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July 27, 2022 7 min read

The kettlebell is often left in the dust for other popular gym equipment like the dumbbells and barbells, kettlebell exercises can be as rewarding as any other exercise.

The kettlebell swing is a conditioning exercise that packs quite a punch.

Although many exercises that require momentum are frowned upon, the kettlebell swing is anything but an ordinary swing. This full-body workout can help strengthen the muscles in your posterior chain and help you jump higher, run faster, and be more powerful.

fit muscular young Man doing KettleBell Swings in a warehouse

What Is The Kettlebell Swing?

The kettlebell swing is a ballistic exercise that involves using the muscles in your hips, glutes, back, and legs to swing the kettlebell in a pendulum motion. 

This might sound deceptively simple but beware: the kettlebell swing is bound to get your heart pumping and your body burning. Although it’s a full-body exercise, one common mistake is using your arms to initiate the swing where the hips should be instead. All you do with your hands is hold the kettlebell while the push power comes from driving through your feet and into your hips.

With the proper grip and swing, the kettlebell swing is a great way to build full-body strength, power, balance, and stamina.

Origin of the Kettlebell Swing

The traditional kettlebell swing can also be referred to as the Russian kettlebell swing, opposed to the American kettlebell swing that uses a greater and more advanced range of motion. The standard version originated in ancient Russia and was first used to measure goods in the markets of farming villages.

After some time, the farmers realized the different purposes the weight could have, such as showing off their strength by swinging it.

This turned into performances and contests at the circus and at festivals.

Soon, mere performances turned into competitions and sport. In the 1940s, kettlebell lifting became the National Sport of the Soviet Union.

The kettlebell jerk and kettlebell snatch were popular exercises that were performed with max reps, and the winner was determined by who performed the most reps overtime. 

Just 10 years later, the kettlebell was introduced to schools and the workforce for the purpose of not just competitions, but to help improve fitness and productivity.

This has proven to be a great choice as you can now find kettlebells in almost any commercial gym, and the exercises you can do with them are almost endless.    

Muscles Worked In Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a fast and powerful exercise that works all of the body's major muscle groups including the shoulders, core, abs, hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. One incredible benefit of this low-impact full-body exercise is that it loads your muscles without stressing your joints. 

Knowing which muscles are involved and ensuring they are engaged during the kettlebell swing can help you get the most out of this exercise.

Hamstrings

One of the main functions of the hamstrings is to extend the hip, which is one of the movements during the kettlebell swing.

You use the force from your hip hinge to extend the hips and drive the kettlebell up, and when the weight returns, you should feel your hamstrings activated. 

Strengthening these muscles can be important for bigger and better deadlifts, better function in daily life, and injury prevention. 

Hamstrings are the most commonly injured muscle in sports, so implementing kettlebell swings into recreational and competitive athletes’ routines can be beneficial.  

Glutes

The glutes are one of the primary muscles you train during the kettlebell swing, and keeping this muscle group strong can be important for walking, running, and balance.

The glute muscle that receives the most attention is the gluteus maximus, as it is crucial for driving the hips to an extension during the swings. 

This muscle helps to generate the momentum necessary to accomplish the kettlebell swings fully. To get the most of glute engagement, contract your glutes at the top of the movement.

Lats

The latissimus dorsi, also called lats for short, is the broad, flat muscle that forms the bulk of your back muscle. It helps stabilize your shoulder blade, produce movements in the shoulder, and adduct and extend your arms.

The lats also allow you to control and swing the kettlebell, which is engaged for most of the kettlebell swing.

The degree of engagement of the lats, however, depends on how forcefully you swing the kettlebell. Making sure your shoulders are pulled down and back during the entirety of the movement helps to keep the lats engaged. 

Traps and Rhomboids

Your trapezius and rhomboid muscles also get in on the fun during the kettlebell swing. The traps are back muscles that originate from the base of your neck and span the length of your mid-back, while the rhomboids are a pair of muscle groups found in the upper back region. The traps and rhomboids both function to protect and control the scapular movement, allowing you to move your shoulder blades back and even extend your neck.

When performing the kettlebell swing, it is necessary to keep an upright torso with a proper posture.

