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.
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.
You absolutely must maintain the stiffness through your torso over the life of your swing set. 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. 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.
Form is extremely important not only for reaping every benefit this movement has to offer, but also for preventing injuries. Place a kettle bell on the ground between your feet Hinge at hips, with your belly engaged, back flat and hips pressing back, and place overhand grip on the kettle bell Press down through your feet and extend through your hips to lift kettle bell off the ground and forward With straight arms, swing kettle bell to shoulder height (we’ll discuss the American vs. Russian version of this shortly), keeping shoulders relaxed and scapula engaged Your glutes will engage as you thrust forward, generating the power of this swing from your hips, not your arms or shoulders With control, return the KB to starting position
As mentioned earlier, the kettlebellswing is not worth the effort if you aren’t performing it correctly. If you don’t swing with great form, you put yourself at risk to injure your knees, lower back, shoulders and neck.
In particular, it’s extremely important to pay attention to your hip form during swings. But, without a holistically strong and engaged core — abs, hips and low back — you can press too far forward in the hips, crunching through your low back to cause pain and damage.
Pulling your shoulder blades down and toward each other to engage them, is also critical as much in a kettlebellswing as in any other power move. When you don’t draw your scapula together, you may shrug your shoulders, cramping your neck.
Or, you can end up swinging the KB too high, creating an impingement in your shoulders. In a Russian KB Swing, your movement ends when the kettle bell gets to shoulder level at the highest.
In the American version of the movement, you take the KB into a, which requires more shoulder mobility than the Russian Swing. This also means you need to use a lighter kettle bell to prevent the aforementioned shoulder injuries, which also lessens the overall
However, the list of potential issues the American version offers, including the previously mentioned shoulder damage and lightened workload, means sticking with the Russian is a good idea, at least until you’re secure in your shoulders’ range of motion and your ability to perform the swing properly. Of course, because I’ve got KB Swings pretty down pat (and because I know how much value they add), I’m not shy to include them in almost any workout, including one of my favorite, full-body combos that I crushed with Michael Vazquez and Jay Martial.
Get into push-up position with belly on ground and a kettle bell laying down under your right hand Press through your palms to explode the top of push-up, while moving your body to the right so you land with the kettle bell under your left hand Take a push-up with kettle bell under your left hand; at the top of the push-up, superman your right arm forward then return to bottom of push-up Press through your palms to explode the top of push-up, while moving your body to the left so you land with the kettle bell under your right hand Take a push-up with kettle bell under your right hand; at the top of the push-up, superman your left arm forward then return to bottom of push-up Repeat 6 reps on each side Using the Lutterell Swing technique listed above, perform Swing After returning bell to lowered position, use the same hip thrust to Clean the kettle bell to chest position Once you’ve stuck the Clean, Squat the kettle bell Return to Kettle bell Swing start position; repeat 12 times
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Understand & learn why you should be incorporating kettle bell training into your workout routine. Gain detailed insight into what exactly is included in the Primal Kettle bell Course & what tools you will need to complete the course.
Also, learn the proper grips and ready positions that should be performed when using a kettle bell. I will give you examples on how to properly maintain your structure, brace your core, and prepare you for your kettle bell workout.
Upload videos of yourself performing the exercises from this section if you purchase the premium option. Kettle bell complexes are 2 or more exercises strung together to form a circuit or workout.
A kettle bell flow is 2 or more exercises, string together & performed one rep of each movement back to back in a fluid sequence (differs from complexes because complex exercises are broken up individually & performed for more than one rep at a time & not as fluid in transitions between exercises). We’ll train to adapt our bodies/muscle tissue to be able to move better, faster, & be stronger.
Learning proper decompression & cool down techniques will improve your training & overall well-being. One of Eric’s most frequently asked questions is what his favorite kettle bell exercises are for each specific muscle group.
You will have the opportunity to complete a short written assessment to test your knowledge and what you’ve from the Primal Kettle bell Course. For men, a good starting weight usually ranges between 16Kg-24Kg and can be higher depending on fitness level.
Upload over 25+ videos of yourself performing the fundamental functional movement patterns. Also, receive 1-ON-1 coaching & critiques from Eric on each of the 25+ videos you upload to your account.