10 Kettlebell Swing Alternatives For Explosive Hip Power


Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

Kettlebell Swings are an extremely effective exercise for building explosive power. This is because Kettlebell Swings emphasize explosive hip drive, a critical component of developing power.

However, sometimes you may find yourself needing an alternative for Kettlebell Swings.

Maybe you’re ready for more advanced movements or maybe you’re just looking to add some variety to your workouts.

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an exercise to substitute for Kettlebell Swings then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 10 of my favorite Kettlebell Swing alternatives including a few different variations and lifts using different equipment.

Alternatives to Kettlebell Swings

The first five alternatives are Olympic lift variations. If we’re talking about exercises that develop power and emphasize explosive hips then we have to include Olympic lifts. Depending on your situation (available equipment, technical ability, etc), you may find at least one of these exercises as a great option.

The second five alternatives are all exercises that focus on power development through explosively training triple extension, but they are not Olympic lifts. If you’re not comfortable doing Olympic lifts yet, one of these movements may be a better fit for your training.


Hang Power Clean


Hang Power Clean (1)

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Bumper Plates (technically iron plates could be used, but not recommended)

Instructions

  • Start by taking a clean grip, about a thumbs length away from the start of the knurling. Using a hook grip (wrapping the fingers over the thumb) is recommended.
  • With a flat back, stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Eyes should be focused straight ahead, weight distributed between the heel and mid foot.
  • Curl the wrists by turning the knuckles down towards the floor.
  • Set the back by squeezing the shoulder blades together (“chest out”) and engaging the lats.
  • Deep breathe in and brace the core.
  • Put a slight bend in the knee and then hinge forward by pushing the hips back and allowing the barbell to slide down the thigh. Shoulders should end up above, or slightly in front of, the bar.
  • Once the bar reaches a few inches from the knee – you are now in the proper hang position for the Hang Power Clean.
  • From here, drive the floor with the feet and explosively extend the hips forward.
  • Finish the drive by triple extending through the hips, knees and ankles. This full extension should be immediately followed by an aggressive shoulders shrug.
  • Now, pull the elbows high while keeping the bar close to the body.
  • Transition to the catch (front rack position) by quickly shifting the feet from hip width to shoulder width and dropping the hips down into a partial squat. The elbows should quickly swing under the bar, finishing with the elbows high and triceps parallel to the floor.
  • Make sure you are braced to receive the bar in the catch position and then return to a standing position.

Coaching Points

Coaching points for the Hang Power Clean would be worthy of an entire article all to itself, but I’m going to at least touch on a few of the main ones here.

Make sure to maintain a neutral, flat back during the hinge. One of the biggest mistakes that can lead to an injury is allowing the back to round during the hinge. This puts an excessive amount of strain on the spine as the athlete begins the movement.

If the athlete cannot maintain a flat back, lower the weight and incorporate more exercises that can improve the upper back strength needed to maintain a proper position like RDLs.

The dreaded rounded back can also occur if the lifter hinges too aggressively and quickly extend without maintaining a braced core. I usually see this when athletes are trying to ‘rock’ into the pull instead of getting properly set.


Hang Power Snatch


Hang Power Snatch

Equipment Needed

  • Barbells
  • Bumper Plates

How To

Starting Position

  • Address the bar with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead or ever so slightly out. The bar should be resting just above the mid-foot. (I like to use the knot in your shoelace as a visual cue)
  • The grip on the bar for a hang power snatch, or any snatch grip for that matter, is wide – placing the index finger on the snatch ring of the bar is a good starting point for most lifters. Using a hook grip is optional, but encouraged.
  • Now, using your legs with a good flat back, lift the bar up to a standing position.
  • Slightly bend your knees and push them out. Set the back by engaging the lats and squeezing the shoulder blades back. (“Big Chest” is my go-to coaching cue here) Eyes straight ahead.
  • Hinge forward by pushing the hips back, bringing the shoulders over top of, or slightly in front of the bar. The bar should now be resting on the mid thigh to upper thigh.

Pull

  • From this position, extend the hips aggressively by driving the feet through the floor and triple extending through the ankles, knees and hips.
  • This complete extension should be immediately followed by a violent shrug, breaking elbows high out to the side to allow the bar to begin tracking up. Keep the bar close to the bar as it moves vertically.

Catch

Finish the movement by shifting the feet from hip width to shoulder width, rotating under the bar, dropping the hips down into a partial squat position and arms punch straight into a locked out position with the bar overhead.

