Let Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Before you pick up a weight and start waving it around, take note that it's extremely important to pay attention the movement here.
The way that you start your swing position is essential, as is your body's posture throughout—so let's break down everything you need to know. Even more than that it is a move that lets us explosively express what’s called “hip extension.”
If you do those things right (and because we increasingly sit so much, we occasionally do it wrong), you’re squeezing your glutes and your lower body is driving your ability to stand up. This action is crucial to moving and standing correctly, and critical to improving your athleticism (and your squat and dead lift movements).
This doesn’t just miss the point of a kettlebellswing (hip extension) but it’s dangerous for your shoulders, too. You end up trying to finish the swing with your shoulders, placing your rotator cuff tendons in a compromised position.
The height of the kettle bell is strictly a function of how aggressively you straighten your legs and squeeze your glutes. Ex says: The American kettlebellswing has you swinging to a wildly high target (overhead) and that’s problem one.
Problem two: if your shoulder mobility isn’t ideal; you'll compensate by arching through the lower back. Swing Cues Ex says: Your upper body isn’t the driver of the kettlebellswing ; it’s only a lever.
Ex says: This is a lower body move, and your arms shouldn’t be anything more than a lever for the bell. If you explosively and powerfully stand up, and really exaggerate that glute squeeze, your torso will naturally pop up and the bell will translate forward.
Ex says: Critical in the kettlebellswing is not letting your lower back drive the movement. Brett Williams, NASA Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men's Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.
Kettle bell Swings were once exclusively performed by athletes in the Soviet Union. Now you'd be hard-pressed to walk through a gym and not see at least one person doing this incredibly versatile exercise.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a kettle bell about a foot in front of you on the ground. Bend at the waist and grasp the kettle bell handle with both hands.
Step 2: Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core before starting the exercise. Step 3: Lift the kettle bell off the ground and allow it to swing between your legs.
Step 4: Forcefully drive your hips forward to propel the kettle bell into the air. As the kettle bell lowers, move immediately and fluidly into the next rep.
Step 6: On your final rep, allow it to swing back through your legs, and then place it a foot in front of you on the ground. A loose core makes for a sloppy KettlebellSwing and puts stress on your spine.
Imagine that your upper body is in a plank position with your torso hinging on your hips. This keeps your spine in the proper position and makes your glutes, not your lower back, do the majority of work.
We advise athletes to avoid this variation, as it places extra stress on the shoulders and spine. The rhythmic nature of the KettlebellSwing makes it a wonderful move for improving your breathing technique.
Take a deep diaphragmatic breath (through your stomach) as the kettle bell lowers, and exhale fully during the swing. They explosively extend the hips and drive them forward, creating the power needed to swing the kettle bell.
Your quads extend your knees to provide an extra power boost. Your core and back muscles engage to keep your torso stable and your spine in a neutral position.
These muscles also help decelerate the kettle bell during the downswing, while maintaining control of your body. The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that all athletes should perfect.
It's important for athletic skills like jumping, and for exercises like the Dead lift and Squat. This allows your strong and powerful glutes to maximally contribute to the movement, while keeping your lower back safe.
The moves require lots of practice and great coaching—heck, these lifts are sports on their own. You don't get a full triple extension—of the hips, knees and ankles—and you can't use as heavy of a weight.
In a study led by renowned spinal researcher Dr. Stuart McGill, it was found that the KettlebellSwing puts forces on the spine in the opposite direction from Dead lifts and other similar exercises. We're not saying the Dead lift is a bad exercise—it's one of our favorite lifts—but if you're dealing with back pain, the KettlebellSwing might be a smarter option.
Since the KettlebellSwing is a full-body movement, it's a great option for conditioning and training muscular endurance. According to an ACE Fitness study, a Kettle bell Snatch workout, which is similar to the Swing, burns approximately 20 calories per minute.
However, the focus of the exercise is on the hip hinge, which is driven by the glutes and hamstrings. You will use lighter weight than the traditional Swing, but the single-arm variation is more challenging for your core.
The amount of weight an experienced lifter can use is significantly different from what a beginner can handle—as with any exercise. We always advise starting on the lighter side so you can focus on mastering technique and not on the difficulty of moving the weight.
Once you perfect your form, gradually increase the weight so your muscles feel challenged in your set. This ballistic movement helps to strengthen your core and hips while encouraging full body utilization and coordination.
Perfecting your timing and technique allows for safe, high repetition sets that will improve work capacity, functional explosiveness, and muscular endurance. While it is also highly beneficial (and recommended) that you are taught by a kettle bell professional, there are some key points to this deceptively technical exercise that will help you perform it with proper form.
Remembering these five key points will keep your form intact while helping you continually progress to heavier kettle bell weights. If you aren’t feeling a stretch in your hamstrings as you perform each repetition, you are probably bending at the knees and squatting rather than hinging at the hips and activating your posterior chain.
The primary benefit of the KettlebellSwing is the ability to use a ballistic, explosive movement with your hips to build core strength and conditioning. Your arms should be locked out, hips behind your center line, knees slightly bent, and your spine should be neutral.
Some organizations have some very steadfast rules about how high the kettle bell should end up at the apex of the Swing exercise (primarily they say it should be at a completely parallel position to the ground), we only have guidelines instead. Ideally the kettle bell and your arms end up parallel to the ground, but the height is really determined by how explosive you are with your hip snap.
Remember, trying to muscle through the movement by engaging your deltoid and upper body (essentially performing a front raise) is not the point of the exercise, explosive hip/core action is. If you must, watch some videos online and practice at home incorporating these key points to good form.
Learn the proper way to perform the kettlebellswing and simultaneously improve your strength, explosive power, coordination and general conditioning. The movement involves swinging the kettle bell back between the legs and then up and forward without placing a large amount of stress on the arms and shoulders.
After a general warm-up involving low-intensity exercise, the hip hinge movement is a great warm-up for the kettlebellswing. Keep the spine neutral and avoid rounding the lower back.
Extend the hips forward, moving them back in line with the rest of your body as you contract your gluteal muscles. Perform the hip hinge movement and reach down slightly, bending your knees.
Grab the kettle bell with both hands and lift, allowing the weight to hang at arm’s length. Swing the kettle bell back between the legs while performing the hip hinge from the warm-up drill.
Explosively extend your hips and knees, moving the torso quickly to an upright position. Traditionalists prefer swinging to shoulder height because you can perform more swings per minute and the shoulder height technique provides a better foundation for learning other kettle bell exercises such as the snatch and clean.