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How to do Kettlebell Swings: A Step-by-Step Guide

I have been a lifelong fitness student and enthusiast ever since winning the gold at conference in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM back in my “glory days.” I am also a writer and the marketing wizard here at My Top Fitness.

I have an ever-growing list of interests, including swimming, running, golf, bowling, speedcubing, speed running (old Nintendo games), locksport, cooking, chess, tournament poker, fishing, hiking, camping, and sleight of hand, just to name a few. On some platforms, you can find me as the self-appointed “Jack of all Hobbies”

I am a proud husband and father of 2 children, a.k.a. gremlins, and I am super excited to help as many people as possible on their individual fitness journeys.

fitness, fitness center, kettlebells

There are very few exercises that are as comprehensive, as elaborate, and as detailed as Kettlebell Swings. The best part about the exercise is that multiple variations of it can be used to target specific muscles and get the desired results.

Kettlebell swings are a great way to get in shape and improve your overall fitness. They are effective exercises because they work multiple muscle groups at once, and they are relatively easy to learn.

Simply put, to do a kettlebell swing, hold the kettlebell with both hands and squat down. Swing the kettlebell between your legs, then thrust your hips forward to swing the weight up to chest height. Let the kettlebell swing back between your legs, then repeat.

Be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire exercise. If you start to feel too much strain in your back, stop swinging the weight and lower it to the ground.

However, in this article, we’re going to dive below the surface of kettlebell swings and take a closer look at the different ways in which you can perform this exercise to target and boost specific muscles of your body.

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What is the Right way to Perform Kettlebell Swings?

Kettlebell swings are a great way to add intensity to your upper body workout routine. But before adding them in, there are a few things you need to know. Consider this your kettlebell swing training course.

First, always use a kettlebell weight that is appropriate for your fitness level. Start with a lightweight and work your way up as you get stronger.

Also, make sure you practice proper form. The key is to hinge at the hips and keep your back straight. Swing the kettlebell between your legs and then thrust it forward, using your hips and glutes to power the movement.

Finally, start with a small number of reps and work your way up. Don’t do too many swings in a row, or you’ll risk fatigue and injury.

Before we look at the exact method of performing a kettlebell swing, let us clarify the equipment that you will need for the exercise or for any other kettlebell workouts. 

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Equipment

All you need is a kettlebell of suitable weight that you may use to perform the exercise. As we mentioned before, starting with a lighter-weight kettlebell is important while you’re perfecting your posture and kettlebell swing form.

If this is the first time adding any type of weight to your workout, purchasing one lightweight kettlebell may be enough. If you’ve done weight training recently or regularly incorporate it into your workout, consider purchasing two or three sizes so that you can start light but quickly work your way up to a heavier kettlebell.

Other than that, an exercise mat and gym attire are additional things you may want to have for a better atmosphere and feeling during your upper-body kettlebell exercise.

kettlebell, fitness, crossfit

Weight of the Kettlebell

There has been a lot of talk about choosing the right kettlebell weight for your exercise. There is detailed research on that, which can be found after a quick online search.

However, if you are a beginner, you may want to simply choose the weight that seems right for you. It is always better to start slow and gradually build up. 

If you’re worried that you’re buying too light of a kettlebell, get a second option as well for when you’re ready to move up. It might be a week later, a month later, or several months later, but you’ll be prepared!

kettlebell, fitness, crossfit

Space

As far as spacing is concerned, you will need about 4 to 5 feet of space in front of you and 2 feet of space behind you. This will allow you to perform the entire range of motion without any disturbances or constraints. Limited space may result in constrained motions, which in turn will affect the overall effectiveness of kettlebell swings. 

Caution: Make sure that your grip on the kettlebell is not loose. There have been instances of people losing their grip on the kettlebell while swinging it and causing serious injuries to themselves or their surroundings

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Step-by-Step Guide to Performing a Good Kettlebell Swing

Keep both of your feet a shoulder’s width apart. Bend down to hold and pick up the kettlebell. Make sure that you are pressing your hips backward as you grand a hold of the kettlebells. 

At this point, make sure that your back is completely straight as you bow down to lift the kettlebells. Similarly, make sure that you are not squatting while reaching out for the kettlebell. The focus in this step of the exercise is to make sure that your hips serve as the hinge. That’s where the gluteal muscles are targeted and activated. 

