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The Kettlebell Swing: Benefits, Proper Technique, And Exercises You Need To Know To Get Started Now

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November 19, 2022

Not sure how kettlebells can help you reach your fitness goals? Look no further!

We’re going in-depth on kettlebell swing benefits, properly-performed kettlebell swings, what muscles a kettlebell swing targets, and exercises you can implement into your workouts to get the best outcome.

First, the kettlebell swing benefits:

Low angle view of Caucasian athlete in mid 20s doing double-handed kettlebell swing with additional equipment in foreground.

The biggest benefits of kettlebell swings are significantly better than some barbell or dumbbell exercises when done properly. Comparing the learning curve, the impact on your body, and the way it affects your body and hormones, we were able to come up with a pretty long list of why you should consider upping your game and perfecting your kettlebell swing form.

1. Get stronger

This one might be a no-brainer, but after just six weeks of adding kettlebell swings to your workout, it’s been shown to boost your full squat one-rep max. It even increases core and grip strength and muscle growth, which can help with stability and a handful of other things.

2. A quick learning curve

Unlike other equipment or exercises, kettlebell swings are considered to be an easier, beginner option because you have to use momentum as a part of the proper technique. Thankfully, swinging a weight is natural for the human body, meaning it is easy to learn. However, doing more than fifty kettlebell swings in a row? It’s certainly not as easy.

3. It’s low Impact

Whether you are new to the workout world or have been a long-time member you might suffer from achy knees and uncomfortable joint or muscle pain because of things like running and using a jump rope. 

One of the best exercises you can do to avoid feeling “beat up” is kettlebell swings. Because your feet stay in the same position and your knees don’t move much, they are great for upping your power production and cardiovascular fitness minus all that banging around.

4. Since it’s low impact, it also has a reduced injury risk

You have less likely of a chance to pull or sprain something when in proper form for a kettlebell swing compared to exercises that are done vertically. 

Lots of pressure can be put on your spine and back from things like loaded barbell lifts or participating in a contact sport, so choosing something like kettlebell swings first to help build those muscles and your spine stability is a great idea to help prevent injury.

5. Speaking of spinal stability…

If you are an athlete (contact or not), swinging a kettlebell three times a week for eight weeks is proven to increase your ability to endure sudden, loaded pressure on your back and spine. Actually, kettlebell swings are one of the top exercises to assist in building spinal stability and functional strength in a quick time period.

6. A true time-saver

If patience isn’t your thing or you simply feel as if you don’t have the time, kettlebell swings might just be the best option for you. All you need is ten minutes of swings in intervals of thirty-five to twenty-five seconds to improve cardiovascular health and muscular endurance.

7. It also saves space

You have the time now… but not the space? No worries! All you need is a few feet of space in your living room and a single kettlebell to get started at home. Not a single expensive piece of equipment is required, which also means no excuses!

8. Hormone boosting

Kettlebell swing exercises can significantly increase testosterone levels and your growth hormone levels with just a minimum of six minutes, which can improve things like your metabolism, heart rate, and aid with cell repair.

9. Improves hip mobility

The more efficiently you can activate your glutes, the more successful your big pulls are going to be, which can help with nailing your hip hinge and stimulating glute growth. By driving and finishing each rep and squeezing your glutes at the top of each rep it’ll increase hip mobility and puts your body under less loaded stress.

7. Straightens your posture

While doing a proper kettlebell swing form you have to hold a very neutral spine and in return, it will build those muscles and you’ll carry that posture into other workouts and then into your daily life as well.

What is the proper form for a kettlebell swing?

Okay, now you know the benefits of the kettlebell swing, but what about actually doing it? We have mentioned “the proper form” and by looking at some photos you might be able to figure out what’s going on. You just swing the weight in the air, right? NOPE!

Starting position

Here, let’s start with the proper stance and starting position

Set the weight out and stand about twelve to eighteen inches behind it with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your toes forward. Make sure that your feet are flat and you’re balanced with more weight on your heels.

Loading

Next is loading the swing

From your starting position, contract your lats while keeping the weight in your hips and sweep the kettlebell back between your legs. Your knees can bend, but nothing too exaggerated. Loading your swing should not be painful. This should be a fluid movement that’ll help initiate that “pendulum” motion that is needed for repeated kettlebell swings.

The swing

Then for the swing itself…

With force, you’re going to drive the kettlebell forward with the use of your hips and glutes while simultaneously straightening your knees and bringing yourself to a rigid, upright posture. To allow the weight to swing upward freely, ensure that your shoulders and arms are loose, but your grip on the weight is firm. 