Stand tall and either drop the bar back to the platform or lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

One of the biggest mistakes lifters make with Hang Power Snatch is to cut the pull short and not reach full extension. Don’t be in a rush to pull with the arms as that will cut your power short on the movement.


Clean Pull


Power Clean First Pull
Arms straight, feet flat, knees out, chest out, eyes straight ahead… great first pull.

Equipment Needed

Step-by-Step Instructions

Starting Stance

  • Start with feet hip-width apart with toes straight ahead (or ever so slightly pointed out).
  • The bar should be over the middle of the feet. I always used the knot in your shoelace as a visual cue, but essentially the bar is close to (but not touching) the shins.
  • Grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.*
  • The grip is a pronated grip (both palms facing down) and the lifter can choose, although highly recommended, to use a hook grip.
  • The wrists should be slightly curled so that the knuckles are pointed straight down to the ground. This will also naturally rotate the elbows, pointing them laterally away from the body.
  • Shoulders slightly over the bar, arms straight, hips slightly higher than the knees.
  • Back should be flat or have a slight arch. Shoulder blades should be pulled back and the upper back including the lats should be engaged.

First Pull

The ‘First Pull’ simply refers to the portion of the movement that involves moving the bar from the floor to the knee.

  • The last thing that should happen as the lifter is setting up in their starting stance is to take a deep breath in and engage, or brace, their core. This helps the lifter both protect their back as well as aid in the transfer of power from their legs to the bar.
  • Raise the bar off the floor at a constant speed using the legs by driving the feet through the ground. Arms should stay straight and the barbell shouldn’t be ‘yanked’ off the ground.
  • Hips and shoulders rise at the same time (torso angle remains constant)**.
  • As the bar comes up, keep the bar close to the shins and the feet should remain flat, driving the feet hard into the floor.
  • Finally, as the bar passes knee level, wrists remain curled and elbows rotate out to the side, core and back should still be tight and engaged.

Second Pull (and finish)

The second pull involves getting the bar from just above the knee to the power position. The power position is the point where the athlete is nearly vertical and where the final triple extension of the hip, knees and ankles will occur followed immediately by the shrug and pull from the arms.

  • Once the bar crosses the knees, the bar is then pulled explosively, bringing the shoulders back and up.
  • As the lifter continues to drive vertically, the shoulders will end up slightly behind the bar and the hips, knees slightly bent and ankles will have just a bit of flexion left in them.
  • From the power position, this is where the final explosive hip extension occurs along with the full extension of the knees.
  • The foot drive shifts from the whole foot to now extending up through the balls of the feet.
  • The triple extension of the hip, knees and ankles is followed instantaneously by a quick, aggressive shrug.
  • Bar is pulled vertically close to the body as the traps shrug to elevate the bar.
  • Now, either retrace back to the floor or drop the bar and then reset.

Coaching Points

*An easy way to get your grip in the right position is to place your hands one thumb length away from the start of the knurling of the bar. This width will work for 90% of lifters. Wider athletes may end up sliding their hands just a bit wider and vice versa for narrow athletes, but it’s a good starting point for anyone.

**One of the biggest mistakes with Clean Pull technique is that lifters will shoot their butt up first, locking their knees out and then they end up pulling the bar with their back instead of their legs. This is most often caused by lifters trying to rush the first pull too much. Don’t get ahead of yourself.


Dumbbell Hang Clean


Dumbbell Hang Clean

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • With a flat back grab the dumbbells and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Eyes should be focused straight ahead, weight distributed between the heel and midfoot.
  • Curl the wrists by turning the knuckles down towards the floor.
  • Set the back by squeezing the shoulder blades together (“chest out”) and engaging the lats.
  • Deep breath in and brace the core.
  • Slightly bend your knees and then hinge forward by pushing the hips back and allowing the dumbbells to slide down the thigh. Shoulders should end up above, or slightly in front of, the dumbbells.
  • Once the dumbbells reach a few inches from the knee – you are now in the proper hang position for the DB Hang Power Clean.
  • From here, drive the floor with the feet and explosively extend the hips forward.
  • Finish the drive by triple extending through the hips, knees and ankles. This full extension should be immediately followed by an aggressive shoulders shrug.
  • Now, pull the elbows high while keeping the dumbbells close to the body.
  • Transition to the catch (front rack position) by quickly shifting the feet from hip width to shoulder width and dropping the hips down into a partial squat. The elbows should quickly swing down and under, staying close to the body and finishing with the elbows high and triceps parallel to the floor.
  • The ends of the dumbbells should land on the shoulders with palms facing each other.
  • Make sure you are braced to receive the dumbbells in the catch position and then return to a standing position.