Stand straight with the kettlebell in both your hands and arms down. Make sure that you have a good grip on your kettlebell so that it may not slip during the swing. 

Take a deep breath and push your hips backward while bending your knees marginally to bring the kettlebell between your legs. This is the lowest point in your swing. You must ensure that your back is straight at this point. Otherwise, you may hurt your back. 

Moreover, a straight back results in accurate and exact engagement of the abdominal muscles. When you are in a bent position, your core muscles are responsible for lifting the weight and stabilizing your body. 

In the next step, exhale and push your hips forward to straighten your body in a standing position using a hip hinge movement. Lift the kettlebell and allow your arms to move freely. It is better if your arms rise to the height of your shoulders while your arms remain parallel to the ground.

Make sure that there are no bends in your arms. Otherwise, you are risking an injury. You can start slow and gradually build up your natural swing.

Now again, you inhale and push your hips back while keeping your back straight to lower the kettlebell in between your legs. 

Number of Reps

This marks the completion of your first rep. You may perform multiple sets of 7-10 reps, each with a break of 3-5 minutes in between reps. 

If you are a beginner, it is better to start with 1-2 reps and gradually increase the number of reps once you develop expertise. 

Common Mistakes and Caution

The kettlebell swing and the more intense Russian kettlebell swing (lifting the kettlebell only to shoulder height), among other kettlebell swing variations, are both popular fitness moves, but they can be tricky to do correctly. Here are four common kettlebell swing mistakes people make when incorporating the kettlebell swing into their workout routine:

Failing to Warm Up Properly

This is the most common mistake people make when doing any type of exercise. It’s important to warm up your muscles and joints before doing any strenuous activity. A good warm-up should include some light cardio and stretching exercises.

Using too much Weight

When you first start doing kettlebell swings, it’s important to use a weight that is comfortable for you. You can always increase the weight as you get stronger, so we recommend starting with a lighter kettlebell in order to avoid injury and allow yourself property time to perfect your form and technique.

Swinging with Your Hips

Many people make the mistake of swinging the kettlebell with their hips instead of using their arms and shoulders. This can lead to injuries, so be sure to focus on using your arms and shoulders to swing the kettlebell.

Abrupt Motions

The motions and movements must be gradual in a kettlebell swing. Any abrupt motions and movements may lead to serious injuries as you will be straining your joints and muscles. 

Bending your knees/Squatting

Do not bend your knees too much, as this may lead to a squatting motion. A squatting motion will neither produce enough force nor will it actually activate or target all these muscles.

Bent Back/ Lack of Core Engagement

A very common mistake in kettlebell swings is that people fail to keep their backs straight. As a result of that, the core/abdominal muscles are not engaged properly. This results in extra strain on your lower back, which may also cause a serious injury. 

Moreover, a lack of core engagement means your abdominal muscles are not exercising well enough.  

Rounding your Shoulders

People often end up rounding their shoulders under the influence of weights. This may result in serious injuries to your lower and upper back. Moreover, it will also negatively impact your natural body posture. 

To avoid this during kettlebell swings, you will need to maintain your shoulders in a neutral position while ensuring that your upper back is strong enough to resist and counter the pull of the weights. 

Breathing

As a kettlebell swing beginner, you may face this issue where you are too focused on performing the exercise that you forget to inhale and exhale at the right times. Remember to inhale when you are bringing the kettlebells down and exhale when you straighten your body. 

These are some of the most common mistakes that beginners make as they take up this new kettlebell swing exercise. Make sure that you are doing it the right way. That will allow you to maximize the gains and avoid any unnecessary and unwanted risks of injury. 

The Benefits of Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are a great way to get in shape and improve your overall health. They are a total-body workout that can help you burn calories, tone your body, and improve your cardiovascular health. Some of the additional benefits are:

They are a great way to burn calories. Kettlebell swings can help you burn up to 400 calories per hour.

They are a great way to tone your body. Kettlebell swings work all of the major muscles in your body, including your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and abs.

They improve your cardiovascular health. Kettlebell swings are a great cardio workout that can help improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Concluding Remarks

It is important to ensure that you stick to the steps and processes. Kettlebell swings are among the few exercises that can provide rewarding results in the long run. However, it is fundamentally important for you to stick to the right steps to ensure proper kettlebell swing posture and form.

Do it and Do it the Right Way

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