The kettlebell swing is one of the best full-body exercises you can do for your muscles. If you are a beginner to kettlebell swings, or if you’ve done them for a while but are interested in knowing just how many muscles this exercise works out, keep reading below.
Benefits of Kettlebell swings
A kettlebell is a type of free weight that is round and has a flat base. It sort of looks like a cannonball (or a tea kettle) but has a handle at the top. Kettlebells come in various types and sizes from 5 pounds to 100 pounds or more. You can do a lot with kettlebells including squats, lunges, Russian twists, planks, and more.
Kettlebell exercises are a good in-between of strength training and cardio. They increase your range of motion, your grip strength, your core, and many muscles. They also are small, compact, and easy to carry places if needed.
One of the most common (and really great) exercises to do with the kettlebell is kettlebell swings.
Kettlebell swings are a beginner-friendly exercise that helps you gain strength, become more explosive, and burn tons of fat. It is a superior form of cardio, using a lot of oxygen to fuel the kettlebell swing movement. You can exercise anywhere, and you really only need one kettlebell at a time, so unless you want to go up in weight you really only need to buy one kettlebell.
If you have bad knees the kettlebell swing is a perfect exercise for you because you can still get a great leg workout without having excessive bending at the knee.
How to do kettlebell swings
- Stand on a mat or the floor with your legs shoulder-width apart. The kettlebell should be in between your ankles.
- Bend down and grab the handle of the kettlebell with your hands (pulling outward.)
- Squeeze your armpits and shoulders in and lift the kettlebell off the ground.
- Pull the kettlebell behind you between your legs. Push your hips back as you do so.
- Pushing your hips and glutes forward, thrust the kettlebell forward so that it is chest height with your arms extended.
- Swing the bell back to the position it was in during number four and repeat steps four to six for however many reps you are doing.
It’s all in the hips. The pushing back and forth of your hips is what is swinging the kettlebell. You aren’t using your arms as much as you are your hips. Also, make sure to keep your back straight and your eyes facing forward.
(The above steps are for Russian, or conventional Kettlebell swings. If you want to up your kettlebell swings, you can try the “American Kettlebell Swings.” To do them you mirror all the steps for the Russian swings, but instead of extending the kettlebell to chest level and stopping, continue thrusting the kettlebell until your arms and the kettlebell are over your head. Master the Russian swing before trying the American one though.)
Muscles worked with kettlebell swings
This full-body workout works a bunch of muscles including:
- Lower Back
- Upper Back
As you start the kettlebell swing by bringing the kettlebell between your knees and pushing your hips back you will workout your leg muscles, glutes, hips, and hamstrings. They will continue to workout as you push your hips forward and go into a straight standing position, as well as your quads, arms, and lower back (working to maintain straightness.)
Then your upper back, core, and glutes will be working to help stabilize your spine and your hip flexors will help the transition back into the pushing back hip movement.
Kettlebell swings also help with balance, flexibility, and grip strength as well.
*The kettlebell swing will still workout your shoulders and arms, especially as they work to stabilize and help the movement, but remember that it is your hips, glutes, and hamstrings that truly power the swing, not your arms or shoulders. (Because it isn’t heavy on the arms or shoulders, people with shoulder joint pain are typically fine to do kettlebell swings.)
Kettlebell Swing mistakes to avoid
One of the biggest mistakes that people make while attempting the kettlebell swing is not getting the hip movement right. It could be very beneficial to just practice the “hip hinge” as it is sometimes called until you are great at it. The hip movement or hinge starts by pushing your hips backwards (while keeping your lower back flat and squeezing your glutes,) and then driving your hips forwards.
Keep your chest up and your back straight. When you drive your hips forward you want to end in a straight position with your head upright. Don’t lean back to swing further. From there you’ll want to end standing straight. Keep your neck aligned with your back and keep your back flat.
Keep your chin slightly tucked in looking forward. Your weight should be at the back of your body in your heels, hamstring, glutes and hips. Practicing the hip hinge is a great way to better your kettlebell swing and prevent injury from accidentally doing it wrong.
- It could not be stated enough that the kettlebell swinging motion comes from your hips, NOT your arms. A beginner at kettlebell swings may assume that all you have to do is squat and move the kettlebell with your arms, but that is not the case. It’s a swing, not a squat. Your arms guide the kettlebell but do not swing it. Don’t use your arms to move the kettlebell, but instead make sure you are moving your hips to get that motion.
- When you first pick up the kettlebell, start with small swings that don’t go up as high to get the momentum going.
- To help with the swing, push your heels into the ground as you move your hips.
- The kettlebell swing needs to be done right to prevent injury and gain the most results. Don’t go too low with the kettlebell- you don’t want it to scrape the floor.