December 07, 2021 7 min read

Dumbbell swings may not be one of the most common exercises, but they can be highly effective. This article will show you how to do dumbbell swings with the proper technique and we will suggest a few workouts that will show you how to add this enjoyable exercise into your training. 

As with all forms of weightlifting, it is important to follow the correct form for dumbbell swings.

Before we get into these particular exercises, let’s look at warming up the muscles and joints that you will be using for these upper body workouts.

Muscular sportsman warming up before sports training outdoors.

Warming Up Your Muscles and Joints

Dumbbell swings can be a great way to improve the strength and stability of your core. They offer a fundamental movement pattern that can also help mobilize your thoracic spine. Just be sure that you have enough general mobility before you attempt any kinds of new exercises. You should never try any exercises that push you beyond the range of motion of the muscles you are using.

Although dumbbell swings might seem a little strange at first, putting your body into new and different positions is vital if you want to improve the health of your core and your spine, and also improve your overall body strength and increase the range of motion of your muscles. These are especially important things to do as you get older.

As with other exercises, complete a proper warm-up to avoid injuries.

Warming up properly for the exercises you will be doing and following a customized diet plan are some vital factors that athletes often ignore when they are starting a new training routine. It may seem like a waste of time and energy to spend a long time just warming up, but it is worth the effort when you consider how well it can prevent injuries.

Before Attempting Dumbbell Swings 

A series of different stability functions and controlled movements is necessary to master these types of exercises. One of the most important muscle groups when it comes to the stability of your lumbar spine is the core. If you have enough core stability, you can really reduce the chance of injuring your spine. We’ll look more at core training later in this article.

The most important stabilization muscles involved in these exercises are going to be your obliques, your abdominal muscles, your spinal erector and your transversus abdominis. If you haven’t heard of those muscles before, don’t worry too much because they are more commonly referred to as simply the core muscles.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Swing 

A major advantage of this exercise is that it does not put any compression on your spine or your joints. As long as you keep your back strong and straight, the dumbbell swing is a relatively safe total body exercise that will offer you some impressive results, even if you have experienced upper back pain or lower back pain in the past.

Strength and Power

Dumbbell swings can boost your strength, power, and speed. The exercises force you to stay tight and strong at all times, making you concentrate on your breath and bracing your total body throughout the full range of motion. The movement improves your grip and forearm strength because it requires you to grip on tightly at all times. The exercise targets your hamstrings and glutes, but you also use your back, quadriceps and shoulders. If strength improvement is your focus, you can opt for a lower rep count and a heavier weight.

Balance and Endurance

Dumbbell swings can also improve your overall balance. Because your body has to counter the swing of the weight, your balance will end up also being greatly improved by the exercise. If you want to build a higher level of endurance, use a lighter weight and perform a few more repetitions. Using a combination of different weights in your strength exercises can really lead to some rapid results.

Burning Calories

Because you can do dumbbell swings at a faster pace than other kinds of exercise such as a frontal shoulder press or a squat, you can burn more calories over time. This exercise also incorporates quite a lot of your muscles at once (see the full list below), which is another reason it is very effective when it comes to burning calories.

You can also try the single-arm dumbbell swing if you are trying to increase the number of calories that you burn during your workout. Since you will be working one arm at a time, you will need to double your workout time but this means you will burn more calories. To perform the one-armed variation, simply follow the same form as for a two-arm swing, but keep your right hand held out for balance.

Muscles Worked by Dumbbell Swings 

Dumbbell swings really target and challenge both the upper and lower body, as well as your core muscles. The movement also activates other muscle groups such as your hamstrings, quads, pecs and chest, traps, shoulders and abs. The dynamic motion of the movement also forces the stabiliser muscles in the middle back, lower back, rotator cuff and forearms to work hard to maintain the necessary level of control.

Dumbbell Swings versus Kettlebell Swings 

Although they may appear similar at first glance, these are actually two very different exercises. They work in the same kind of way and they target many of the same muscle groups, but a dumbbell swing places both of your hands in a neutral grip, rather than requiring an overhand (pronated) grip, such as you would use on the handle of the kettlebell. This forces your muscles to work in a new way so it is a highly effective way of adding new stimuli into your training. 

