This post is about which muscles are worked by the kettlebell swing and also includes information about:
- How to choose the best kettlebells
- Correct form for kettlebell swings
- How to get the most our of your workout
Let’s get started.
Introduction to Kettlebell Swings for Muscle Building
Kettlebell swings were introduced to the US by Russian fitness expert Pavel Tsatsouline at the turn of the 21st Century. Since their introduction, the Russian kettlebell has become a staple in most gyms, including many home gyms.
You can use bells for ballistic strength training as well as for cardio training. They also come in a wide range of weights, which means that you can use them at any stage of the fitness journey and you can benefit whether you’re a beginner or experienced or user.
Kettlebells are especially popular because their design not only allows but encourages the use of multiple muscle groups. You can also use them for a host of different types of exercise, from the halo to the slingshot, but the most popular exercise is the kettlebell swing as this works the most muscles:
If you’re looking for a single piece of fitness equipment that provides a full body workout, then kettlebells are one of the best options.
The kettlebell swing is awesome, but what muscles are worked with this exercise?
Kettlebell Swing Muscles Worked
The motion of a kettlebell swing means that you will use virtually all the muscles in your body. The two-handed swing uses the hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, core, back, trapezius, shoulders, and forearms.
Muscles worked at the start of the kettlebell swing motion are your glutes, quads, and hips. As you progress through the movement, you’ll engage your core and then your shoulders and pecs.
The explosiveness of the kettlebell swing makes it ideal for strength training and muscle building, but it’s also an effective cardio training tool.
Your feet stay in the same position throughout the exercise, making it a low impact exercise that doesn’t place additional strain on the joints. The intensity means that you will feel the burn after a decent set, and with a good 30 minute workout you’ll be pouring with sweat and your heart will be racing.
It may look simple, but the Russian kettlebell swing is an intense cardio challenge that works every muscle in your body.
What Size Kettlebell Should I Start With?
One of the beauties of the kettlebell is that, apart from decent shoes and some free space, the kettlebell is really the only piece of equipment that you need.
As long as you maintain good form, you don’t have to use a heavy kettlebell (45 lbs or more), especially for cardio training. Tsatsouline advises men to start with a 35 lb kettlebell and women should start with a kettlebell of 25 lb or 15 lb.
He also advises having two additional, heavier kettlebells of 45 lbs (20kg) or more for progression and for use in some other types of kettlebell exercise.
Kettlebell swings are a dynamic workout which will leave you feeling like you’ve worked all the muscles in your legs, core, back, shoulders and arms. As the kettlebell descends from the swing, gravity ensures that it will feel a lot heavier, especially as you reach the end of your set.
Ensure Good Form
As with any exercise, but perhaps more so with a full-body kettle swing workout, good form is vital to ensure the best results.
The feet should be placed slightly wider apart than the shoulders. The toes should be turned out slightly and the knees should be pointing in the same direction. When performing the swing, all your weight should be placed on the heel and middle of the foot and should never transfer to the toes. This helps ensure that the back and buttocks are activated correctly during the exercise.
You should also keep your back straight, which does not necessarily mean vertical. You should also keep your neck and head in alignment with your back so ensure that you are always looking ahead at the horizon while performing this movement.
Use your hips to generate the power needed to perform the swing.
Thrust the hips forward as you swing the weight forward, while also clenching your buttocks. Ensure that you don’t end the movement leaning backwards: always end in a standing motion. Check out this video for how to use your hip muscles during kettlebell swings:
The height you raise the kettlebell will be determined by the amount of power you can muster from your hip thrust. You should aim to end the swing at chest height, where possible. However, the form of your hip thrust is more important than the height of the swing.
How Many Kettlebell Swings Should I Do?
The number of reps and sets you need to perform depends on your fitness level, what you’re trying to achieve, and the weight you’re using. When starting out, though, you should aim for 5 sets of 10 reps with a 30 second interval between each set.
The number of times you use a kettlebell workout depends on the intensity and difficulty of the session. Kettlebell swings work all the muscles in your body, so they are perfect for a high intensity workout.
Research suggests that shorter, high intensity sessions are highly effective for increasing strength and muscle mass, while also reducing body fat. Beginners should start with three or four 15 minute workouts and increase both the length of the workout and the number of times they work out, as they progress.
How To Intensify Your Kettlebell Workout
As you progress, you can increase the weight you use, add more sets and complete more reps. Alternatively, you can introduce one-handed swings, which instantly increases the intensity of the workout.
You can also add additional bell exercises like lunges and reverse lunges, cleans, squats, and presses.
Progressing too soon can lead to injury, but progression is important because it helps maintain gains.
If you can perform two handed swings for 60 seconds, move on to perform 60 seconds of one-handed swings on each side. Once you can do this, increase the weight and train harder.
Kettlebell Swings Muscles Worked And Other Benefits
Kettlebell swings are a super effective full body workout tool. They can work every muscle in the body and are effective for weight loss as well as explosive strength training.
They also require very little space and the intensity of the workout can be gradually increased so you continue to make the gains you’re looking for.
Have You Tried Resistance Bands?
There’s no doubting the awesomeness of kettlebells for muscle building workouts.
But sometimes you need an exercise tool which you can fit right in your pocket and which is just as effective as weights for strength training.