Your traps and rhomboids help you achieve this by keeping your shoulders from slouching during the movement. 

Shoulders

Your shoulders help to support the weight of the kettlebell. The kettlebell loads your shoulder muscles, leading them to be engaged throughout the movement.

Although most of the drive necessary for the move comes from your legs, your shoulder muscles, especially the deltoids, increase the power of your swing, allowing you to achieve peak movement.

Your delts also help you control the eccentric phase of the swing to avoid going too fast.

Core

Your core muscles are also engaged during the kettlebell swing and act as a stabilizer to help keep proper form and protect your back. During the exercise, your body is braced to secure your form, for stability, and to prevent the rounding of your lower back. This activates the muscles in your midsection, including rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. 

The engagement of your core muscles also helps you to generate force for swinging the kettlebell.

In contrast, your abdominal muscles help resist excessive spinal extension during the concentric phase of the swing.

Benefits of Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is a full-body exercise that primarily targets your posterior chain and engages major muscle groups of the upper body. It conditions your body and hones essential skills like stamina, stability, balance, and mobility.  

Unlike many other exercises, the kettlebell swing hits both the major and minor muscle groups you either see or don't. It offers a bang for your buck and would probably have you shaking at the end of your routine.

Some benefits of the kettlebell swing include:

  • Full-body exercise: The kettlebell swing is a superb option if you want to improve total body strength for stamina, stability, balance, and mobility. It is easy to perform and even easier to master.
  • Full-body conditioning: The kettlebell swing can help develop muscular strength, increase muscle mass, improve muscle endurance, improve your flexibility and joint mobility, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Regardless of what you're trying to achieve- muscle toning or cutting fat- the kettlebell swing can be a wonderful addition to your workout routine. Just a moderate amount of sets and a kettlebell are enough to get your heart racing and calories burning in no time.
  • Explosive strength: Runners, Olympic weightlifters, and athletes can all benefit from more explosive strength. Whether you're taking off into a sprint, going for a snatch PR, or looking to out-perform the person next to you, strength and power can be crucial for success. Kettlebell swings can help improve explosive strength and can add some variety to the conventional jump squat or sprint interval routine.   
  • Better posture: A large portion of the world's population battles with bad posture that is often a result of hunching over desks for long hours or reclining in bad sitting positions. This often leads to a noticeable slouch in your shoulders and pain in your lower back. The kettlebell swing strengthens the muscles in your back to help ensure proper posture. 
  • Grip strength: The kettlebell has a fat handle, and although it may be more difficult to grip, it can help strengthen your forearm muscles, improving your grip strength.

How To Do Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing can provide benefits to your health and physical fitness, but it's a ballistic movement that needs to be done properly to help prevent an injury. 

The kettlebell swing involves a short range of motion that swings the weight from between your legs to chest height. Hinging and thrusting the hips is an essential part of this movement, so make sure you have that down first.   

To perform the Russian Kettlebell:

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Set the kettlebell on the floor in between your feet.
  • Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward at your hips. Grab the handle of a kettlebell with both hands using an overhand grip.
  • Pull your shoulder blades backward to help keep your back straight. Engage your core and keep your arms extended.
  • Pick up the kettlebell and swing it back between your legs, keeping it high up between your thighs.
  • Quickly thrust your hips forward, driving the kettlebell up.
  • Extend your hips until your body is in an upright position and the kettlebell reaches chest height. 
  • Guide the kettlebell back down to the starting position just below your groin without arching your back.
  • This is one rep. Complete as many repetitions as possible.

Adding The Kettlebell Swing To Your Routine

While the kettlebell swing might be an awesome full-body exercise, things can quickly go wrong when it is performed properly. It's important to perform the exercise with perfect form to engage the right muscle groups and reduce the risk of injury.

When done right, the kettlebell swing can be great for improving your strength, power, stability, and muscle. For the best results, incorporate the RIPPED STACK  into your daily routine for increased muscular strength, fat cutting, reduced muscle emaciation, and better lean muscle mass.   

For more exercises to add to your full-body conditioning list, check out the 10 best full-body kettlebell exercises.