squats, tactical lunges, figure 8s, and of course the list is endless.
Many in the kettlebell camp have reported major improvement in their squat and deadlift from high rep swinging. We know that swings activate the hamstring (see here) and put the spine into posterior sheer (see here). Anyone who came to kettlebells after years of heavy squatting and deadlifting reported little to no effect from the incorporation of this tool.
Lake and Luader 2011 published an interesting study that is forcing those in powerlifting and Olympic lifting circles to take a second look. Trained university aged men performed two sets of ten repetitions with the 16kg, 24kg and 32kg kettlebells. This was compared to two reps in back squat at 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% of 1RM and two jump squats at 0%, 20%, 40% and 60% of 1RM.
They measured sagittal plane motion and ground reaction forces by a force plate. Net impulse, peak and mean power were gathered by unifying video data with the force plate data.
Velocity was highest with the 16kg swing. Peak and mean force production tended to be higher with the squat and jump squat while peak and mean power tended to be higher with the swing movement.
The highest impulse was recorded with the 32kg swing; 276N vs. 182N for the 60% back squat and 231 for the 40% jump squat.
This raises the idea that heavy kettlebell swings can be incorporated into a dynamic or speed day for a powerlifter. The problem would be obtaining heavy enough kettlebells. Fortunately, several solutions exist. One can either buy an attachment for a dumbbell or purchase a kettlebell over 100lb which several companies are now producing. I would bet that within a few years, super heavy kettlebell swings in abbreviated reps (eg: under 8 ) will start being incorporated by powerlifters for their power days, particularly in the off season. This would make a fine addition to work with bands or chains (as discussed here). Just to be clear, heavy kettlebell swings a) require their own conditioning and one should not start swinging a 150lb bell with no training in technique or previous work on lighter kettlebells and b) heavy kettlebell lifting will help with hamstring and glute activation as well as power but will not replace heavy squatting and deadlifting. Do not think it will. With that said, get yourself a heavy kettlebell and train.