Kettlebell swing is a cyclic exercise that is used in kettlebell lifting, crossfit, as well as in strength and conditioning training. This movement is quite easy to learn, so with a little practice even beginners can perform it without risk.
At the same time, it does not require a lot of free space, is available even at home and provides many health and fitness benefits.
Why swing weights are useful
Build stamina and burn a lot of calories
In one small experiment The researchers compared heart rate (HR) and maximum oxygen consumption (VOC) during running and interval training with 16kg kettlebells. And we ended up with similar results.
Both kettlebell swings and running accelerated the pulse to an average of 165 beats per minute. Training with such a heart rate, in 20 minutes a person weighing 70 kg can burn about 250 kcal.
In a different experiment with the participation of 13 young people, they also found that running and swinging a kettlebell approximately equally increased heart rate – up to 89-90% of the maximum rate.
In terms of maximum oxygen consumption and calorie expenditure, running won out in this study, but the scientists recognized that kettlebell swings are also effective for developing endurance.
However, if you want to use this movement as a substitute for cardio, work hard. In one research in 40 people, 8 weeks of kettlebell training did not increase participants’ endurance. In another scientific work notedthat this may be due to the low weight of the projectiles: in the experiment, weights weighing 4 kg for women and 8 kg for men were used, while in other studies the projectiles were 12–16 kg each.
Good load on the gluteal muscles
The correct execution of kettlebell swings includes a powerful extension in the hip joint – it is this movement that gives the projectile inertia for lifting, and it also provides a good load on the gluteal muscles.
One study tested how much kettlebell swings and snatches worked different muscle groups. It turned out that during swings, the gluteus maximus muscles are activated by 76% of the maximum voluntary contraction, and the gluteus medius by 70%.
Can improve absolute and explosive strength
AT research with 21 men compared the effects of kettlebell swings and jumps on explosive and maximum strength development.
After 6 weeks of training, young people in the kettlebell group increased their one-rep maximum in squats by 12%, while participants in the jump group only increased by 7.7%. Indicators in vertical jump naturally increased among those who jumped (by 24%). However, in the group of swings, the increase was significant (15%).
Scientists have concluded that swinging kettlebells pumps not only aerobic endurance, but also explosive and maximum strength.
The same was observed in another experiment with the participation of 37 people. 10 weeks of training with kettlebells (swings, presses, deadlifts, snatches) twice a week significantly increased the three-rep maximum in the snatch and bench press.
Based on the results of the study, it was concluded that the ballistic and explosive components of kettlebell training are transferred to other disciplines, including weightlifting and powerlifting.
May help with shoulder, neck and lower back pain
In one small research 40 people with pain in the lower back (intensity – 2.8 points out of 10), shoulders and neck (3.5 points out of 10) completed 8 weeks of training with kettlebells.
At the end of the experiment, discomfort in the neck and shoulders decreased by 2 points, and in the lower back – by 1.4. Thus, even not particularly intense exercises with a kettlebell can relieve pain in the back by half, and in the neck and shoulders even more.
Who Shouldn’t Do Kettlebell Swings
In the above research kettlebell swings were made with a small weight – 4–8 kg. They were performed after lead-up exercises and under the supervision of a trainer.
The use of heavier projectiles, especially with flaws in technique, can adversely affect health.
Researchers found that during kettlebell swings, a significant shear force is applied to the lumbar spine, which, together with compression, can harm the back.
Particularly dangerous in this regard are the American kettlebell swings, in which the projectile rises above the head.
Scientists at Bridgewater State University establishedthat from the moment of full extension in the hip joint and until reaching the top point of the exercise, the lower spine deviates from the neutral position by 25 °. This greatly increases the compression load and may cause injury.
Therefore, if you already have problems with your lower back, before doing kettlebell swings – especially American ones – consult your doctor and master the movements under the supervision of a trainer.
How to do kettlebell swing
There is several types of kettlebell swings that differ from each other in technical terms:
- Russian mahi kettlebell – the most common option that does not require long development and special physical training. In this design, the projectile rises only to the level of the chest (clavicles).
- American kettlebell swing – a variation in which the kettlebell moves in a wider range and is raised above the head in outstretched arms. Most often, this method can be found in crossfit.
- Mahi kettlebell with one hand with double seat – this option is used in kettlebell lifting and, in fact, is one of the phases of the competitive movement “kettlebell snatch”.
If you are not going to compete in crossfit or kettlebell lifting, choose Russian swings.
How to do Russian kettlebell swings
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, place the weight in front of your toes at a distance of about 30 cm.