Coaching Points

Make sure to maintain a neutral, flat back during the hinge. One of the biggest mistakes that can lead to an injury with Dumbbell Hang Cleans is allowing the back to round during the hinge. This puts an excessive amount of strain on the spine as the athlete begins the movement.

If the athlete cannot maintain a flat back, lower the weight and incorporate more exercises that can improve the upper back strength needed to maintain a proper position like RDLs.

The dreaded rounded back can also occur if the lifter hinges too aggressively and quickly extend without maintaining a braced core. I usually see this when athletes are trying to ‘rock’ into the pull instead of getting properly set.


Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch


Single Arm DB Muscle Snatch

If you’re looking for an alternative that is easy to learn and helps develop power, then Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch might be a great alternative for you.

The Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch is less technical than all the other Olympic variations listed above. If you can learn how to get in a proper starting position – flat back, braced core, proper hinge – then you can do Single Arm Snatches.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell

How To

  • Grab a dumbbell and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Slightly bend your knees, brace the core and set the back – shoulder blades pulled back, lats engaged, chest out.
  • Hinge forward by pushing the hips back and let the dumbbell slide down right in between the knees, coming at a stop just below the knee.
  • You are now in the ‘power position’.
  • From here, drive the feet through the floor and aggressively extend the hips, driving the shoulders up and slightly back.
  • As you reach triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles – use a quick, powerful shrug and allow the elbow to break and begin the pull with the arm.
  • Keep the dumbbell close to the body as it travels up.
  • Once the dumbbell reaches the highest point of the pull, rotate at the elbow to catch the dumbbell overhead while simultaneously dropping the hips into a quarter squat and shift the feet slightly out.
  • Finish the rep by standing tall and lowering the dumbbell down to the shoulder first and then back to the starting position under control.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed and then switch arms.

Coaching Points

The two biggest mistakes that I see with Single Arm Snatches are not keeping the dumbbell close to the body on the way up and letting the dumbbell ‘yank’ the shoulder down as it comes back to the starting point.

The dumbbell should travel close to the body all the up until it gets about head height, then rotate the elbow, drop the hips and catch. Don’t allow it to swing forward out away from the body.

The second technique flaw is not staying braced through the return of the dumbbell to the starting position, oftentimes from being in too big of a hurry to knock out reps. Letting the dumbbell, especially the heavier you get, yank the shoulder down at the bottom of the rep is asking for trouble.


Med Ball Cannonballs


Medicine Balls on Field
No gym? No worries! All you need is a medicine ball and a field to get good work in.

Grab a medicine ball and throw it as high as you can. That’s essentially what a Med Ball Cannonball Throw is.

However, it’s a great tool to use not only as an exercise to develop power but as a teaching tool to begin to learn body positioning for Olympic lifting. One can learn how to set the back, how to hinge, brace and drive – all components of a Kettlebell Swing – but with much less risk with a medicine ball.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball

How To

  • First, make sure you have enough ceiling height to be able to do Cannonballs. I recommend doing them outside to avoid this issue altogether.
  • Grab the ball with both hands cradling under the ball. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the shoulder blades back, engage the lats and core, slightly bend the knees and hinge forward at the hips.
  • Allow the medicine ball to fall in between the shins.
  • You should now be in a good athletic position that looks very similar to the starting position of a Hang Clean.
  • From here, explosively drive the feet through the ground and aggressively extend the hips and throw the ball as high as possible*.
  • Allow the ball to hit the ground, grab it, then reset and repeat.

Coaching Points

Do NOT try to catch the ball directly out of the air. This is a great way to jam a wrist or a finger. Allow the ball to hit the ground first before grabbing it for the next rep.

*Cannonball Throws can either be done straight up in the air or behind you to a partner. If working with a partner, stand facing away from them and throw the ball at about a 45 degree angle. The goal is to throw the ball as far as possible in the air.


Box Jumps


Weighted Box Jump

Almost every athlete’s favorite plyometric drill, Box Jumps, can also be used as a Kettlebell Swing alternative.

Box Jumps use your own bodyweight as resistance to help develop the ability to generate force. For added resistance, throw on a weighted vest for your Box Jumps.

