Kettlebell Swing 101: The Best Guide

Optimise your training and technique.

The Kettlebell Swing is an exercise that’s been around for hundreds of years. Originally, it was used as a tool to improve strength and overall fitness in the Russian military, but over time it’s become a popular weightlifting tool with many different benefits.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this exercise, including how it works and what equipment you need to get started.

We’ll also provide some tips on form so you can ensure you’re performing this exercise safely and effectively.

What is the Kettlebell Swing?

The swing is a strength and conditioning exercise that utilises the hip hinge movement, explosive power, balance and control to shift the object through the desired range of motion.

The swing can be done with one or two hands. The movement of the kettlebell in this exercise is similar to that of a pendulum, where it is swung between your legs and then back up to eye level/above your head while keeping your core tight and hips stable throughout the movement.

What Muscles Does the Kettlebell Swing Work?

The swing is a full body exercise that targets your hamstrings, glutes and quads.

It also works your shoulders, arms, abs and back. The chest muscles are also used in this exercise, but to a lesser extent.

What are the Benefits of the Kettlebell Swing?

  • Improve strength and power.
  • Increased energy expenditure.
  • Great for building posterior chain muscles (glutes, hamstrings, lower back).
  • Improves cardiovascular capacity.
  • Improves core strength.
  • Improves hip mobility.
  • Increases range of motion in the hips, knees and ankles (posterior chain).
  • Improves stability and balance in the lower body through increased flexibility in the hips, hamstrings and quads (frontal plane).

Why is the Hip Hinge Important with the Kettlebell Swing?

The hip hinge, or posterior pelvic tilt, is a movement that can be performed while standing or sitting. It’s the first part of any squat, deadlift and kettlebell swing.

kettlebell swingSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc

As you hinge at the hips, your spine remains neutral and your glutes activate in order to keep you balanced as you move through space. The hip hinge helps generate power for many movements in everyday life such as lifting groceries into the trunk of your car or picking up items off the floor.

During this exercise, imagine that there is an imaginary line between your belly button and tailbone (keep this line straight) while keeping knees soft.

It’s important not to allow them to lock out during the hip hinge movement because this puts unnecessary stress on joints that could cause injury over time if done too frequently without proper recovery time between lifts/reps/sets (this applies especially if you are performing high reps with heavy weight).

Kettlebell Swing Variations

Below are some swing variations to help you build your foundation and improve your technique.

  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Kettlebell Clean
  • Kettlebell Snatch
  • Kettlebell Windmill
  • Kettlebell Goblet Squat
  • Sumo Deadlift High Pull

Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

The swing is one of the most effective exercises for building strength, power, and endurance at the same time.

However, there are a number of other ways to accomplish this exercise that can help improve your overall fitness level in a similar way.

  • Dumbbell Swings: If you don’t have access to kettlebells or want to try out swinging with other equipment then dumbbell swings are an excellent alternative. They allow you to use heavy weights while still being able to maintain proper form.
  • Dumbbell Snatch: The dumbbell snatch is a variation on the kettlebell swing where you lift the bell just off the ground instead of all the way up into your chest as in normal form when doing a regular kettlebell swing. It’s also known as “burpee-style” because it can be used as part of a burpee circuit workout since you’ll get several repetitions in without having to move around much between sets.

Is the Kettlebell Swing Good for Beginners?

Kettlebell swings are a safe and effective exercise for beginners.

It is important to master the hip hinge before starting them, as they can be dangerous if done incorrectly.

Swings are a great way to build strength, power and aerobic fitness. They also work many muscles in your body: glutes, hamstrings, quads, core muscles and upper back muscles will all be used during this exercise.

The swing should not be done by anyone with lower back problems or instability in their spine due to an injury such as herniated discs or degenerative disc disease (DDD).

Kettlebell Swing Technique

The swing is a great full body workout that helps you develop power, strength, and endurance. Here are some tips for mastering the move:

  • Start standing with feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in both hands with an overhand grip.
  • Bend at the hips and slightly at the knees to lower yourself into a slight squat. Keep your back flat and chest up as you do this.
  • Grab onto the kettlebell handle with both hands (one hand on top of another).
  • Push your hips back toward your heels as if someone were pulling them behind you with chains or ropes attached to them.
  • Pulling forcefully on the handle of the kettlebell, pull it up between your legs until it reaches knee height then explosively drive through your heels while simultaneously pushing yourself upward using explosive leg strength.

Note: You raise the kettlebell to different heights depending on whether you are performing an American or Russian kettlebell swing.

Kettlebell Swings Calories Burned

The number of calories you burn during kettlebell swings depends on the intensity of the exercise.

It can be anywhere from 10 to 30 calories per minute, depending on how heavy your kettlebells are and how many reps you do. The duration of your workout also plays a factor: The longer you take between sets and rest periods, the more calories you’ll burn.

Calculating the amount of energy used in swings is difficult because it depends so much on your form and fitness level, but there are ways to estimate how many calories you burn doing Kettlebell Swings:

  • Take your weight in kilograms divided by 2.2 = weight in pounds (or vice versa)
  • Multiply this number by 20 = minutes required for moderate activity
  • Multiply this number by 7 cal/lb = total calories burned

Please note this is only a rough guide.

Does the Kettlebell Swing Build Muscle?

The swing is a full body exercise, so it’s no surprise that you’ll see results in most muscle groups.

Your hamstrings, glutes and calves will all get stronger from swinging the kettlebell. The upper back muscles are also involved in the action of holding the kettlebell out to shoulder level, as well as supporting your shoulders and spine when you bend over with it on your back.

However, if your main goal is to build muscle in other areas—like your arms or shoulders—you might be disappointed with this exercise since it works mostly in just one plane of motion (front to back).

Kettlebell training can be specifically tailored for many different results. If muscle gain is your goal, aim for 8 – 12 reps over 3 – 5 sets with a heavy weight that leaves you close to fatigue during the final few reps.

Is it OK to Do Kettlebell Swings Every Day?

A big mistake people make is doing the same exercise every day. You need to give your body a break from time to time to recover and grow.

If you do too much of the same thing, you can get injured more easily and become more prone to overtraining because your muscles won’t be able to recover properly between workouts.

When working out with these tools in general: don’t do high rep sets (many reps) before performing heavy lifts such as squats or deadlifts; don’t perform kettlebell swings on torn rotator cuffs as they could worsen the injury; don’t go overboard with reps until you feel fatigued or exhausted—this isn’t good for performance either!

How Heavy Should Kettlebell Swings Be?

You should pick a kettlebell weight that is challenging, but not stupid. A kettlebell swing should not be a move in which you feel like you’re going to drop the bell.

It’s also important to note that if you choose a kettlebell weight that is too light or too heavy, then it won’t be effective at achieving the exact stimulus of the workout.  

If this happens, try using another bell or reducing the number of repetitions until it becomes easier and more comfortable for you without losing effectiveness in the workout.

Do kettlebell Swings Burn Belly Fat?

Kettlebell Swing is a great cardio exercise that will help to burn fat. The kettlebell swing works the entire body and uses stored fat as fuel for energy.


If you’re looking for a way to boost your fitness, the kettlebell swing is an excellent exercise to try.

This movement targets your glutes, quads, and hamstrings—all in one simple motion!

This makes it a great option as either part of a CrossFit or HIIT workout or just when you want to go back to basics and focus on getting stronger overall.

The best part? You don’t need any special equipment. All you need is some space and an understanding of proper form—and we’ve got that covered for you here.

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American Variation
Russian Variation

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