Kettlebell Swings: Muscles Worked, Proper Form, and More

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    Kettlebell Swings: Muscles Worked, Proper Form, and More

    The number of people turning to kettlebells to get a good workout is increasing, growing from 10.24 million to 13.58 million in just a few years' time. This is evidenced by being able to walk into most any gym today and finding a row of kettlebells for use. Some fitness facilities even offer group classes surrounding this workout device.

    Like with other weight training equipment, such as dumbbells and barbells, there are many different exercises that can be performed with a kettlebell. One exercise that utilizes this particular type of weight and offers a lot of benefits is the kettlebell swing.

    What Is a Kettlebell Swing?
    A kettlebell swingóalso sometimes referred to as a kb swingóis an exercise that involves holding a kettlebell weight and swinging that weight in front of the body and back through the legs. Itís similar to how a pendulum swings. Except, in the case of the kettlebell swing, the arms act as the pendulumís string and the kettlebell is the ball.

    Muscles Worked During This Kettlebell Exercise
    The kettlebell swing exercise works numerous muscle groups. Since you hold the weight with your arms, it activates a variety of muscles in the upper body. This includes the rhomboids, traps, deltoids, and forearms.

    Stabilizing the body during the swing also requires the use of your core. The abdominals and lats work together to provide control and help support the swinging movement.

    Other muscles worked in a kettlebell swing can be found in the posterior chain. This includes the gluteus maximus (the largest glute muscle), the erector spinae, and the hamstring muscles.

    In all, the kettlebell swing is a good total body exercise. It can be used as part of both an upper body and lower body workout routine.

    Kettlebell Swing Benefits
    The use of a kettlebell, in general, offers many benefits. According to a review published in the Journal of Sport and Human Performance, these include:

    Increased muscle strength
    Improved muscular power
    Greater aerobic capacity
    Kettlebell swings, in particular, can help build explosive strength. Developing explosiveness is important for athletes participating in certain sports. Among them are football, basketball, and track and field.

    Because the kettlebell swing requires continual movement, it can also speed up fat loss. It gets the heart rate up, making it a cardio and strength training exercise wrapped into one.

    How to Do Kettlebell Swings with Proper Form
    Being able to perform the kettlebell swing with good form requires that you know how to do a hip hinge. A hip hinge movement involves bending forward at the hip while keeping the back flat. There is no rounding of the spine during a hip hinge. Instead, you should be able to hold a stick or rod against the spine and have it touch the top and bottom of your back the entire time.

    Once you know how to do a hip hinge, hereís how to do a kettlebell swing with proper form:

    Pick up the kettlebell with both hands and stand with the back straight and abs engaged. Your shoulders are pulled back as if bringing your shoulder blades together.
    Bend your knees slightly as you hinge forward at the hip, pushing your butt out behind you as you lower the kettlebell down and back between your legs. Your bodyís weight is in your heels.
    Do a hip thrust as you raise the kettlebell to chest height. This movement should be explosive while still maintaining control of the weight. If done correctly, the muscles in the poster chain power the movement, not the upper body or arms. Remember: your back remains straight during this exercise. Donít lean back in an attempt to lift the weight.
    Once the weight is chest-high, allow it to begin to lower toward the floor as you return to a hip hinge position. The weight swings down and back between your upper legs. Again, this descent phase still requires that you have some control of the movement.
    Do another hip thrust to lift the weight explosively before letting it swing back between the legs. Continue this hip hinge-hip thrust movement for your desired reps or time.
    If new to kettlebell swings, start with a light weight. Using good form is more important than swinging a heavy kettlebell. Once you master form, you can begin increasing the weight used. Though, this isnít like other strength exercises in that your goal isnít to lift the heaviest weight possible. You want to provide enough tension to improve strength, yet not so much that you risk injuring your shoulder joints.

    Russian Kettlebell Swing vs American Kettlebell Swing
    Technically, there are two basic types of kettlebell swings. They are the Russian swing and the American swing. Whatís the difference?

    The Russian kettlebell swing is the one just described in the section on proper form. Most notably, it involves lifting the kettlebell to chest height.

    Conversely, an American kettlebell swing requires that you lift the kettlebell above shoulder height. In an American swing, the kettlebell is lifted until it is directly over the head before allowing it to swing down and back through the legs.

    Because the American swing requires a greater range of motion, it can be harder on the shoulder joint. Therefore, this variation is not recommended for someone with shoulder issues or limitations.

    The Russian swing is sometimes called a hardstyle swing. The term hardstyle kettlebell swing references its origins as a support exercise for a specific style of Russian hand-to-hand combat.

    Additional Kettlebell Swing Variations
    Varying the swing in your kettlebell training can keep your workouts from getting monotonous. It also allows you to work your muscles harder or in a different way.

    Instead of holding the kettlebell with both hands, do a single-arm kettlebell swing. A single-arm swing requires the muscles to work harder to lift the weight. It also places more tension on the core to keep your torso from rotating.

    Another way to ramp up the intensity is to do a double kettlebell swing. This involves holding two kettlebells versus one. Using two weights is an effective way to increase load. It also helps improve grip strength since each hand is responsible for holding its own weight.

    Who Should Not Do Kettlebell Swings
    Because kettlebell movements rely heavily on the shoulder, this exercise can aggravate a pre-existing shoulder injury. If this is a concern, a doctor or physical therapist should be consulted before doing kettlebell swings. This helps to ensure that the exercise is safe to do.

    One way to make this move easier on the shoulder area is to not swing the kettlebell as high. Instead of aiming for chest or shoulder height, for instance, only lift the weight to waist level.

    If knee pain exists after doing kettlebell swings, this could signal that youíre bending too much at the knees during the movement. It might also mean that the kettlebell is too heavy. Reduce the weight and see if the knee pain subsides.

    Maximizing Your Kettlebell Workout
    Kettlebell exercises are like other strength training exercises in that the muscles need time to recover between training sessions. Allow 24 to 48 hours between kettlebell workouts.

    Also, use a weight that offers some challenge but still enables good form. If youíre compromising your form to lift the weight, it is too heavy. Reduce the weight and build strength before increasing it.

    Finally, include other kettlebell exercises, such as a kettlebell deadlift or squat, into your workout for a bit of variety. The deadlift helps build the posterior chain muscles, while the kettlebell squat works primarily the quads. That makes both of these kettlebell exercises good additions on leg day.

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    Excellent cardio tool, 1 swing = 1 calorie. I do a day of just stairs and swings. 25 reps x 16 sets and by the end I want to puke. Absolutely torches my hamstrings

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warchild View Post
    Excellent cardio tool, 1 swing = 1 calorie. I do a day of just stairs and swings. 25 reps x 16 sets and by the end I want to puke. Absolutely torches my hamstrings
    Damm

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    3-4 mornings a week I do 20 minutes of EMOM of 10 kB swings and 10 push ups.
    Great way to start the day with cardio and full body pump

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    Quote Originally Posted by CAhardcore View Post
    3-4 mornings a week I do 20 minutes of EMOM of 10 kB swings and 10 push ups.
    Great way to start the day with cardio and full body pump
    Hey that's a good idea

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    Been using em since I was a kid.

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