How to Kettlebell Swing Like a Pro

Take your gains to the next level by mastering this explosive and fat-burning exercise and learning how to avoid the most common mistakes!

How to Kettlebell Swing Like a Pro
Photo by Eduardo Cano Photo Co. / Unsplash
7 min. read 2/13/2023, 7:09 PM

Due to their particular shape, kettlebells are incredibly versatile, making them a great addition to any workout routine, whether you’re looking to improve your strength, power, stability, or even your cardiovascular health and fitness!

This often-forgotten free weight offers it all, and if you want to take it a step further and also increase your stamina and explosiveness, look no further than kettlebell swings! This explosive exercise will have you sweating in no time, helping you achieve those full-body gains that you’ve been dreaming of.

To help you maximize your strength training and even your cardio sessions, we’ll help you master the kettlebell swing by guiding you step by step through the exercise. Plus, we’ll go over its benefits and even common mistakes you should avoid, so keep reading!

Why is the kettlebell swing beneficial?

While the kettlebell swing is a weighted exercise, it does much more than just improve your strength! Here are some of the main kettlebell swing benefits:

  • Full-body strength. The weight of the kettlebell combined with the dynamic movement will strengthen your whole posterior chain, including your hamstrings, hips, glutes, and core, as well as some stabilizing muscles on your back and shoulders.
  • Explosive power. The swinging movement engages muscle groups throughout your whole body in order to exert enough force to perform correctly, helping you develop your power and overall performance in other weighted exercises.
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness. Even though this is a weighted exercise, kettlebell swings get your heart pumping fast, so you can add it to your cardio workouts to increase both your cardiovascular endurance and lung capacity.
  • Fat loss. Because it can double as a cardio exercise, the kettlebell swing has the potential to burn a ton of calories in just a short amount of time, helping you achieve any weight loss goals that you might have.
  • Low impact. The kettlebell swing is considered a low-impact movement, meaning it’s friendlier to your muscles and joints than other weighted exercises, which makes it perfect for beginners or those with injuries.

How to perform a kettlebell swing correctly

When talking about the kettlebell swing, most people usually refer to the Russian version, which stops the kettlebell at eye level – and this is the one we’ll show you how to do! However, there’s also the American kettlebell swing variation, which brings the kettlebell fully overhead in a single movement.

If you’re a beginner or recovering from any injuries, you should stick to the Russian kettlebell swing since it puts a lot less strain on your muscles and joints due to the reduced range of motion. Once you master this version, you can try the American one!

That said, here’s a step-by-step on how to perform a kettlebell swing with proper form:

Get in position

  1. Choose a kettlebell that’s heavy enough for you and hold it with both hands in an overhand grip so that your arms are pointing down and your palms are facing your body.
  2. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to make room for the swinging kettlebell. Your shoulders should be down and back to avoid rounding your back and straining your spine.

Begin the movement

  1. Engage your core and begin bending at the hips as you lower the kettlebell, making sure the bend at your knees doesn’t go past your toes to keep your posterior chain engaged.
  2. As you lower your torso, keep your back and your arms straight and bring the kettlebell in between your legs, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings and glutes and a light tension on your back.

Swing the kettlebell up

  1. Keeping your core engaged and without missing a beat, explosively thrust your hips forward as you swing the kettlebell upward with the force of your posterior chain, bringing your torso back to the initial standing position.
  2. At the top of the movement, your body should be upright and your arms fully extended in front of you with the kettlebell at about eye level (or slightly lower) as you squeeze all working muscles.
  3. Let the kettlebell swing back down and between your legs, as you hinge at the hips again, and repeat for the desired count. Remember to keep your back and arms straight and your neck in a neutral position throughout the full exercise.

And that’s it, you’ve successfully performed a kettlebell swing! Make sure to inhale as you go down and exhale as you swing up, keeping a constant flow of movement at all times.

Common mistakes to avoid

Even when you think you’re doing everything right, there are certain details that even the most advanced lifters can forget during their session. When it comes to kettlebell swings, these are the most common mistakes you should try to avoid:

Rounding your back

As we mentioned in the step-by-step guide, keeping a straight back during kettlebell swings is crucial. This is because your back muscles are in charge of protecting your spine, which can become strained if your back muscles aren’t properly engaged, risking an injury.

To avoid rounding your back, always make sure your shoulders are down and back and your neck is in a neutral position, aligned with your spine. Keeping proper form will not only keep your spine safe but also help you perform the exercise with more force!

Swinging with your arms

While the kettlebell swing is considered a full-body movement, your posterior chain should still be the main driving force. This means that, when swinging the kettlebell up, you should use the force created by your hip thrust to lift the weight, not just your arms.

Of course, your arms play an important role during this exercise, but it’s mostly to keep the weight aligned and balanced. So make sure most of the explosive power is coming from your hips, core, and the back of your legs, not your arms!

Bending your knees too much

This is a kettlebell swing, not a goblet squat, so avoid squatting down when bringing the weight between your legs! This will only switch the focus from your glutes and hamstrings to your quads, which isn’t the purpose of this movement.

To avoid this, make sure the bend at your knees is very light, without letting your knees go past your toes, so you can prioritize the hip hinge movement instead.

Leaning back at the top

At the top of the movement, your body should be upright with your arms extended in front of you holding the weight. If you overextend your hips and lean back, you’ll put a lot of unnecessary strain on your lower back.

Keep the movement controlled by making sure your torso stays rigid at the top, this way you’ll be able to keep better control over the weight and keep the target muscles engaged.

Swinging too fast

Lastly, if you want to make sure you’re performing your kettlebell swing with the best form possible, you should avoid swinging it too fast when going upward. If you prioritize speed over form, you’ll place more focus on your upper body as you try to generate more force in less time.

The movement should be swift but not rushed, going with the flow of the weight instead of pushing it to go faster so you can keep the focus on your posterior chain.

Grab a kettlebell and start making gains at the gym

…Or at home! That’s the great thing about free weights: you can get a full workout wherever you are. Whether you’re at your favorite gym, in your backyard, or at the nearby park, kettlebells and other free weights can give you the challenge that your body needs. Just remember to pick the right weight for you to avoid injuries!

Looking for more kettlebell workout ideas to add to your routine?

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