If you're working out with kettlebells, you're probably done kettlebell swings. Today, let's talk about how to do them right.
If you know me, either in real life or through this blog or social media, you've probably noticed that I have a slight obsession with kettlebells.
I think that at least one moderate to heavy kettlebell is a must in every home gym. No matter if you have a huge backyard or a single bedroom or your home is a size of a walk-in closet, you'll always have some space for a kettlebell and a bit room to do kettlebell swings.
Let's Start From the Beginning
If you've never worked out with kettlebells, because it seems way too complicated, it's time to change it.
Please don't think that kettlebells aren't for you! They are 🙂 Kettlebells are not scary, and picking them up won't turn you into a pile of muscle (even though I like muscle, not all people do–and that's okay).
So, if you're a beginner, this post is for you. It's always easier to learn something from zero than fix wrong movement patterns, if you have them.
But, if you've already done kettlebell swings or even do them regularly, it's good to double check if you're doing them correctly.
Why You Should Do Kettlebell Swings
Here are some good reasons why you should learn to do kettlebell swings, and what you get by doing them:
They're Safer Than Many Other Back Exercises
Kettlebell swings aren't only a back exercise, but they do work your back a lot. Compared to some other exercises for lower back, such barbell deadlifts or “good mornings”, in my opinion, kettlebell swings are safer. The reason is that the swinging motion doesn't require you to pull and lift as much as the other traditional low back exercises do, and also the weights are a generally lighter than they usually are in heavy barbell exercises.
They Help You Build Strong Hips
When doing kettlebell swings, the power is generated with your hips (and not with arms, but we get there in a minute). Strong hips help you to do the following things better:
- Run faster. If you're a runner, hip strength is extremely important for you. Strong hips help you with the forward swing and knee drive of the legs, which is essentially all you do when you're running. In fact, lack of hip strength was probably one of the most important reason why I was never too good at sprinting, but it wasn't until later when I figured that out, thanks to getting more interested in how muscles work.
- Jump higher. Strong hips also help you to jump higher. I can speak from my own experience. I usually do kettlebell swings at least three times a week, and I believe they have contributed a lot to why also my box jumps, which are my nemesis, have gotten so much better. Of course, to get good at box jumps, you have to practice box jumps first and foremost, but kettlebell swings are a great assisting exercise.
You Can Do Your Strength and Cardio Training At the Same Time
Swings will help you to build strength, which is obvious, because you workout with weights. But swings are also an amazing cardio exercise. There's no stop or break or putting the weight down at any point throughout the movement. Because you're constantly moving, your heart rate will be elevated and you'll be gasping for air in no time.
So, you get your strength and cardio done at the same time–no need to go for a run after your strength work.
They Help to Avoid Pain and Improve Your Posture
Kettlebell swings strengthen the back, glutes and hamstrings. But none of this is important just for the sake of being strong.
The thing is, strong is healthy.
Strong back, glutes and hamstrings are extremely important for preventing low back, hip and knee problems and also keeping the posture nice and strong
I cannot not mention that.
It goes the other way too: When your posture is good, it means that your body is strong, which in turn means that you won't get annoying pains and aches that easily.
They Help to Build Better Backside
Okay, I cannot not mention that. If done correctly, kettlebell swings are great butt builders. Just remember to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
You Can Do Them Anywhere, Anytime
You can squeeze in a few kettlebell swings any time during the day. Do 3 rounds of 20 swings to break up your workday and you're good to get back to your chores again. It's important to keep the muscles activated. We're sitting so much nowadays, so swings are perfect to fire those glutes that you're sitting on all day long.
You can seriously do the swings wherever you want. I know a person who has a kettlebell at his office, and he actually picks it up every now and then to take a break from work and do a few movements. Anything is possible, it all depends on how motivated you are!
How To Do Kettlebell Swings
So, how do you actually do kettlebell swings correctly, so that you really get all the benefits that we just talked about: Build stronger hips, run faster, jump higher, improve posture, stay injury-free and look better?
Here are step-by-step guidelines:
- Start. It's important to learn from the very beginning how to pick the weight up. It may seem unnecessary at first when you're working with very light weights, but you want to memorize the proper technique so it comes automatically as you move on to heavier weights. Stand up tall, feet about hip-width apart, kettlebell between the heels. Hold the core tight, but don't try to desperately suck the stomach in–you want to be able to breath. Instead, keep the core neutral.
- Pick the kettlebell up. Slightly bend your knees, as much as needed to reach the kettlebell horn. Grab the horn, then keep your back straight and stand up. Keep your arms close to your torso all the time.
- Swing the kettlebell back between the legs. Try to go pretty far behind. Keep the core tight and back straight.
- Swing it. Now, to the most important part: Push the hips forward as powerfully as you possibly can, by extending the knees and hips. Generate all the power with your hips. You almost want to jump forward as the kettlebell moves forward from between the legs. Breath out.
- Keep the arms relaxed. Let the kettlebell swing to about your shoulder level. Keep the arms really loose. Think that they're ropes or chains whose only job is to hold the kettlebell horn, but not to pull the weight up.
- Finish. Keep the back strong and flat again as you let the kettlebell swing back between the legs again.
The Most Common Mistakes
Wasn't too bad, was it?
However, I see many beginners struggling with some particular components of the swing, which I want to address next. Note that in the following videos I'm showing you what not to do.
Don't do the swings the following way. They're bad for you. 🙂
- Don't Squat, Hinge Instead
Squats are awesome too, but they're just a different exercise 🙂 When doing swings, your knees are only slightly bent, but you're hingeing at the hips.
- Don't Forget to Extend the Knees
At the end of the movement, your knees should be straight–no bend there! If you keep the knees bent, you won't be able to use the full power at the hips, which is the key in this movement. Plus, it looks really awkward… Agree? 🙂
- Don't Lift the Kettlebell Up with Your Arms
Kettlebell Swings are not an arm strengthening exercise, so don't use them for pulling the weight up. Again, if you're doing that, you don't use your hips properly, because if you did, you wouldn't need to use your arms. You'll also end up bending your lower back exessively, which becomes even bigger problem once you start working with heavier weights.
- Don't Be Afraid to Speed it Up
If you're too slow, you can't really swing the kettlebell. Think about an actual swing: When you're sitting on it, and want to go higher, you have to go faster. You want your kettlebell to come all the way up to your shoulder height, but that's not going to happen if you aren't fast enough.
Try the kettlebell swings out!
If you'd like me to take a look at your swings, I'd be happy to–feel free to email me a video or tag me on Instagram and I'd love to give you some feedback!
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I definitely used to avoid kettlebells because they looked complicated. I was always afraid of looking like a fool! But like you said, my backside speaks for itself. Pick up the kettlebell ladies!
Kersten Kimura says
Ha! Love this one! Once you get the hang of them, there’s no way back 🙂 Still one of my very favorite exercises! 🙂