In dumbbell swings, you should not allow the dumbbell to move as independently as you would in kettlebell swings. This is mostly because a dumbbell is easier to control than a kettlebell. So the dumbbell swing is a useful exercise for beginners who are just getting used to the movement, and also for intermediate and advanced athletes loading up heavier weights than may otherwise not be possible with a kettlebell. 

By the way, dumbbell swings can also be achieved with a light barbell, in case that is the only equipment you have available. For kettlebells or for barbells, just follow the same steps that we are about to list below.

How to Do Dumbbell Swings 

 

  1. To begin, place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Hold the weight with both hands and do a squat so that you can bring the weight between your legs while keeping your arms fully extended. 
  3. Swing the weight between your legs. 
  4. After the weight reaches behind you, thrust your hips forward and arc the weight upward toward your chest. 
  5. Arc the weight back down to the starting position and repeat.
  6. Most of the work will be done by your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. 
  7. Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) with an overhand grip between your legs. 
  8. Bend your knees and lower your torso to a 45-degree angle to the floor. 
  9. Keeping your arm straight, thrust hips forward, straighten knees and swing the dumbbell up to your chest level as you stand up. 

More Training Tips for Dumbbell Swings 

Make sure your upper traps (shoulders) are not at all elevated when you assume the starting position. Try to keep all of your reps smooth and establish a regular rhythm throughout your sets. Most of the related body exercises you might try (such as deadlifts, push ups, or jerks) can be done with two dumbbells. 

As is the case for most of the functional fitness workouts that are available, Olympic lifts (also known as cleans or snatches) are always going to rely quite heavily on your power. Snatches should be performed with a single dumbbell, one arm at a time, using the same procedure as described above.

Man adding more weight to adjustable dumbbell in home gym

Scaling Your Weights

Most dumbbell swing workouts are usually intended to be done with a single dumbbell. We recommend that you choose a lighter weight as you are beginning and then you can always scale up to heavier weights as you learn the proper form and become stronger. This should always be done with extreme caution to prevent injury.

The dumbbell swing combines momentum and muscle control to achieve the desired results. Though this exercise involves swinging and momentum, you need to control all of the movements to achieve effective results. When performing a dumbbell swing, do not round your back at any time. Your feet should stay planted on the ground (not in a lunge position) and your core should remain tight. Keep your chin parallel with the floor.

Keep Your Training Varied and Your Body Guessing 

Dumbbell swing workouts are all great ways to introduce new stimuli into your training. They force you to move in new ways and to challenge your mind to think differently about seemingly familiar movements. They will enhance your cardiovascular conditioning and help you build a stronger upper body. This can transfer well across to outdoor cardio activities too. 

Always warm up and stretch before and after your workout to reduce the risk of injury. Never keep your breath held inside you. Inhale on the easier part of the exercise and exhale on the more difficult part. Give yourself a lot of space so that you don't hit anyone with your swing, and keep a firm grip on the weight at all times.

More About Core Strength Training  

Over a certain period of time, it should follow that your lower body and your core muscles will become stronger. Although they are pretty simple exercises, dumbbell swings offer a wide range of benefits when it comes to muscle tone and core strength training.

Doing these types of exercises regularly, as well as other ab exercises like cable crunches, can improve your overall health and help you feel more energetic.

Mastering dumbbell swings and increasing your strength and mobility can relieve any pain that you might have in your lower back. Always reduce the amount of pain you experience in any workout by staying as hydrated as possible, stretching, and rolling out your body. Keep your core tight and your back straight, and try not to overwork yourself when you are just getting started with a new exercise.

It’s Dumbbell Swing Time

Doing all of these exercises in the correct way can really lead to some impressive muscle gains over the long run. If you are lucky enough to have a personal trainer, use your trainer to help you with the proper form for these exercises and to get you following a safe and effective workout plan.

Combining all of your workouts with healing rest and recovery periods can also be very important when it comes to your overall workout routine. If you are feeling a little low on energy, a suitable supplement for you to try might be our Hyperbolic Stack Advanced Pump for Endurance & Recovery. Formulated to help restore electrolytes and increase nitric oxide production, this product is suitable for both men and women. It will help you train longer and harder than you ever thought you could.