kettlebell swing

There are all sorts of pieces of equipment in the gym; you might be wondering what those bell-shaped things in the corner are.

Those bell-shaped things, called kettlebells, are just like dumbbells or weighted bars. They will help you reach your fitness goals. Kettlebell workouts, however, were made to improve your aerobic capacity. They get your heart rate up as you build strength, since it’s cardio and power lifting in one.

The kettlebell swing is an amazing tool for fat loss when you properly know how to use its power. Swinging a kettlebell up into the air forces you to engage every muscle in your body for an explosive movement and then use those same muscles to control the momentum on the deceleration.

Practice: How to Swing

First you must master how to do the swing properly. In this practice step all you need is a wall.

  1. Stand with your back about 6 inches away from a wall, and your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your hands close together with your thumbs touching and palms facing the wall. This is your starting position.

  2. Push your hips back and swing your palms in between your legs. Try to touch the wall. Your butt should touch the wall and your weight should be distributed into your heels — don’t lean against the wall. Your back should be in a neutral position. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.

  3. When you touch the wall, explode through your hips, coming back up to the starting position while squeezing your glutes. Swing your arms (thumbs still touching) up to your shoulder height. Perform 10 reps of this swing.

  4. Once you’ve finished this move, take 1/2 step out away from the wall and repeat the drill. You’ll notice that you probably need to bend your knees a little more to actually touch the wall — that’s fine. First bend at the hips with the knees following, but be sure to push your hips back. Perform another 10 reps.

  5. Take one more 1/2 step away from the wall and repeat the drill one last time. You’ll have to really work hard to push back from the hips and not squat into them. Hips need to bend down and back. Don’t allow your knees to go over your toes.

Perform: How to Do a Kettlebell Swing

If you feel discomfort in your elbows during the swing, it’s okay to bend your elbows slightly, about 20 degrees.

Once you’ve accomplished those steps, you’ll know the correct positioning of the kettlebell swing. Now you’re ready to actually add the kettlebell!

Again, you should NOT be in a full squat position during this swing. It’s simply a dip of the knees, an explosive movement of the hips, and the rest is momentum.

  1. Stand with your feet 1/2 step wider than shoulder-width apart. Place a kettlebell down on the floor in the center of your feet. Keep your eyes and head forward to force your chest to stay up. Your shoulders should be resting, down away from your ears.

  2. Keep your weight centered, and bend into your hips, pushing your butt back. Grab the kettlebell with both hands wrapped around the handle with a tight grip. Shift your weight into your heels. Your knees and ankles should be in one straight line. Your back should still be in a neutral position with your core engaged the whole time.

  3. Exhale and in one motion explode from your hips and swing your arms out until the kettlebell reaches shoulder height. Your arms and elbows should be straight but soft, parallel to the floor. Your hamstrings and hips should be doing all the work during this move. Really focus on feeling your hamstrings stretch. This is not a move you should feel in your lower back.

  4. When the kettlebell reaches shoulder height, hold this position for one count and squeeze your glutes. Make sure you exhale during this swing. Keep all of your muscles flexed and tight to protect your shoulders, neck, and lower back during the swing.

  5. Inhale and swing the kettlebell back down to where your knees are slightly bent and the kettlebell swings in between your legs past your knees. Engage your core so you don’t put any pressure on your lower back. Keep looking straight ahead with your chest up, and your shoulders should still be relaxed down.
kettlebell swing

Advanced: Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

Do you want more of a challenge? Try this modified kettlebell swing.

  1. Your stance will be the same as the kettlebell swing, but now use only your right hand to grip the kettlebell handle. Again, make sure your back is in a neutral position and you’re looking straight ahead. Push your butt back and slightly bend your knees. This is your starting position.

  2. Swing the kettlebell between your legs forcefully.

  3. When you swing the kettlebell up to your shoulder height, quickly let go of the kettlebell and catch it with your left hand for the deceleration stage. Let the kettlebell down with your left hand.

  4. Quickly reverse the direction and drive through with your hips swinging the kettlebell back up. Keep alternating hands when you get to the top of the swing.

The Takeaway

Geoff Neupert, C.S.C.S., and author of “Kettlebell Muscle,” says: “If you watch the way many people perform kettlebell swings, you may think the point is to move the weight around. But during a proper swing, perhaps more than in other weight-bearing exercises, the kettlebell simply reacts to the movement of your body.”

You’re in control of the weight of the kettlebell the whole time, so choose a weight that you feel you can swing comfortably, that is not too light or too heavy.

If you’re doing it right, the muscles engaged during this workout include:

  • latissimus dorsi (back muscles)
  • core
  • glutes
  • quadriceps
  • abductors
  • triceps
  • shoulders
  • hamstrings

No wonder this move is a huge fat burner!

This workout was created by Kat Miller, C.P.T. She has been featured in the Daily Post and is a freelance fitness writer and owner of Fitness with Kat. She currently trains at Manhattan’s elite Upper East Side Brownings Fitness Studio, is a personal trainer at New York Health and Racquet Club in midtown Manhattan, and teaches boot camp.