Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Kettlebell Swings But Were Too Afraid to Ask
One our favorite movements at TS Fitness is the Kettlebell Swing. For the last 3 months we’ve included the Kettlebell Swing as part of our skills section that happens after our warm-up for our Group Personal Training Clients.
What is a Kettlebell
If you’ve been training at TS or other studios, you’ve inevitably have seen kettlebells stack along the wall. Kettlebells are round bells with u-shaped handles typically made of cast iron or steel. Compared to dumbbells and barbells, kettlebell movements typically require a greater level of skill and neuromuscular control. Athletes have likely been using these types of weights since the ancient Greeks and Romans but the modern equipment was formalized in the 1800s in Russia. Kettlebells didn’t make a splash in the US until the early 2000s.
Why Swing the Kettlebell
Kettlebell Swings are great for developing your hip dominant and posterior muscles of the body, which will improve your overall exercise performance.
We included the movement as part of our skills section after the warm up because the KettleBell Swing:
- Gets the heart rate up quick because it works the whole body! A series of sets of swings is a great metabolic workout.
- Preps your nervous system, allowing your body to be more alert for the rest of your session.
- Is a skill that you should always be developing. Getting a few sets in each class will only improve your swing.
- Helps to develop your power that can be very functional outside the gym
Inserting the swing into any workout will help you quickly burn calories. According to WebMD, a 20 minute workout relying on the kettlebell can burn over 400 calories. Additionally, mastering the swing will help you develop the necessary skills to perform a proper clean and snatch movements later down the road. These require even more motor control and help you move into more metabolic movements.
Russian versus American
There are two types of Kettlebell movements--the Russian and the American. The American, popular with Crossfit athletes, has the athlete bring bell up and overhead, while the Russian variant stops at eye level.
At TS Fitness, we teach the Russian version to avoid injury, but don't worry--you still get the same gains. At TS, we believe that with American swings, there is a lot more risk and minimal benefits compared to the Russian swing. Without proper mobility, this move can put pressure on the neck and possibly throw you out of alignment. Due to the overhead position, it is easy to hyperextend the lower back, which could lead to injury.
How much weight
Choosing the right weight for these swings is very important--too light and you will likely rely on your arms for the swing, instead of engaging your hips and hamstring muscles. If you use a slightly lower weight, you can crank out tons of reps, creating a aerobic workout. Swinging the heavier bells will give you a great power building exercise.
We recommend the following weights, depending on your skill level:
Active Women: 25lbs-35lbs
Athletic Women: 35lbs-50lbs
Active Men: 35lbs-45lbs
Athletic Men: 45lbs-55lbs
How to Swing Correctly
The Kettlebell swing requires fast, explosive execution to be really effective. This is how we recommend to swing. Noam breaks down the Kettlebell swing in this video. Read on below for the steps as well.
Begin by standing with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart.
Turn your toes out and place the kettlebell approximately 1 foot in front of you.
Hinge your hips and point your chest and eyes towards the ground. You should be staring about five feet in front of you, not directly down.
Using an overhand grip, grab the bell and tilt it towards you.
Keep your shoulders higher than your hips and your hips above your knees.
Breathe deep and pull the bell through your legs.
Exhale as you stand quickly, corkscrewing your feet into the ground, squeezing your glutes and quads. You should be in a “vertical plank”.
Meanwhile, keep your arms straight and use the momentum of your hip thrust to bring the bell in front of your chest.
The bell should hang in the air around shoulder height (remember we are going for Russian swings). Be sure not to hinge back until the bell is around hip height on its way down.
Finally, bring the bell back towards your hips by hinging.