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Kettlebell Workouts: The Kettlebell Swing

Updated on August 19, 2011
This is my own 25 lbs kettlebell with a neoprene cover.
This is my own 25 lbs kettlebell with a neoprene cover.

Popular with strongmen and Russian martial artists for ages kettlebells have only recently begun to make their appearance in mainstream fitness. Kettlebells open up a wide range of exercises that can be used to improve and supplement existing strength training routines or to create effective strength and endurance routines. Essentially a cannonball with a handle kettlebells come in a wide range of weights from a few pounds to as much as 45 lbs or more. Their unique design offsets the center of mass forward of the gripping hand unlike traditional dumbbells which maintain the center of mass near the center of the grip. This enables a person to perform exercises that utilize swinging motions as well as developing grip strength.

The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a simple exercise that works the glutes, hamstrings, and lowerback. It develops explosive power, muscular endurance, and is the basis of many more advanced kettlebell exercises such as the kettlebell clean and the kettlebell snatch.

As a stand alone exercise the kettlebell swing can be exhausting. It is often used as the core of kettlebell strength and conditioning routines. In my own strength building routines I use it in between sets to keep my heart rate up. During conditioning routines it forms the heart of my workouts.

The kettlebell swing is a great starting point for developing your own kettlebell workout routine. It is important to begin with a weight you are comfortable with and to learn how to properly perform the exercise to maximize your workout and prevent injury.

Tips To Perform The Kettlebell Swing Properly

  1. Breathe properly. Make sure as the kettlebell is coming downward that you are breathing in and exhale as you exert yourself on the upward swing.
  2. The proper kettlebell swing loads the glutes, hamstrings, and lowerback. Make sure that you bend your knees (how far varies depending on the workout), keep your back straight, look forward, and keep your weight shifted towards your heels.
  3. The power of the swing is generated in the hips and lower body. There should be little to no effort from your arms; they are just along for the ride.
  4. The swing should terminate at approximately shoulder height.

One Arm Kettlebell Swing

A variation on the kettlebell swing is to perform the exercise with one arm at a time. This variation is almost identical to the two handed swing except for the one handed grip. In some variations the user will release the kettlebell at the peak of the swing, catch it with the other hand, and repeat the exercise on the opposite side. As with the two handed version of the swing make sure that the power is coming from the hips and lower body and not from the shoulders.

I like to mix up the two handed and one handed kettlebell swing in my routines to add variety. For example, I may do a two handed swing for 30 seconds followed by the alternating one handed swing for another 30 seconds before moving on to a different exercise in the circuit. This helps prevent monotony and therefore boredom allowing me to stay focused longer.

The kettlebell swing is a versatile exercise that can supplement an existing workout routine or is an excellent starting point to create your own strength and conditioning workout. Remember to always perform exercise within your limits and abilities. Be sure to select an appropriate starting kettlebell weight and focus on form and executing the exercise properly. Quality is more important than quantity. The kettlebell has proved an excellent tool helping me to achieve my fitness goals. Hopefully you will find it just as useful.


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