by Katie Hoehn September 12, 2022 7 min read
What is a kettlebell swing? More like, what aren't they...
Kettlebell swings are a complete FULL BODY workout all in one. It’s one of those exercises where you will feel a little bit of everything! I speak from experience when I say that.
They are a high intensity, yet low impact, exercise that requires some explosiveness. Plus, they happen to be one of the few exercises that targets almost every muscle group in your body!
The primary muscles used are your:
• Upper and Lower Back
But you heard it right, they work your entire body in some capacity, and can even check the box for both cardio and strength. Talk about getting the best bang for your buck!
So if that’s not enough, let’s talk about some of the benefits of the kettlebell swing.
First off, and like I mentioned earlier, they are high-intensity and low impact. This is great news for anyone who wants to take it easy on their joints and still get a good workout! Plus, kettlebell swings can help improve your cardiovascular health, strength, explosiveness, and endurance.
That’s right … Kettlebell swings incorporate the best of both worlds. They are somewhat of a mix between a cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise, giving you the benefits of both.
So, if you think about it, kettlebell swings can help you out no matter what your goal is. On top of that, all you need is a kettlebell and your body! You can pretty much do kettlebell swings anywhere.
It’s quick, effective, and it’s a full body workout. Most of the time, all you need is 20-30 minutes and you can get a great workout in. Kettlebell swings can definitely help simplify your training and save you so much time!
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Well, how do I actually do a kettlebell swing?”
For you to really be able to get the most out of your workout, it’s important you know how to perform this exercise safely.
Now, when it comes to the kettlebell swing, there are two common types: the Russian and American style.
Today we are focusing solely on the Russian-style kettlebell swing. They are going to be the foundation for which everything else is built. It’s also the most effective and safe way to learn this exercise. Plus, once you get this down, you’ll be able to move on to the other variations with no problems at all. So, let’s break it down and teach you how to do a kettlebell swing!
1. Place the kettlebell on the floor in front of you
2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward, and keep a slight bend in your knees. Roll your shoulders down and back while keeping your core tight.
3. From here, hinge at the hips, sending them back like you are closing a door with your butt. Keep your back straight and your neck in line with your spine. From this position, grab the kettlebell handle with both hands and an overhand grip, keeping your arms soft. You also want to make sure your feet are flat and you are leaning slightly back, keeping the weight towards your heel (if my fingers were under your toes, you should be crushing them).
4. Hike the weight behind you like you are hiking a football, bringing the weight between your legs. You should touch your forearms to your inner thighs. No, I’m not telling you to literally throw the kettlebell behind you … that’s a recipe for disaster. You should be holding the kettlebell tightly the entire time.
5. Next, you are going to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height, using the power from your legs and hips to drive it upwards. You will stand up straight and squeeze your glutes together locking out the knees and hips at the top.
6. When the kettlebell reaches chest-height, allow gravity to bring the kettlebell to it’s starting position between your legs. Make sure to keep your head and neck in a neutral position (Don’t look up - I know this is a challenge).
7. Repeat in one, fluid motion!
When we are first learning something new, it’s normal for us to make mistakes. That’s why I wanted to share six of the most common mistakes with kettlebell swings and how you can avoid them.
That way, you can minimize any injuries or technical errors which can slow your progress. You’ll find that other common mistakes stem from making one of the following mistakes. So, if we focus on these, you can master your form right out of the gate.
Make sure you are choosing the appropriate weight! I always recommend starting off lighter and working your way up. But, don’t go too light, as it will be harder to maintain good control and form. On the other hand, if the weight is too heavy, you'll also compromise your control and form.
Sounds silly to say out loud, but oftentimes when we are exercising, we forget to breathe throughout the exercise. This leaves us huffing and puffing by the end of our set. It’s important to make sure we are breathing throughout the entire exercise. It will make a huge difference with your power and stamina. Inhale on the hinge or hike, and exhale on the extension, or on the way up. I like to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.
This can cause you to overarch your back, or even to hunch over and round your shoulders. It can also cause you to hurt your lower back. You want to make sure you are engaging your core the entire time ... and that goes for any exercise, really! Plus, you’ll get a little extra ab workout in there … a true win, win! How can you engage your core more?
• Focus on standing up straight, keeping your neck in one straight line with your spine (or like someone is holding a ruler from your neck to your tailbone).
• Keep your shoulders rounded up and back (roll them back and squeeze to engage your lats).
• Keep your hips tucked in by sucking your belly button to your spine and squeezing. This helps brace your core!
Your arms are more of a guide for the kettlebell … they shouldn’t be muscling up the kettlebell. This isn't a front raise! Try keeping your arms relaxed, but not too relaxed that you let go.
A lot of people mess up when they incorporate too much of a squat. This can take power out of the hip hinge movement and allocate weight to your arms.
Engage your glutes, hamstrings and hips that’s where you should feel it most, not in your quads.
Kettlebell swings mimic more of a deadlift than a squat ... so always keep that in mind.
Ouch! This can cause you to jar your neck. You want to keep your head neutral and your chin tucked just a little bit. Try looking right in front of your toes when you reach the bottom of the swing, and straight ahead at the top of it.
Like I said, it’s common to make some of these mistakes in the beginning. With practice though, you’ll get it down, and you can give these workouts a try!
Here are some kettlebell swing workout ideas you can throw into your workouts! Notice how I say throw into your workouts. I can't by any means recommend that you strictly do kettlebell swings for exercise.
It is always best practice to incorporate a wide variety of different exercises. This can help you avoid muscle imbalances and promote a well-balanced physique.
With that being said ... let's get into some kettlebell swing workouts!
Kettlebell Swing Tabata - Do 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this for 8 sets, resting for a minute in between each.
Kettlebell Swing EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) - Start by setting a timer for however long you want your workout to last. I recommend between 15-20 minutes. Every minute, you’re going to do 20 kettlebell swings. After you finish all 20, the remainder of the minute you can rest. At the start of the minute, rinse and repeat!
10 Sets of 10 - You are going to perform 10 kettlebell swings for 10 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set.
Kettlebell Swing Chipper - Starting at 20 reps, you are going to count down by 2 until you get to 2 and then you are going to work your way back up to 20 swings.
20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20...
Simply aim for 100 kettlebell swings and see how long it takes you to complete it.
No matter what your goal is ... we're here to help. Kettlebell swings may be a great exercise that can really improve your workouts, but earning results long-term takes a lot more. Don't hesitate to reach out to us or download the 1st Phorm App for more help. Inside the app, you'll get access to your own NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Certified Sports Nutrition Coach. You'll also get the ability to choose between tons of different training styles.
So whether you're looking for workout help, diet help, or anything else to help you reach your goals ... we have your back!
Katie Hoehn Registered Dietitian ACE Certified Personal Trainer ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist ACE Youth Fitness Specialist 1st Phorm App Advisor