The kettlebell swing is a widespread and intense exercise that uses a fitness tool called a kettlebell. If you have never heard of one, a kettlebell is made out of a solid cast iron or steel piece and almost resembles a farmer’s tool. It has a handle at the top with an attached ball shape with a flat bottom.
They are one of the most well-known tools for weightlifting training and exercises, along with barbells and dumbbells. Kettlebells are the go-to weightlifting tool for many people because kettlebell swings are powerful exercises and work so many of your muscles in just one swing.
People who have never used the kettlebell in their fitness routines may be wondering, what muscles do kettlebell swings work? You are using your upper body, including your legs, arms, back, shoulders, shoulder blade, and many more, in every swing you do. Should this be something I should include in my weightlifting routine?
It is also a great way to get your heart rate up and one of the few exercises that focus on your hips, which can sometimes be neglected in many fitness routines.
However, the biggest thing so many people struggle with when it comes to kettlebell swings is having the proper form. The kettlebell swing is self-explanatory; you swing this heavy ball with a handle into the air above your head with all your power. But it is much easier said than done.
It will take some time to learn the kettlebell exercise, but it is crucial to make sure you are swinging in the correct form. If you begin swinging a heavy object into the air without knowing what you are doing, you could risk severely injuring yourself. You also won’t receive any of the awesome benefits of kettlebell swings if you do the exercise incorrectly.
Today, we will do a deep dive into everything you need to know about the kettlebell swing and kettlebell training. This includes how to do the kettlebell exercise step by step properly, what muscles kettlebell swings work, common mistakes people make while doing the kettlebell swing, and more. Keep reading on if you are interested in learning what the kettlebell swing workout can do for you and your fitness.
What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?
To start, we will go over all the muscles the kettlebell swings work. It can be quite the workout on its own since it works for so many different muscle groups and requires muscular endurance.
Starting from the bottom, the kettlebell works a lot of the muscles towards the back of your body. You are squeezing your glutes as you thrust the kettlebell upwards, and you will feel your hamstrings engaged during this as well.
Your hips are a major factor in kettlebell swings; they are favored among the fitness community because they are one of the few exercises that focus on your hips and stabilizer muscles. If you don’t use all your force and power to thrust your hips forward, your kettlebell isn’t going anywhere. This also requires you to keep your abdomen and torso tight, engaging those core muscles throughout the entire exercise.
Kettlebell swings also work with upper body muscles like your shoulders, lats, and forearms. This is because you are picking up the kettlebell, so your arms are engaged, and your shoulders are rotating back as you swing.
You will also feel your back muscles working to keep a straight spine throughout the exercise. Essentially, you are using almost every muscle group besides your chest to perform a kettlebell swing, which is intense.
How To Do the Kettlebell Swing Step by Step
Now we will break down step by step how to correctly do the kettlebell swing. This way, you can figure out if this is an exercise you would be interested in trying. We will go over in detail how to get into the right position and how to properly swing the kettlebell over your head, so all the right muscles are engaged.
You can do the kettlebell swing exercise either inside or outside as long as you have enough space. You also don’t want to have any breakable objects in front of or behind you in case you were to accidentally drop the kettlebell mid-swing and send it flying through the air. It is unlikely for that to happen, but it is always a good idea to be prepared.
- Assume the position: You want to stand with your feet just past hips-width apart, with your kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Slightly bend your knees, and make sure your shoulders are back as you bend. You also want to be thinking about your posture and engage your abs, so they are tightened. This is where a lot of people who are learning the kettlebell swing will need to practice.
- The bend: You want to make sure you don’t bend your knees too much as you reach down for the kettlebell; this will eliminate the work for your hips. You want to keep your back straight and push your hips back as you tilt your torso forward to pick up the kettlebell as you bend down.
- Get ready: With your abs still engaged and shoulders back, reach down and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Get a solid grip and take a deep breath in. Grip strength is key.
- Swing: Exhale, and with all of your force and power, swing the kettlebell up into the air and extend your hips completely forward with as much force as possible. Make sure your hips do not extend past your shoulders. It might take you some time to get to this point, but eventually, you will be able to swing so your arms are straight up into the air, with the kettlebell almost above your head. Make sure your torso is straight, and your shoulders remain engaged throughout the entire swing.
- Let it fall: Let the kettlebell fall naturally as it does back down as you get back into the starting position and the kettlebell swings directly between your legs. Keep your spine and neck aligned through each swing and remember to inhale as you swing up and exhale as it falls.
- Ready to stop: When you are finished with the kettlebell swing, don’t just throw it to the ground with all that momentum and strength. Keep repeating the steps but progressively slow down until you can safely put down the kettlebell.
Common Mistakes During Kettlebell Swing Training
Now that you know how to properly do a kettlebell swing and all the force that goes into this single exercise, let’s go over some of the common mistakes people make when kettlebell swing training. It is a pretty complex exercise, so over time, with practice, you will see your kettlebell swing improve.
One of the most common errors is that people lift with their arms and put more power into their arms than their hips. Your arms actually shouldn’t be lifting the kettlebell at all; the momentum from thrusting your hips is where the power and effort should be coming from.
Another error beginner kettlebell swingers have is squatting rather than leaning forward. We mention this in step one of the step-by-step guides, but you are only supposed to bend your knees slightly. When you squat, you eliminate the power your hips are supposed to use and puts more work into your quadriceps.
Some people may also struggle with keeping their back straight, but this is crucial for the proper kettlebell swing. Your spine needs to remain flat and straight the entire exercise. Slumped shoulders and a rounded back are a clear sign your abs and torso are not engaged, and you can risk putting a lot of strain on your back if you don’t keep the correct posture throughout.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Swing
Now that you are familiar with the kettlebell swing, let’s talk about the benefits. Since it engages so many muscles, you and your body get a lot out of doing this intense activity. Plus, it doesn’t require you to buy any fancy gym equipment.
- Kettlebell swings are a low-impact exercise. This means unlike running or jumping, you can give your feet a rest without compromising your workout routine. Plus, kettlebell swings are a good form of cardio since they get your lunges and heart rate pumping in such a short time.
- A kettlebell workout is great if you are looking to increase your power and improve your strength training regime, especially in your hips. Your hips can be prone to overcompensation, which is when a stronger muscle begins to take over for a weaker muscle. Doing the kettlebell swing can help prevent these issues and make your hips stronger
- Kettlebell swings are also convenient; you don’t need to buy expensive equipment like a treadmill to get a good workout in. Most kettlebells are reasonably priced, and you can choose different kettlebell weights depending on your fitness goals.
- An obvious benefit we have already mentioned is that just doing one exercise works for many different muscle groups. It doesn’t get better than that if you are in a time crunch and need to get a solid, intense workout routine in.
Russian Kettlebell Swing vs American Kettlebell Swing
When you perform a Russian kettlebell swing, you start with the kettlebell just below the groin. You then swing the kettlebell up to chest level while creating a 90-degree angle to the body. It involves a hip hinge movement, and the swing’s power comes from the hips while keeping the spine perfectly aligned. Muscle groups engaged with a Russian kettlebell swing include the glutes, quads, and stomach and core muscles.
The American kettlebell swing differs when it comes to the top position. You are carrying the kettlebell overhead, so the bottom of the kettlebell is directly in line with your spine. The movements of the swing are similar but with the American kettlebell swing, the quads should pull the knees up and your stomach and core muscles should remain tight.
You don’t want to use a heavier kettlebell for this swing. This swing targets core muscles, including the hips, glutes, hamstrings, and the upper body in the shoulders and lats.