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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to: Kettlebell Swings

Last weekend I officially became a certified kettlebell instructor!  I've used and enjoyed kettlebells here and there for my own training but now I can use them with clients (insert evil laugh here).

The use of kettlebells originated in Russia and have been around since the early 1700's but they didn't start gaining popularity in the US until early 2000.  In other words, kettlebells are not a fad or trendy implement.  They've been around for ages and often used by fire fighters, police officers, and military professionals in addition to fitness professionals.

Kettlebells can be a great implement for developing strength-especially in the posterior chain, increasing cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and balance and help develop core stability.  They can be a great tool for those who are short on time because many of the movements performed with kettlebells are multi-joint movements and you can quickly move from strength to cardiovascular based exercises using one or two kettlebells. This mean you can get a lot of bang for your buck with these bad boys.  Kettlebells can also be a great addition to any home gym or take-a-long tool for those who travel.  They're compact, come in one piece, and I guarantee you can get a great workout with just one.

Regardless of if you use them for the cardio or strength benefits (or both), for part of your workout or your entire workout chances are you'll perform kettlebell swings somewhere along the line. The kettlebell swing is the foundational movement of the kettlebell.  This one movement alone can combine cardio AND strength training while improving balance.  Nailing excellent form on the kettlebell swing is crucial.

But before you start swinging here are a few tips to keep in mind: 

  • Always perform a proper warm up prior to starting focusing on hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
  • Always use two hands when picking up the kettlebell.
  • Removing any jewelry may help you hold the bell more comfortably.
  • Flatter soled shoes may help you to better ground your feet while swinging.
  • If at anytime you feel your form is becoming compromised, take a break.  It's OK!
  • I'd highly recommend you spend time practicing the hip hinge without the kettlebell before starting.  
To get into position for the kettlebell swing…
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Plant your feet firmly into the ground.
  • Keep your gaze straight ahead of you.
  • Place the kettlebell 6-8 inches in front of you.
  • With a flat back, packed, tight core, hinge forward from the hips.
  • Grip the kettlebell with both hands with your fingers.  Keep a loose grip.  
  • As general guideline, women should start with 18lb (8kg) kettlebell and men with a 26lb (12kg). 
To swing…
  • Inhale deeply, keep your weight on your heels, and hike (like a football) behind you. 
  • Drive through your hips and exhale as this naturally brings the kettlebell higher.  
  • Continue swinging for desired number of reps or time.  As I mentioned above, take a break if you feel your form is becoming compromised.  
  • To end the swing, let the kettlebell passively swing forward as you place it on the ground.  
Additional tips….
  • This is NOT a squat!  It's a hip hinge.  
  • The kettlebell should stay close to your groin while swinging and not dip below your knees.
  • Keep the base of the kettlebell no higher than parallel to the floor.  If your kettlebell base is rising higher than that your may need to go up in weight. 
  • If your arms fatigue OR your feel your arms aiding the lift focus on driving through with your hips with more power.
  • Do your best to keep your feet planted and avoid rocking up onto your toes at the top of the swing.  

If all else fails, watch this quick four minute video from one of my favorite fitness professionals, Liz DiAlto.

And if you need some quick ways to sneak your new move into a workout, check out some great ideas from Girls Gone Strong.


  1. This is a perfect post for me right now because I am new to kettlebells. They are my favorite form of strength training right now and these tips will help me a lot!

  2. I love KB swings but I am still learning/getting used to it. Just a few rounds and I am beat from them! Gotta work on my core strength though bc as I had mentioned, sometimes it hurts my lower back. Great tips!