If you’re wondering where do kettlebell swings target, this article answers your question. In addition to outlining the primary muscles engaged, we’ll also quickly cover the benefits of kettlebell swinging.
As well as assessing the target muscle groups and fitness benefits, you’ll also receive a kettlebell swinging crash course. Below I’ve outlined the key techniques for those that are looking to master this multifaceted exercise. The tutorial features a video demonstration so you can see the swing in action.
Following the exercise tutorial, you’ll find a workout that has been specifically designed around the kettlebell swing. So, after learning where do kettlebell swings target, and how to perform the perfect swing, you’ll have the opportunity to practice your swinging technique while engaging those muscles.
And finally, the article concludes with three frequently asked questions. The FAQ covers a diverse range of questions from the effectiveness of kettlebells to getting started.
But let’s start with that first question . . .
Where do kettlebell swings target
The kettlebell swing activates all the muscles of the posterior chain. From top to bottom, those muscles include:
But that’s only a list of the primary muscles that the kettlebell swing targets. Because the action of swinging involves multiple joints, and because it covers a wide range of movement, a staggering number of other muscles are engaged during the exercise.
Where else do kettlebell swings target?
Some of these secondary muscle groups help to assist the lift. For example, the anterior deltoid is actively involved in maintaining momentum in the bell once it passes the hips.
Other muscles stabilise our posture and prevent us from being pulled off balance. The core, quads and many ‘synergists’ serve this function. Honestly, the swing is such a functional exercise that it would be easier to answer the question where don’t kettlebell swings target?
Benefits of kettlebell swings
The first exercise that features in Pavel Tsatsouline’s The Russian Kettlebell Challenge is the swing. As well as bequeathing the trainer with a wealth of fitness benefits, ‘the swing is a great way to learn your way around a kettlebell.’
Unlike classical kettlebell exercises – cleans, snatches, and the fabled long cycle – swinging is comparatively simple. Thus, it’s the perfect exercise to get acquainted with what is an unconventional training tool.
But as for benefits, Tsatsouline cites an early weightlifter aficionado who swore by the swing. This single exercise, David Willoughby stated, ‘brings into action and develops practically every group of muscles on the back of the body and legs, and a good many besides,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
Build strength and burn fat with kettlebell swings
Yep, the kettlebell swing possesses the power to build strength and burn fat. These two coveted outcomes were reported by the participants of strength training legend Dan John’s 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge.
Before embarking on an Odyssey of 500 swings every day for 20 days, those intrepid swingers measured muscle mass and body fat percentage. Periodically throughout the challenge, and of course at the end, participants remeasured their physiological vitals.
Accordingly, all the swingers that successfully swung their bells 10,000 times reported the following outcomes:
Increased muscle mass
Reduction in body fat
Improved sports performance
Enhanced muscle endurance
Increased grip strength
Blistered palms and calluses to boot
So, what are you waiting for, start the 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge today!
Kettlebells swings exercise tutorial
Okay, we now know the primary and secondary muscles that kettlebell swings target. Also, we’ve had a sneak peek at the fitness benefits of kettlebell swinging.
And, if you pit yourself against the 10,000 Swing Challenge, or incorporate the swing into your general training regime, you may well bag yourself some of the benefits highlighted above.
If all that’s whet your appetite to start swinging, we now turn our attention to the exercise tutorial. What follows is an outline of the key kettlebell swing techniques. The tutorial concludes with a link to a quick video demonstration.
Kettlebell swing tutorial
Stand directly over the kettlebell, and adopt a stance a little over shoulder-width.
Keeping the back pan flat, squat down and grasp the bell with both hands.
From this position, tighten up the core before pulling it back between your legs.
When your arms pull into your groin, thrust the hips forward propelling the bell level with the shoulders.
Arrest the flight of the bell before allowing gravity to take over.
As the bell falls back between your legs, harness the energy to assist the next rep.
Watch the video demonstration.
KB swing tips
Focus on using your glutes and core to push the kettlebell forward from the hips. The most common mistake is to pull the kettlebell up using shoulder strength. This is an incorrect technique and, with even a modest weight bell, won’t be sustained for long. Compared to the glutes and core, the shoulder is a puny muscle and thus is prone to fatigue far more quickly.