Once you reach the top of your swing, your body vertically stacked with your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders in alignment, focus on bracing your abdominal muscles and engaging your grads and upper back to remain in balance and revisit falling forward with the momentum. Also, make sure that the weight goes no higher than chest level.

Reload

Lastly, the reload

To reload and finish out your swing movement, allow the kettlebell to fall naturally, sweeping it back between your legs while using your lats and keeping your arms loose. Also, make sure to limit neck strain by not looking forward or too far down and keeping your eye line fixed with your torso. Imagine a straight and tall spine.

There should be enough clearance between the kettlebell and your body without it colliding with any essential anatomy, however, if that’s not the case widen your stance and then try the swing again. Your finishing position should be nearly identical to your starting position, priming you to fire off another rep immediately without having to “reset.”

 Some common mistakes people make are…

Overextending Your Lower Back

Whether you’re performing high reps or using heavier weights, you may risk ending your swing with the use of your lower back and not your glutes. If you start to notice that you’re inappropriately hyperextending then focus on squeezing your glutes at the top of your swing and keep your lats engaged as you let the kettlebell swing back down all while keeping your core muscles engaged.

Swinging The Kettlebell Too Low

The kettlebell should never touch the ground when in motion. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down to maximize your lats’ ability to stop the swing at its height, that way the kettlebell is locked in place on the way down. It also helps to keep your elbows slightly bent and on the bottom of the lift push your butt back to avoid the low back-compromising floor scrapes.

Yanking With Your Arms

Many people don’t use significant hip drive to snap up to standing and use more of their upper body than anything. Before you begin a heavy kettlebell make sure you nail down the proper form of engaging your hips and glutes to avoid using extra help from your arms.

Squatting With Each Swing

It’s a misconception that the kettlebell swing uses a squat to generate momentum, not a hip hinge, which is inaccurate. The proper kettlebell sing requires you to press your hips back without bending your knees much as your torso tips forward toward the floor. To make sure you’re getting that hip hinge action, squat down with each downward swing, bending your knees slightly only before popping up to stand while swinging the kettlebell forward.

What muscles are you specifically targeting during a kettlebell swing?

Depending on the variation will depend on what specific muscles the kettlebell swing targets, but we made a list of common muscles that are used when performing the kettlebell swing so you don’t have to look it up later.

– Glutes

– Hamstrings

– Abdominals

– Deltoid Muscles

– Trapezius Muscles

– Latissimus dorsi

– Quadriceps

Kettlebell swing variations

Now It’s Time To Get To The Best Part

We can talk all we want about the “how to” and “why’s” of kettlebell swings, but now it’s time we get into how to apply it to your workout and two different kettlebell swing variations to try.

For beginner athletes, we recommend starting at 30-50 swings and then increase it by 10 to 20 every day or as you see fit. Do about 5 to 10 rounds of kettlebell swings and mix them with other exercises like push-ups or squats.

Example: 30 swings and 15 push-ups ten times (10 rounds).

The double handed swing:

Typically the standard kettlebell swing exercise is known as a Russian kettlebell swing, so once that is mastered you can try the American version which involves swinging the weight overhead versus stopping at shoulder level.

This exercise variation uses a great range of motions in the shoulder and requires lighter weights to prevent injury. It is recommended to avoid American kettlebell swings if you have a shoulder injury or have a limited range of motion already with that joint.

Single-arm kettlebell swing:

This kettlebell exercise is performed exactly like the double hand kettlebell swing except you only use one arm at a time. Choose a lighter kettlebell and as you perform the single-arm kettlebell swing, hold out the non-working one to the side to help with stability while keeping your back straight and in form as explained in the beginning of the article. Do a single set with one arm before switching to the other side.

This is a great option to go a little more elite athletes to help develop unilateral shoulder stability and anti-rotational core strength, both of which can reduce the chance of injury due to muscle imbalances and improve coordination.

If you are looking for a full kettlebell workout already pre-made and includes kettlebell swings, we got you! We recommend reading our Short And Sweaty Kettlebell Workout which is sure to get your muscles burning.

Last notes…

Whether you are a novice or an expert, adding kettlebell swings to your full body workout routine isn’t just guaranteeing a long list of benefits, but also adding a challenge that will motivate you with new goals and make a possibly stagnant routine more interesting. With weight progression and the ability to up reps, you’ll never grow bored of the kettlebell swing!

About Jordyn Snyder