The Russian Kettlebell Swing is a highly effective and widely utilised kettlebell exercise.
The Russian kettlebell swing is designed to turn your body into a hinge with a kettlebell weight in your hands, your legs in a triangular stance to brace the movements, and your core engaged.
Participants will feel the burn in their abs when they are braced. The motion begins by engaging your glutes, quads, and hips; moving up through the core to the shoulders and pecs.
Russian swings will have you feeling the burn and gasping for breath by the end of your sets. They should be included in every athlete’s training regimen.
Russian Kettlebell Swing Benefits
The Russian swing is an excellent full-body workout that provides the following benefits:
- Strengthen a variety of muscle groups, including the core
- Build muscle mass
- Increase endurance and stamina
- Reach target heart rate quickly
- Increase circulation
- Burn fat and calories faster than traditional cardio for weight loss
- Requires only a kettlebell and some space to perform
- Does not impact the joints and works well for all ages and bodyweights
- Can start off easy with a light kettlebell weight
- Weight and number of kettlebells can be increased to increase the intensity
Russian Kettlebell Swings Muscles Worked
The Russian kettlebell swing is a full-body exercise that burns fat and builds muscle.
The Russian swing is a non-impact exercise, so it is excellent for those looking to lose weight without causing stress to their joints.
This kettlebell exercise targets the abs, shoulders, pecs, glutes, quads, hips, hamstrings, and lats with a simple motion. Swinging the kettlebell can also have benefits on grip strength.
Russian Kettlebell Swing Form
Top tips from Invictus Fitness
“If you are new to the kettlebell swing, make sure to choose a light enough weight to build proper mechanics. You don’t want to start too heavy and cause yourself to put your body through incorrect technique.
As you go to start the kettlebell swings you want to keep the following in mind.
Slightly outside of hip width but not more than shoulder width apart. You want to be in a stance that is going to help you be the most explosive.
Grabbing the kettlebell – Think HINGING! You should initiate the movement with the hips back. With a slight bend of the knees and your back flat, you will then reach down for the bell (keeping quarter squat in mind.)
Starting the swing – Think about hiking a football. You will drive the kettlebell through the legs, keeping it close to the groin, shoulders pinned back, and your core engaged.
With your glutes and hamstrings turned on and your core engaged, you will then use the power from your legs and hips to drive the kettlebell up, finishing with the knees and hips locked out.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and make sure to not add an extra shrug that tends to happen when you first start to get it to move.
Once the kettlebell gets to the sweet spot, you want it to absorb the weight as it starts to make its way back down to its initial starting position (hike the football).
Arms should stay locked out the whole entire time!
The Error We Frequently See with the Swing
The key point of error in the kettlebell swing happens when the exercise is performed as a squat movement through the forces of external rotation.
As the bell travels back between the thighs, an athlete making this error will turn the knees outward by flexing the glutes and quads and externally rotating within the hip capsule.
The athlete may appear to “sit” at the end range of the backswing. This common error results in the hips being inhibited from a pelvic tilt, or hinging pattern.
The reason this is alarming is that in this “locked” position, the hips can no longer create the desired range of motion and the lumbar spine will then act as a fulcrum to the loading of the kettlebell.
Although the muscles of the lower back are capable of flexion and extension, it is not their primary function which is why swings done in this manner often cause excessive muscle swelling of the low back or worse yet, acute or chronic damage to the spine.”
Russian Kettlebell Swings Alternative
Not having a kettlebell doesn’t mean you can’t do swings. You can put a medicine ball or rock in a strong bag, swing a water jug or if you want a less low-tech approach, use a dumbbell.
Put a single dumbbell on its end and stand astride it. Squat down and grasp the top with both hands and then stand up.
Russian Kettlebell Swings vs American
Eric Leija’s opinion:
“Interestingly, for all of the debate about which swing is superior, the movement pattern of each is identical except for the top position. Both start the swing with the kettlebell just below the groin, and, using a slight flexion of the knee and powerful thrust of the hips, push the kettlebell into its apex, all the while keeping the spine straight and neutral.
In both movements, the core is also braced, the glutes are thoroughly engaged, and the shoulders and lats are stable.
The arguments for the superiority of the Russian swing are good ones. The foremost is that it allows the swinger to move a heavier bell due to not having to worry about carrying that weight fully overhead (which could be dangerous for the shoulder joints and spine), and can thus increase power output.
In addition, Russian swings are typically performed faster than American swings because it takes roughly half the time to reach the apex of the shoulders than the apex of overhead. So here we have the advantage of heavier weight increasing hip power output, as well as decreased rep time.
Not to mention, the stop of the weight at the shoulder trains athletes to stop with their abs and glutes, and also requires more of the lat muscles to stop the swing.
One of the arguments against the Russian swing is that it causes you to perform less ‘work’ by limiting the range of the swing to shoulder height, but when you consider the weight and muscle recruitment trade-off, the argument starts to fade.”
Russian Kettlebell Swing Weight
Kettlebells are traditionally available in the following sizes and classified in poods, a Russian weight measurement:
- 8kg (0.5 Pood)
- 16kg (1 Pood)
- 32kg (2 Pood)
Due to the popular growth of kettlebell training, many kettlebell manufacturers have started offering in-between sizes to help bridge the gap between weights. The 20kg kettlebell and 28kg are excellent to help progress from one traditional size to the next.
Russian Kettlebell Swing Standards
The Russian Kettlebell Swing should start with the kettlebell just below the groin, or high on the triangle created by your groin and both knees. The kettlebell is then swung up to chest level, creating a 90-degree angle to your body.
It is a hip hinge movement, with a little flexion at the knee, under 30 degrees.
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- Russian Kettlebell swing: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc