How to do kettlebell swings: the best kettlebell swing alternatives and muscles worked

Master the kettlebell swing, the best kettlebell exercise for posture, endurance and improved grip strength

how to do kettlebell swings
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might think you know how to do kettlebell swings but you are wrong. The kettlebell swing is one of the best home workouts you can do as it requires very little equipment – the best kettlebell, obviously – yet it builds endurance, burns fat, emphasises muscle definition and more. And just like any other workout where you use heavy weights, doing kettlebell swings using the incorrect form can result in injury and not gains.

How to perform the most common gym exercises correctly

Performed correctly, though, kettlebell swings can do wonders to your body, so much so that there is a whole workout based around this one exercise. The 10,000 swings kettlebell workout takes four weeks and it is said to make you abs and your glutes pop plus massively improve grip strength. What's not to love about the swing?

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ONNIT Primal Kettlebells | Prices from $42.95 at Onnit
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How to do a proper kettlebell swing

First and foremost, the kettlebell swing is not a squat, nor it is a deadlift. The kettlebell swing is a hip-hinge exercise: the hip is fixed in the three-dimensional space as you fling the iron orb up and down. Bending the knee and/or the back too much might not work the right muscles or worse, cause discomfort or injury.

Starting position is the kettlebell resting on the floor in between your legs, legs are a little bit over shoulder width apart. Reach down for the kettlebell and grab it firmly with both hands. The back is straight and the core is engaged. Lift the kettlebell off the floor, swing it forward a bit to gather some momentum, then swing it back between your legs.

• 10,000 swings kettlebell challenge TESTED

From here, pull it up almost all the way to eye level and then pull it back down in between your legs. To maximise muscle under tension, we would recommend not resting when the movement reaches its apex point: don't let the kettlebell fall down, pull the it down hard to work those muscles all the way through the workout.

The back is straight all the way through, we can't stress this enough. Bending the back will put a lot of pressure on the lower back and it can result is pulling the muscles. the legs are also straight but the knees are not locked, let them bent just a bit so when the kettlebell comes down, the hamstrings are not stretched too much.

After the last rep, pull the kettlebell down once more and as opposed to lifting it up again, let the momentum swing it back forward a bit while you 'sit back' into the movement, counterbalancing the weight. Don't forget to keep your back straight and the spine in a neutral position.

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JTX Neoprene Covered Kettlebell | Prices from £29 at JTX Fitness
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how to do a proper kettlebell swing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Best kettlebell swing variations

Alternating kettlebell swing

The alternating kettlebell swing is a brilliant unilateral move that can help working on both sides of the body with equal intensity. Our bodies have the tendency of dispensing the effort into as many different muscles as possible, so by using one arm at a time, we can make sure both arms are worked equally as hard.

Split stance single arm kettlebell swing

Similar to the one above but in this variety, your stance is different. This version attacks the glutes from a different angle.

Kettlebell swing and high pull

The kettlebell swing and high pull is a more advanced move and required some experience and control over the kettlebell. By adding the pull movement at the top, you will work the back of the shoulders even more.

American kettlebell swing

There is an argument about which version of the kettlebell swing is better: the standard russian variety or the American kettlebell swing. the argument is that in the AMerican version, the shoulder muscles are activated for longer and it's also good for shoulder mobility. People who are against this method say it's not that much more beneficial than the standard version and also puts your head at greater risk. We'll let you decide, but either way, be careful.

On recovery and nutrition

To avoid any injuries and to help recovery, stretch after every strength training session. Foam rollers can be found in most gyms and you can buy them on Amazon too, a quick and inexpensive way to massage the tired muscles. 

Also, keep an eye out on your protein intake. If you are doing strength training, try taking in around 2 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 70 kg, you'll need to eat 140 grams of protein per day. Humans haven't got protein reserves, so you have to continuously take protein in throughout the day. 

And make sure you drink plenty of water as well. A decent gym water bottle doesn't cost all that much.

Get Fit for 2021!

This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout January. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a difficult year. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it. 

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.