Keep those eyes fixed forward throughout the exercise. Looking down at where your bell is can throw your posture out of alignment.
Use a light kettlebell to begin with. Once you’ve got the technique down, start progressing up the poods ('pood' is the name given to a 16kg KB; 24kg = 1.5 poods; and 32kg = 2 poods).
If you haven’t got access to a kettlebell, you can swing other things. For example, dumbbells, powerbags, sandbags, shopping bags, handbags . . . in short, anything with a handle.
When the kettlebell swing starts to get easy, and it will with one bell, here are three simple ways to turn up the intensity. First, start swinging with twin bells. The double kettlebell swing is a beast of an exercise that requires more than twice the strength and control to perform. Second, tether a resistance band to your kettlebell. In addition to increasing the intensity of the exercise this variation also changes the dynamic of the exercises. Third, extend the range of movement of the original swing by propelling the kettlebell above your head. Overhead swings are an explosive variation that send your heart rate through the roof. (Of course, the easiest way to make the kettlebell swing harder, if you've only got access to a single bell, it to use one arm.)
Related: Need a competition kettlebell?
Where do kettlebell swings target sweat session!
Right, you’re a master swinger and you’ve got the technique down to a tee. Terrific! Now you’re ready to take on the following fitness session.
Organised around the kettlebell swing, the circuit can promote muscular endurance and power.
In addition, because it features cardio and other resistance exercises, the circuit provides a whole-body workout.
Kettlebell swing circuit
The circuit is completely customisable and can accommodate all levels of ability and exercise experience. To expand the fitness outcomes, there are two training options to choose from.
First, after thoroughly warming up, set a timer and see how long it takes to complete the six mini circuits. This option is the more challenging of the two because, to get a good time (under 20 minutes), you must maintain high output while forgoing rest periods.
If you’d prefer a less intense workout, the second option is for you.
Instead of cycling through the exercises as you would with the circuit, here you’re applying 2 to 5 sets of 6 to 20 reps. The sets and reps numbers you select will be dictated by your fitness goals. For strength go low but use a heavy resistance. Those training for muscle endurance would do the exact opposite.
Where do kettlebell swings target | FAQ
Below I’ve answered three frequently asked kettlebell questions. In addition to the FAQ, you’ll find various links to useful kettlebell-related training tools.
But what if after reading the FAQ you still have a question concerning kettlebells? Pop it in the comments box and I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished playing with my bells.
Can kettlebells build muscle?
Kettlebells are more than capable of building muscle. If they are used frequently enough and the correct training protocol is applied, you should notice an increase in the size and definition of your musculature.
But do bear in mind, the kettlebell is a functional fitness tool that’s designed for high-volume training. Classic Girevoy Sports competitions involve 10-minute AMRAPs (as many reps as possible) and 30-minute biathlons.
Consequently, it’s rare to find a kettlebell that weighs more than 32kgs (2 poods), this being the maximum competition weight. Thus, those that want to build big muscles will be limited by the restriction of kettlebell resistance options.
Related: Build muscle with this Full-Body Kettlebell Workout
Is kettlebell training effective?
Arguably, kettlebells are one of if not the most effective forms of resistance training. Having personally dabbled in every conceivable type of exercise, I can confidently say that there is no alternative system of training that engages the body on as many levels as kettlebells. (Not convinced? Try these killer kettlebell workouts.)
As we’ve seen, even a comparatively simple exercise such as the kettlebell swing activates a staggering array of muscle groups. And as is invariably the case with kettlebell exercises, there are augmentation options which can expand the scope of physiological stimulation.
For example, the tutorial above outlines the standard swing. This exercise can be increased by swinging the kettlebell above the head. Though a seemingly minor extension, doing so doubles the original range of movement and thus requires considerably more strength and power.
Then there’s the double kettlebell swing, an advanced technique that forges a cast iron core and posterior chain. In this short overview, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the effectiveness of kettlebell training.
But don’t take my word for it. Instead, find out for yourself by following the link in the next answer.
Essential reading: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge
How to start kettlebell training?
Simple, get started on the Hungry4Fitness 6-Week Kettlebell Training Programme – it’s completely free!
Enjoyed the workout above?
Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.