If you have spent any amount of time in the fitness world, you know about kettlebells. Ah yes, those strangely shaped free weights with big handles you see giant Russian dudes using in movies. Yes, those kettlebells! The kettlebell has become a commonplace tool in the athlete’s arsenal, and there are many exercises you can use it for. Here we are going to focus on the king of the kettlebell exercises, the mighty kettlebell swing.
The kettlebell swing has become a popular exercise all around the world because it works so many muscles and it is very customizable depending on your skill level. Here we will look at this exercise and learn the benefits, techniques, and variations.
Great cardio- the kettlebell swing, when done properly is an excellent way to get your cardio exercise in. It works many muscles at once and gets the heart pumping which is what you are hoping for in a cardio exercise. It is also good strength training.
Works the Whole Body- Because of how this exercise is executed, it engages almost every major muscle in the body. This is an excellent benefit because you could work out for 30 minutes doing nothing but this kettlebell swing and get a full-body workout and some serious cardio all at once.
Builds Explosive Power- The kettlebell swing will build lean muscle; this is what it specializes in. Over time and when done correctly you will develop much more explosive power in your upper and lower body from doing this exercise. It is quite an efficient exercise with wide-ranging benefits.
Great for Posture and Balance- When you are working with a kettlebell you are supposed to keep your back straight. Over time, this builds up muscle memory, and you learn what it feels like when your posture is correct. The back muscles will be getting worked in the correct position so that when you are not in the correct position you can feel it. Also great for posture and balance are exercise balls.
It helps with balance because you will be used to holding a weight out in front of your body and must lean back just enough to stay straight. This kind of balancing when practiced over time will teach your body to stay upright, thus increasing your balance.
Can Help with Back Pain- It has been proven that this exercise can reverse strain on the discs in your back (especially the lower back). When executed correctly it can gently strengthen and build the muscle around the injured area.
Kettlebell Swing Technique
First, it needs to be said that almost everyone is doing it wrong. It seems nobody likes to pay attention to the experts and people like to injure themselves!
The first problem you see with this exercise is that people are bending their knees way too much and not driving the hips. This is incorrect.
This two-armed version of the exercise is sometimes known as the Russian style. This is because the exercise originated in Russia and this is the traditional way the weights were used.
The two-arm swing is the one we will focus on here. Here is how to do it correctly:
- To begin the weight should be on the floor in front of you between your legs which should be about shoulder length apart.
- Bend at the knees (not too much) use the hips mostly to bend over and grab the kettlebell pulling it back between the legs which starts some momentum.
- Push your hips forward and straighten the back, pull the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
- Let the weight go back between the legs, and repeat.
During this exercise, the key is to maintain the momentum of the kettlebell that starts as soon as you pick it up and it swings backward between your legs. This probably does not need to be pointed out but be careful that your arms do not smash into your special parts, I have seen it happen and it is not pretty.
This technique is not a hard and fast rule, you can change it or do a completely different exercise, it is up to you. However, this is the correct way to do the traditional Russian two-armed kettlebell swing. If you want to do the exercise the way it was created, follow this technique!
Kettlebell Swing Variations
This is a quite small list of variations. There are over 20 ways to do the kettlebell swing, a variation for every mood. The variations listed below are the most common and most beneficial.
One-Armed Version- This is exactly what it sounds like. It is identical to the traditional exercise but instead of using both arms, you are using one. This is beneficial to work different muscles than the 2 armed version does. One side of your body is not holding any additional weight so the muscles will have to compensate by flexing to support the other side. It is best to switch arms eventually.
Chest Version- This exercise is executed by cradling the kettlebell held up to your chest with both arms. While holding it to the chest, bend over while bending your knees slightly and keeping your back straight, using the hips as your hinge.
Alternating Arms- This is essentially the one-armed version, but you hand off the weight to your opposite hand after each repetition. It is a more balanced version of the one-armed swing. It will feel strange at first but after a while, it will feel natural and provide a solid workout.
Dead Stop Version- This is a one-arm exercise where you start it the same as the one-arm swing. The difference comes at the top of the rep. When your arm is coming up and carrying the momentum of the weight, you gently put your other hand on your forearm that is carrying the kettlebell, essentially stopping it from going up anymore. This disturbs the momentum making it a little more difficult.
Outside Leg- The outside leg is a one-arm swing. It is different because you will grab the kettlebell like a suitcase on the outside of your leg. Swing it up and back as if you are lifting a briefcase. Because the weight is on the outside of your center of gravity, it works with a different group of muscles.