How To Do a Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebell swings offer an incredible range of benefits. As CA personal trainer Elizabeth Harris says, “How often do you find a calorie-burning cardio workout that doesn’t require you to move your feet? Or one that strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, hips, core, back and shoulders, all at the same time?”
While the kettlebell swing looks simple, there’s a lot going on. This movement is all about the hip hinge, so to do it safely, it’s crucial to first understand proper form.
Taking the time to master the hip hinge is well-worth it: It means a stronger, healthier back and a lower risk of injuring yourself, whether in the gym or daily life. Plus, it helps you build a strong foundation to perform kettlebell swings (and so many other moves) with full confidence.
The hip hinge
Understanding the hip hinge isn’t just relevant to strength training movements like the k-bell swing. It’s also an important functional movement that allows you to bend over and pick something up without hurting yourself.
The purpose of the hip hinge is build a strong, resilient posterior chain (aka, backside). Elizabeth recommends practicing in front of a wall to build your muscle memory. Essentially, you’re aiming to tap the wall behind you with your butt while keeping a neutral spine.
- Stand about three inches in front of a wall, with your feet shoulder distance apart (you may need to adjust depending on your height) and toes pointing slightly outward.
- Place your hands on your hips. This is helpful because there’s a tendency to bend from the lower back, instead of the hips.
- Push your hips back so your butt touches the wall, with a soft (but not excessive) bend in the knees. Keep your back neutral and the weight in your heels.
- Push your hips forward to return to your start position, squeezing your glutes at the top and standing tall.
As you repeat this movement, start to add power by driving your hips forward. Remember: The point is to unlock the power in your hips, not your back, knees or arms. You can also step farther away from the wall to find your full hip hinge depth (depending on your hamstring flexibility).
- Keep a neutral spine.
- Tuck your chin. Imagine a tennis ball under your chin, or try to focus on a single spot about four feet ahead of you.
- Find a soft bend in the knees.
- Keep the weight in your heels.
- Round your spine.
- Bend from the lower back. It’s all in the hips!
- Bend your knees too much. Again, it’s worth shouting from the rooftop: We’re generating power in the hips.
- Thump the wall with your entire back (just your butt should touch).
- Lean too far backward or forward.
- Forget about your core! Keep it engaged the entire time to protect your back.
The kettlebell swing
A solid hip hinge is crucial to performing the kettlebell swing, so it’s important that you feel confident with your hip hinge first and foremost. Practice good form in your daily life too, like when you bend over to pick something up, to ingrain it into your muscle memory.
If you’re totally new to the kettlebell, Elizabeth recommends starting with 15 lbs. for women and 25 lbs. for men. You want a weight that’s heavy enough to build power and momentum so that the kettlebell isn’t flying higher than your chest.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder distance, toes pointed slightly out. Your kettlebell should be on the ground about an arm’s length away.
- Reach down and grab the kettlebell with both hands.
- With a flat back and soft bend in your knees, use your hip hinge to hike it back through your legs.
- Use that momentum to drive your hips forward and stand tall, aiming to swing the kettlebell to chest height (it’s okay if it’s lower).
- Allow the kettlebell to swing back through your legs.
- One rep complete! Continue to drive through your hips and heels to repeat.
It’s important to remember that the kettlebell swing is not a squat. It’s all about the hip hinge. It’s also not a time to call on your upper body strength. This move is powered by your posterior chain, and your arms are just there to keep the swinging motion under control.
- Keep a neutral spine.
- Engage your abdominals and glutes.
- Keep your shoulders rolled back.
- Swing the kettlebell above your chest.
- Round your back.
- Over-bend your knees.
- Use your arms or shoulders to lift the weight.
When performed correctly, kettlebell swings build total-body strength and power. If you want professional expertise adding kettlebells to your workout routine, CA’s personal training programs are here for you. We have more than 30 skilled trainers across three fitness clubs who can help you work toward your strongest, healthiest self.