When performed correctly, kettle bell swings build total-body strength, power, and balance, while improving cardiovascular stamina, all with one piece of equipment. If that sounds too good to be true, maybe it’s because you’ve never swung a kettle bell with pinpoint precision.
With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn to use your legs (and hips, glutes, and core) to perform the perfect kettlebellswing. As it turns out, dancing the salsa and swinging a kettle bell have a lot in common.
But they do share a coaching cue that makes every movement possible: It’s all in the hips. The swing begins to take shape when the kettle bell is added into the mix.
With loose arms and a light grip, the kettle bell is swung from inside the quads up to the chest, just before eye level—in the Russian version anyway (more on this later). To the untrained eye, the swing appears to be a feat of upper-body strength: Simply squat and then stand up while pulling with the arms.
Performing the perfect kettlebellswing places all the emphasis on the posterior chain—the major muscles on the backside of the body from the heels to the base of the neck, primarily the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. And unlike the little movers (calves, biceps, triceps, and deltoid), the big movers are capable of moving big weight and burning massive amounts of calories.
But the good news is its a piece of fitness equipment that actually lives up to the hype. Consider this: A study seeking to analyze the effectiveness of kettle bell exercise concluded that “kettle bells provide a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time.”
The same study went on to say that the benefits of kettle bell training extend beyond strength and stamina by helping people “burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities.” Keep arms long and loose while squeezing shoulders blades together and engaging your core.
Soften knees, shift body weight into heels, and lower butt back and down toward the wall behind you. Driving through heels, explode through hips to send weight swinging upward from quads.
Achieving this finish position requires you to snap your hips through, contracting your core while squeezing glutes. As the kettle bell begins to descend, let the weight do the work as you ready your body for the next rep.
Shift weight back into heels while hinging at the hips and loading both the hamstrings and glutes. Receive the weight, allowing the kettle bell to ride back between legs.
As it makes the transition from backward to forward, drive through the heels and hips to repeat. There’s nothing like an arms race to create animosity among nations (or in this case, coaches and their respective exercise communities).
Instead of stopping at eye level, the American swing finishes with the arms and kettle bell overhead. Our expert Chris Finn, certified personal trainer at Life Time at Sky and Strongest level-two kettle bell instructor, never recommends the American swing due to the risk of injury to your shoulders.
That said, the decision on where to pledge your allegiance should be based on personal ability level and safety. Paying close attention to a proper swing will ensure a successful—not to mention injury-free—workout.
Start and finish the swing by loading, firing, and hinging at the hips. The kettlebellswing is a core training staple that can help to build total body strength and power, but are you sure you're even doing the exercise correctly?
For this explosive movement, you shouldn't settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it's such a simple, essential exercise that should serve as one of the centerpieces of your training plan. 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. You need to master several KettlebellSwing form tips to get the most out of this fantastic 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. 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.
The kettlebellswing is a great exercise to strengthen your core, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, glutes and back. Using an explosive motion emanating from your hips, glutes and hamstrings, the kettlebellswing can boost your muscular power and endurance so you're better equipped to perform everyday activities such as walking, lifting and turning.
The repetitive nature of this high-intensity full body exercise can also help boost your aerobic capacity resulting in enhanced cardio fitness so you can do more for longer. If you're keen to witness dramatic changes to your fitness you will find our top tips for getting started below, including a how-to guide to performing the perfect kettlebellswing.
One of the best ways to warm up before picking up the kettle bell is to practice the swinging motion but without the weight in your hands. Once you've picked up the kettle bell, try and keep a loose but firm grip on the weight to avoid causing unwanted tension in your neck and shoulders.
Keep your core tight and a slight bend in your knees as you straighten your legs pushing from the heels and explode through the hips and swing the kettle bell to chest height. Half squat and grab hold of the kettle bell handle with one arm.
When it reaches chest height, grab the kettle bell with the other arm, making sure you've got it, then let go the other hand. Grab the handle with both hands, keeping palms face down and hips square.