The swing is the basis of all kettlebell movements and is a perfect strength and cardio workout. Pair it with push-ups, squats, or lunges, and you have a great total body routine.
The big key to a good kettlebell swing is hinging at the hips and knees.
In a hinge, the bend in your hips comes before the bend in your knees. I find that many people have tremendous difficulty hinging because they spend most of the day sitting, which makes the hips weak and tight.
Not being able to hinge also leads many people to unintentionally compensate by using their knees and low back to do work the glutes are supposed to do. These compensations can lead to back pain, knee pain, and weakness and can also make you more vulnerable to injury.
If you have pain or imbalances associated with not being able to hinge, the kettlebell swing is a perfect weapon to use to wage a war on them. When you swing the kettlebell correctly, you engage your posterior chain muscles, including the glutes and hamstrings, and strengthen areas that have been weakened or deactivated by day-to-day sitting.
An important thing to understand about kettlebells is that your movements must be linked together in one strong chain of motion. This ensures that you don’t put too much pressure on any one joint or muscle. To link your movements, you must apply proper form, check your alignment and center of gravity, and execute each move fluidly.
How to Swing
With both hands, pick up the kettlebell by the handle and sit back, bending first and more deeply at the hips, then bend at the knees. This means you should bend your knees to a lesser degree than you do your hips. Keep your back straight and strong.
From this position, swing the kettlebell back and behind your knees as high and as far back as comfortable.
Start to swing the kettlebell forward keeping your arms straight as you thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back into the standing position. Do not raise the kettlebell with your arms. Your arms and the kettlebell should feel weightless throughout the entire motion.
Keeping your arms straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell in front as you rise to a standing position. You’ll generate power by pushing your hips back behind you (not by squatting to the floor) and then snapping your hips forward.
Bring the kettlebell up to shoulder height, this is the top of your swing.
Make sure your glutes are engaged and your back is not arched. Stay rooted into the ground. Never explode with the kettlebell swing so that your heels or toes come off the floor.
Swing the kettlebell down and behind your legs again, then back up to shoulder height in a nonstop fluid motion.
Speed comes from making sure your force and body drop the kettlebell down; don’t let gravity do all the work.
Be patient with yourself, you might not get it right away and that’s OK. Remember that these are muscles and movement patterns that may not have been worked in a while. Once they begin to reactivate, these muscles will start to pitch in during simple motions like walking, running, jumping, kicking, lunging, and squatting.
Kettlebell Swing Workouts
Warm up for five minutes before these workouts by jumping rope, kicking, and moving your arms.
- Set a timer for a 20-second work period, a 10-second rest period, and for 8 sets (4 minutes total).
- Now, following perfect form, as described earlier, swing the kettlebell for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Continue for 8 sets.
- Set a timer for 1 minute, and with good form, begin to swing the kettlebell.
- Count your swings.
- Remember the number as you rest for 30 seconds.
- Swing again, this time aiming to beat your last number by two.
- Rest again for 30 seconds.
- Swing again, this time aiming to beat the last number by two.
- Form first! Do not compromise form for an added swing. If your form is wrong, that swing should not count!
Add Your Swing to a Circuit
Once you learn the kettlebell swing, you can easily add it to a circuit or regular workout.
One circuit idea is to complete four sets of the following:
- 1 minute kettlebell swings
- 1 minute plank
- 1 minute push-ups
- 1 minute walking lunges
- 1 minute chin-ups, pull-ups, or downward dog
Dasha Libin Anderson is the creator of Kettlebell Kickboxing. If you like this, check out KettlebellKickboxing.com. Sign up for the KB community newsletter and get free ebooks and workouts, including your free “Belly Fat Book” and “Burn 500 Book.”