Kettlebell Swing (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)
The Kettlebell swing is a lower-body exercise that is used for a variety of reasons.
For many novice lifters, kettlebell swings are a great tool to start training hip extension before moving to more complicated movements like cleans and snatches.
The traditional purpose for swinging a kettlebell is to train rapid hip extension and its reciprocated hip flexion. It is also an accessory movement to help lifters gain strength and hypertrophy in the glutes and hamstrings but also can be used as a conditioning tool if used properly.
In this article, I am going to explain how to properly perform the kettlebell swing including some coaching points, muscles worked, and give some alternatives.
How To Do A Kettlebell Swing
- Kettlebell (you can also use a dumbbell by grabbing the end of it)
- Approach the kettlebell with a stance slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Take a deep breath, slightly bend the knees, hinge at the waist, and squeeze the kettlebell with both hands.
- Maintain a neutral spine, eyes focused on something just in front of you. (DO NOT CRANE THE NECK).
- Initiate the movement by pulling the dumbbell off the ground and into the “power position”.
- The power position is where the hips are flexed (loaded), knees are slightly bent, and you are now going to drive the kettlebell forward.
- Extend the hips and knees (DO NOT LET GO OF THE KETTLEBELL), driving the kettlebell forward.
- The kettlebell will drift from the hip extension to about shoulder height but should not go any higher.
- Gravity will bring the kettlebell back down.
- Actively “pull” the kettlebell back to the power position. You should never feel loose or out of control as you swing.
- As you pull the kettlebell and prepare for the next rep, remember to keep a tight abdomen and upper back.
- This movement is fast and works on rapid force development via hip and knee extension.
The kettlebell swing is a great movement to train rapid hip extension and flexion. Remember to always keep a neutral spine (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK).
Choosing the proper kettlebell weight is important. Heavier is not always better. Because of the rapid nature of the kettlebell swing, the emphasis should be on velocity, speed, and power.
I would recommend starting light and you will be able to increase weight easily as you get more comfortable with the movement.
I highly recommend novice lifters to start with the kettlebell swing before moving to more complicated movements such as cleans or snatches.
Some of the potential benefits of this exercise include:
- It can improve overall strength and power. Kettlebell swings require the use of large, explosive movements, which can help to increase strength and power in the upper and lower body.
- It can improve cardiovascular fitness. Because kettlebell swings are a high-intensity exercise, they can raise the heart rate and improve cardiovascular endurance.
- Kettlebell swings require the engagement of the core muscles to maintain proper form, which can help to improve posture and core stability.
- It can be a fun and engaging workout. Kettlebell swings are a versatile exercise that can be easily adapted to fit a variety of fitness levels and goals, making them an enjoyable and effective workout option.
How Many Reps?
The number of reps of Kettlebell Swings that you should do will depend on your fitness level, goals, and the weight of the kettlebell you are using. As a general guideline, you can aim to do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps of kettlebell swings, with a brief rest period in between sets.
If you are a beginner, you may want to start with a lighter kettlebell and do fewer reps per set. As you become more comfortable with the exercise and your strength increases, you can gradually increase the weight of the kettlebell and the number of reps per set.
It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you are struggling to complete the recommended number of reps, it’s better to decrease the weight of the kettlebell or do fewer reps per set. The goal is to challenge yourself, but not to the point of exhaustion or injury.
- Glute Muscles
- Upper and Lower Back
Kettlebell Swing Alternatives
Don’t have a kettlebell or don’t feel comfortable with your Kettlebell Swing technique? Whatever the reason you may be looking for an alternative, here are a couple of exercises that you may be able to use as a substitute.
Want more options? Here are 10 of our favorite alternatives for Kettlebell Swings.
Med Ball Cannonball Toss
The Med Ball Cannonball Toss is an exercise that sounds exactly what it describes. The athlete will assume a position over the med ball, hinge at the waist, forcefully lift the ball, drive the hips, and lifting with the arms, throw the med ball as high into the air as possible.
Med Ball Rotational Toss (Against a Wall)
Stand perpendicular to a wall that can withstand a med ball throw. With your feet about shoulder-width, slightly bend the knees, arms not quite fully extended, rotate, and throw the med ball against the wall as hard as possible. Remember to engage the core and glutes as you extend.
If the type of med ball and wall allows, try to catch the ball and go right into the next rep. Again, focus on velocity, speed, and power.
Set up hurdles that go up to about mid-shin 8 inches apart. Slightly bend the knees, jump over each hurdle as quickly as possible, maintain a flexed foot as much as possible, and stick the last hop in an athletic position.
More Info and Links
Head over to our Exercise Library to find more Lower Body Lifts, all complete with step-by-step instructions.