Equipment Needed

  • Plyo Box

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a box that is the proper height for your jumping ability
  • Start just far enough away from the box so that your hands will not hit the box when you swing them.
  • Once you’re in position, stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Now raise your arms overhead and extend up onto the balls of the feet.
  • Start your countermovement by hinging at the hips, bending the knees and throwing the hands down and back behind the body.
  • Immediately redirect by driving the feet through the floor, throwing the hands up and triple extending through the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Land softly on the box by bending the knees upon landing and absorbing the force of impact.
  • Step down off the box and repeat.

Coaching Points

Pick a box that is an appropriate height. You should land on the box in roughly a quarter-squat position. All too often I see athletes do Box Jumps on a box that is way too high, causing them to have to land in a full squat position.

This is wrong for two reasons. First, picking your feet higher so you can land in a full squat doesn’t actually mean you jump any higher. Second, having to land in a full squat to make it onto the box eliminates any room for error. If you jump perhaps even an inch not high enough you could end up missing the box.

Don’t stand too far away from the box or you’ll end up jumping at the box instead of up onto the box. This horizontal trajectory can make landing and stabilizing on the box tricky.

Always land with your feet completely on the box. If you get in the habit of landing on the edge of the box and you miss a little, you’ll end up with your shins into the edge of the box.


Tire Flips


Tire Flips

If you’re looking for a Kettlebell Swing alternative to add some variety to your program, Tire Flips are a great hip-dominant movement that closely mimics a Kettlebell Swing.

If your workouts have gotten stale and you have access to a giant tire good for flipping, shake your routine up with Tire Flips.

Equipment Needed

  • Tire

How To

  • Make sure you have plenty of space to be able to safely flip the tire.
  • Start with the tire laying on the ground on its side.
  • Stand with toes almost against the tire, feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Drop the hips and reach under the tire.
  • Once you have a good grip under the tire flatten your back and brace your core.
  • Drive the feet through the ground and aggressively begin to extend the hips.
  • If the tire is heavy, you can slide one knee under the tire to help with leverage once the tire is high enough.
  • When the tire gets above stomach height, flip your hands around so you can begin to push the tire.
  • Push the tire forcefully forward – extending with both your arms and legs.
  • The tire should land on its side. Repeat for the designated amount of distance or reps.

Coaching Points

The biggest key to Tire Flips is perhaps in finding the right tire.

Every school I’ve ever worked at had big tires that were used for Tire Flips. However, the size and weight of these tires have all been drastically different. They’ve ranged from tires that were barely heavy enough to be worth using to tires that took two and sometimes even three football players to flip.

Just like with Deadlifts and Power Clean, it’s extremely important to drop the hips, use the legs and keep the back flat. Once fatigue starts to set in I generally see athletes resort to using more back than legs. If form reaches this point then it’s time to stop flipping the tire.


Battle Rope Slams


Battle Rope Slam

Equipment Needed

  • Battle Rope

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Wrap your battle rope around a solid, stable object. (A squat rack is often a good option)
  • Extend the rope, removing the majority (but not all) of the slack out of the rope.
  • Grab the two ends of the rope, one in each hand.
  • Assume a good athletic position – knees bent, hips bent, flat back, core braced.
  • Raise the ends of the rope above the head and then aggressively ‘slam’ them back towards the ground.
  • This should create a ripple effect in the rope.
  • Continue raising and slamming the rope in rhythm until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

One of the keys to Battle Rope Slams is experimenting to find the optimal amount of slack to leave in the rope. You want enough slack that it doesn’t hinder the full range of motion, but not too much slack that it’s hard to develop a rhythm with the rope.

Make sure whatever you’re using as an anchor for the battle rope is secure. Battle rope movements generate a lot of power and momentum and can come loose easily if not secured in place.


Hill Sprints


Hill Sprints

This last exercise may be a bit outside the box, but Hill Sprints can make an excellent Kettlebell Swing alternative.

The angle of the sprint changes the angle of the leg when it strikes the ground. This angle is very similar to the starting position of a Kettlebell Swing. And both exercises emphasize explosive hip extension.

Finally, what makes Hill Sprints a particularly great substitution is that they require zero equipment. All, you need to find is an upslope to sprint on.

Final Thoughts

Kettlebell Swings are an excellent exercise for developing power and explosiveness, but sometimes Kettlebell Swings are just not an option. You may not have the proper equipment available to you, you may not be comfortable with the technique, or at other times you might just be looking to add some variety to your training program.

In these situations, you’ll need a Kettlebell Swing alternative and I hope that at least one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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