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.
Table of Contents
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.
- Glute Muscles
- Upper and Lower Back
Kettlebell Swing Alternatives
Med Ball Overhead Toss
The med ball overhead 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.