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The Kettlebell Swing – Kick Ass Exercise for a Kick Ass Body

The kettlebell swing is quite possibly the easiest and at the same time most effective tool when it comes to training the whole body for multiple fitness qualities at the same time. When done for high volume of reps it makes you sweat and huff and puff thus making you fitter and leaner at the same time. The high rep kettlebell swing burns tons of calories and trains your heart and lungs.

Not only that, the swing is one of the most effective exercises to train your posterior chain – the back of the legs. At the same time, when done with a moderately heavy weight it trains your grip. Of course if you don’t have access to a kettlebell right now you could try using a dumbbell just to feel how taxing this exercise is.

What is the Kettlebell Swing

This is a unique exercise that teaches you how to use the hip drive. This is a whole body exercise that is taxing on your grip and abs, as well as the whole posterior chain – calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower and mid back.

The main thing to remember when doing kettlebell swings is to let the bell hang in your arm. Imagine it is a pendulum. All of the force that propels is comes from the hips, not from your arm or shoulders.

An easy way to spot when somebody is doing the swing incorrectly is to observe the top position of the movement, pictured above. See whether the bottom of the kettlebell is pointing away from the athlete or towards the floor. If it points down, the gal or guy is doing it wrong – using his arms and not his hips.

How to Do the Kettlebell Swing

  • Brace the abs.Your abs should be nice and tight all throughout the movement. At the top of the swing brace them even more and exhale through your teeth.
  • Grip hard. Whenever you are swinging weights around you gotta grip as hard as you can. This will keep you safe and make you stronger.
  • Push hips back. Feel you hips and hamstrings stretch. If you are too tight this is actually a good thin. Feel the tightness in your legs and use it to recoil back like a rubber band.
  • Keep the arch in the lower back. The arch position is one of the most important things when it comes to avoiding lower back injuries. Just keep the lumber region nice and tight.
  • Your arm is a pendulum. Don’t try to raise the kettlebell you’re your arm and shoulders. Let your hip drive do the work.
  • Drive the hips forward. Imagine you are trying to make the kettlebell go forward. The centripetal force will do the rest and swing it up.

Kettlebell Swing Video

Here is a short video I filmed a few years back showing the kettlebell swing from a few different directions. Note how the lower back is nice and tight, how the hips go back and then forward.

Also observe the position of the bell. The bottom is pointing away from me. At the top of the swing I exhale and brace my abs more like Bruce Lee was about to punch me.

What’s Next?

Honestly, the number of workouts with the kettlebell swing is only limited by your imagination. The main thing is to practice the correct form and gradually push yourself to do more. Here are a few ideas to take you to the next level.

  • 3 sets of 30 reps – this is a basic and solid routine to get you started but only once you’ve mastered proper form.
  • Sets of 10 reps in a circuit you can combine the swing with other bodyweight or machine/free weight exercise. Choose 8-10 exercises that cover the whole body and do them back to back for 3 circuits with 1 minute rest in between.
  • 100 reps in as little time as possible. Try to beat your time each session.
  • As many reps as possible – you could go for 1, 3,5, 10 minutes, etc. Choose a time frame and make a personal best each workout.
  • Enter the Kettlebell! This book is the most comprehensive book I’ve read when it comes to kettlebell training and it was the one that introduced me to the move.

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9 Comments - Share Are Your Thoughts

  1. Enter the KettleBell is unreal i use it as a reference frequently. I use to ignore Kbs until I tried them one day and yeah now I’, ‘hooked’. I love swings and Turkish get up these two can give me a complete workout.
    Unfortunately Kbs are expensive where I live so I mostly use dumb bells, the effect is nearly the same for me.
    Raymond

  2. Yavor

    Ray, coming from you this is a serious testimony, because you always put things to the test in a logical manner. As a true engineer I might add!

    The turkish get up is really really tough. It certainly makes you strong as a whole, especially the abs, and shoulders.

    I like the swing because it is very easy to teach to beginner clients, once they learn the basics like ab bracing, the arch position and the hip drive (this is the most difficult part to teach).

    Cheers!

  3. Rambodoc

    Yavor,
    Good post. I would like to make a few points if you allow me:
    1. Do hip flexor stretches before swinging: you will find the hinge movement getting better as the hip flexors won’t brake the movement as much.
    2. Grip cannot be too tight: you will fatigue in no time if you are actually swinging heavy or high rep. Your should rest the handles loose in the hook of the fingers. Swings tax the grip severely.
    3. Your swing form is a bit too squatty: if you keep the bell close to your groin on the way down, your arms stuck to your ribcage and your forearms close to your thigh and try to push your butt way back, you will get the full ham and glute stretch. This would make your swing more crisp and powerful. The knees flex as a seconday phenomenon. Try it and see the difference: I had the same issue and I cleaned this up on the way to my RKC prep (held in abeyance owing to injury).
    Cheers!

  4. Yavor

    Doc, excellent points. Good luck on the RKC when you heal from the injury. Hip flexors stretches are awesome, and not only for swings (I do them before playing basketball for example. Or early in the morning to wake my body up.

    p.s. Regarding the grip – I am referring to the top position. With the 32 kg bell you gotta grip hard or you risk it flying off due to the centrifugal force.

    Cheers,

    Yavor

  5. Yavor,

    Great post. The swing is my favorite kettlebell exercise because it’s so basic, but very effective at working everything. I like to use these as a brief workout when I’m short on time or as a “finisher” to a regular workout.

    Alykhan

  6. I will admit that I don’t use kettlebells very often but the few times that I have they are a welcome change to my workouts.

    This one simple piece of equipment can make any workout a total body workout.

    -Sam

  7. Kettlebells have been one of my favorite additions to my workout routine over the past few months. Kettlebell swings just feel like a complete exercise adequately working several muscle groups as well as your cardiovascular system. These should definitely be part of any training routine.

  8. I love using kettlebell as an alternative form of exercise, they certainly are killer and can be done in a short amount of time in limited space


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