The Swing Series:
The Kettlebell Swing How To Guide
So you’ve got your kettlebell, you’ve read through our articles on “What is the Kettlebell Swing?” and you’re sold on the benefits of kettlbell training. Now you’re ready to start kocking out some kettlebell swings! Well, almost- but no worries, just read through this short primer on the kettlebell swing how to, and you’ll be ready for a simple, effective, kettlebell workout!
The kettlebell swing is essentially the bedrock from which much of kettlebell training is built. Take the time to mater this movement, and you’ll be on your way to mastering many more (with movements like the kettlebell clean and kettlebell snatch coming as your next progressions!) In “The Kettlebell Swing How To”, we’ll break the movement down into simple steps (don’t worry it all comes quite intuitively once you get started) to make sure you are perfomring this foundational kettlebell move safely and efficiently. Let’s swing right in!
Step 1: Choose the Right Kettlebell Weight For You
Before you dive into swinging, you’ll need to find the appropriate weight for you. Most likely, you’ll be able to lift way more than you can swing, so please be conservative when choosing your starting weight. You’re body needs some time to get used to the movement pattern, as well as the ballistic nature of the swing. We recommend beginners to start with a kettlebell weighing between 10-20 pounds (4.5-9 kg) for women and 20-35 pounds (9-16 kg) for men. Ensure you can comfortably grip the handle with both hands, and as you progress, you can adjust the weight accordingly.
Step 2: Set Up Your Stance
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly turned out. Think about turning your toe out about 20 degrees- it’s not the biggest deal, but this slight “toe-out” position will help engage your glutes during the swing, and encourage external rotation in your hips, creating more overall stability. Ensure your posture is upright, chest lifted, and shoulders relaxed. Position the kettlebell about a foot in front of you. In our next step, you’ll initiate the swing from there.
Step 3: Grip the Kettlebell
Reach forward and grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands, using an overhand grip. Your arms should be fully extended, as bending the elbows to during the swing may aggravate them in the long run. Grip just tight enough to hold the kettlebell. Too tight of a grip will begin to factor biceps strength too much into the swing, which isn’t ideal for injury prevention.
Step 4: Initiate the Hip Hinge
The hinge is a foundational movement for the kettlebell swing. If you hinge well, you’ll most likely perform the swing well. For the hip hinge, begin by bending at your hips, pushing your glutes backward while keeping your back straight. Imagine you’re bumping a car door closed with your rear end. Remember to push your glutes back (knees wll straightenslightly as a result). From there squeeze your glutes to thrust your hips forward, thus generating powr from your hips to get the kettlebell swinging! For your first swing, start with gripping the kettlebell a foot in front of you (as previously mentioned), engage your lats, and intiate the hip hinge to bring the kettlebell off the ground and back. From there, continue the hip hing as normal.
Step 5: Begin the Backswing
This is simply a reiteration of the first part of the hip hinge, but I wanted to both instruct you on how to hip hinge as one movement, as well as break it down. Once you’ve initiated the hip hinge, begin the swing by swinging the kettlebell back between your legs. Keep your arms straight, and let your hips drive the movement. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your weight should be on your heels.
Step 6: Power Through the Hip Snap
As the kettlebell reaches its farthest point behind you, reverse the direction of the swing by forcefully contracting your glutes and thrusting your hips forward (as mentioned earlier, again- just breaking it down as steps 4-6 are among the most important steps for performing the kettlebell swing well). Imagine you’re trying to Shoot the kettlebell forward with your hips. This explosive hip snap generates the power for the swing. Because your arms are gripping the kettlebell, it won’t shoot forward, but rather creat a concave up forward and upward.
Side Note: Hinge, Swing, Snap (and keep a neutral spine)
Remember, the rhythm of the swing involves hinging at the hips, swinging the kettlebell back through your legs, and at its rearmost point, snap the hips to bring the kettlebell forward. A helpful cue is Hinge, Swing, Snap. Once you get into the rythm of doing kettlebell swings, this will become second nature to you! This might go without saying, but throughout the swing, it’s important to keep your spine in a neutral position. Avoid rounding your back or arching it excessively. Engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine.
Step 7: Feel the Float
At the peak of the swing, the kettlebell should momentarily float in front of you. Think about generating enough power to get the kettlebel swinging to about eye level. There are other variations I’m excited for you to learn, but we need to tackle this foundational swing first.Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Avoid overextending your hips or leaning back.
Step 8: A Mildly Controlled Descent
Allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs again as you hinge at the hips. Your arms remain straight throughout this phase. Keep your chest up, and don’t let the kettlebell pull you forward. Allow the weight to go the direction it naturally wants to go, just keep a loose control of its arc. You want your feet to remain planted where they are, not being pulled forward by the kettlebell.
Step 9: Repeat!
Continue the swinging motion in a controlled and rhythmic manner. The kettlebell should move in a pendulum-like fashion, with your hips and legs driving the movement. Aim for 10-15 reps to start, gradually increasing as your strength and technique improve. As a simple workout to get started Perform 10 rounds of 10-15 reps, resting 30-60 seconds between rounds. This will only take you 15 minutes at most, and will help give you a feel for the kettlebell swing.
Muscles Activated During the Kettlebell Swing
Understanding which muscles are engaged during the kettlebell swing can help you appreciate its full-body benefits:
- Glutes: The gluteus maximus produces the power behind the hip snap, providing the primary force for the swing.
- Hamstrings: These muscles work in tandem the glutes to drive the kettlebell upward.
- Quadriceps: Your thighs are engaged during the hip hinge and the initial part of the backswing.
- Core: The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, stabilize your spine throughout the movement.
- Lower Back: he lower back muscles are active in stabilizing the lumbar region, maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement.
- Shoulders and Lats: These muscles help control the movement of the kettlebell and keep it close to your body.
- Forearms and Grip: Holding onto the kettlebell challenges your grip strength, improving forearm endurance over time.
Helpful Cues for Proper Form
To ensure you’re performing the kettlebell swing safely and effectively, consider these cues:
- “Hinge, don’t squat”: Focus on hinging at the hips rather than bending your knees excessively.
- “Hip snap, not lift”: Use your hips to generate power rather than relying on your upper body to lift the kettlebell.
- “Neutral spine, engaged core”: Maintain a straight back and engage your core to protect your lower back.
- “Float at the top”: At the peak of the swing, aim for a moment of weightlessness before the descent.
- “Smooth and rhythmic”: Keep the swinging motion controlled and consistent.
- “Relax your arms”: Your arms should act as a pendulum; avoid pulling the kettlebell with your shoulders or arms.
- And remember: Hinge, swing, snap!
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned everything you need to know to properly perform a kettlebell swing, from selecting the right weight to mastering each step with proper form and engaging the relevant muscle groups. As with any exercise, practice makes perfect, so start with a lighter weight and gradually increase as you gain confidence.
The kettlebell swing is a versatile and efficient exercise that can be incorporated into various fitness routines, whether you’re pursuing strength training, cardio, or functional fitness. It’s also an excellent option for time-efficient workouts since it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
So grab your kettlebell, find a workout space, and start swinging. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize safety, and seek guidance if you’re new to kettlebell training (you can always reach out to us here if you need some assistance!). As you gain confidence and experience, you can explore more advanced kettlebell exercises and open up a world of new movements.
Stay tuned for more fitness tips, exercises, and wellness insights on our website. Keep challenging yourself, stay motivated, and keep up the kettlebelling. I’ll see you in our next posts!