Bend your knees slightly and lean forward with a straight back. Grasp the handle of the kettlebell with an overhand grip, drop your shoulders and shoulder blades to engage your lats.
Lift the barbell off the floor, then, keeping your back straight, bend at the hip joint and slide the kettlebell back between your legs for a swing. Squatting in this phase is not necessary.
At the same time, the legs at the knees also bend, but quite a bit. In the video below, BJ Gaddour of Men’s Health shows the correct swing position.
Next, straighten sharply in the hip and knee joints, giving the kettlebell acceleration. Do not strain your arms: the projectile should fly forward due to the extension of the hips. Imagine that your hands are two ropes to which a kettlebell is tied.
When the projectile reaches the level of the collarbones, let it fall along the same trajectory and again bring it between the legs.
Keep your lower back neutral: do not slouch in the swing phase, but do not arch your lower back either. Keep your neck in line with your back, do not lift your head to look forward when you bend over.
Pay attention to the feet: they must stand firmly on the floor, without breaking away from it in any of the phases of the exercise.
If the handle of the kettlebell slips, use chalk to keep the weight from falling out of your fingers during the swing.
How to do american kettlebell swing
The first phase of this exercise is the same as in the Russian version.
You bend at the hip joint with your back in a neutral position and wind the kettlebell between your legs. Then straighten up, lifting the projectile in front of the body in outstretched arms.
Only in American swings is the kettlebell brought to a position above the head and only then lowered along the same trajectory.
Since you need to lift the kettlebell higher, you will have to make the swing more powerful in this exercise, which will increase the energy consumption of the movement and make it more difficult.
Therefore, if you are doing well with the Russian variation, before doing the American variation, change the weight to a lighter one in order to get comfortable with the technique and not injure your shoulders.
How to do kettlebell swings with one hand with a double squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place the kettlebell at a distance of about 30 cm from the toes of your feet. Bend over to her with a straight back and grab the handle with one hand. Keep the second freely at a distance from the body.
To prevent the forearms from being overloaded, pay attention to the grip. Don’t squeeze the kettlebell too hard. Instead, fold a four-finger hook and put the projectile on it, and then press your index finger with your thumb, forming a lock.
Raise the kettlebell and swing back between your legs. When the projectile passes the stop line, straighten the limbs at the knees, while maintaining the tilt of the body.
Then, with an additional squat, bring the weight forward, unbending the body, as well as the legs in the hip and knee joints. The squat between the swing and the projectile in front of you provides more momentum, so you can swing with one hand without using the muscles of the shoulders.
When the kettlebell reaches shoulder level, let it fall along the same trajectory and at the same time bend your legs at the hip and knee joints. At the extreme point of the swing, when the projectile is between your legs, straighten up again and start again.
What weight to work with
When choosing the weight of the projectile, be guided by your feelings. You should be able to complete the interval or the planned number of repetitions without spoiling the technique – hunching the back or additional unnecessary movements that appear due to fatigue.
Women should start with a weight of 6 kg and aim to bring it up to 16-24 kg; men – from 8 to 24–32 kg. Build up the weight gradually – not in one set or even one workout.
How to add kettlebell swings to your workouts
This exercise can be performed both in isolation and in combination with other movements. Below we present several options.
Mahi kettlebell in equal intervals
Do kettlebell swings for 30 seconds without stopping, then rest for the same amount and start again. Do 10-20 circuits depending on your fitness level and free time.
Tabata with kettlebell
This workout was used in one research and allowed the participants to burn about 144 kcal in 12 minutes.
Do the first exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and repeat the same – 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
Then move on to the next element and do it in exactly the same way – two rounds of 30 seconds each (20 for load and 10 for rest). When you finish the last exercise, start again. Complete three circles.
The complex includes:
- Kettlebell sumo squats – two rounds.
- Mahi kettlebell – two rounds.
- Pressing Kettlebell Chest – 2 rounds.
- Sumo deadlift with kettlebell – two rounds.
The video below demonstrates the technique.
Interval training 40/20
Do the following exercises:
- Rope jumps – single or double.
- Dumbbell Thrusters – Choose the weight so that you can do about 15 times per set.
- Mahi kettlebell.
Do each for 40 seconds, then rest for the rest of the minute and move on to the next element. When you finish the last exercise, start again. Three or five circles will be enough.
How often do kettlebell swings
You can swing the kettlebell at regular intervals every day. It will be a great cardio workout, improve your endurance, and may protect you from back, neck, and shoulder pain in the long run.
If you include kettlebell swings in intense interval complexes, perform them on a separate day from other workouts so that the muscles and nervous system have time to recover. It is best to arrange such tests no more than two or three times a week.