What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?
Kettlebell swings were introduced to the US by Russian fitness expert Pavel Tsatsouline at the turn of the 21st Century.
Since their introduction, Russian kettlebells have become a familiar sight in many gyms and a popular choice for home workouts. You can use kettlebells for ballistic strength training as well as for cardio. They also come in a wide range of weights, which means that you can use them at any stage of your fitness journey and can benefit whether you’re an experienced or novice 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 all kinds of different exercises, from the halo to the slingshot, but the most popular exercise is the one that works the most muscles.
If you’re looking for a single piece of fitness equipment that promotes a full body workout, then kettlebells are a great choice, and the kettlebell swing is the most effective exercise. But the question on many people’s lips is, “what muscles do kettlebell swings work?”, and that’s what I want to answer in this post.
What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?
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. At the start of the motion you engage your glutes, quads, and hips. As you progress through the motion, you will use your core and then your shoulders and pecs.
The explosiveness of the kettlebell swing makes it ideal for strength training and for cardio training. While 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, it is also a whole-body workout.
The intensity means that you will feel the burn after a decent set, and with a good 30 minute workout you will be sweating profusely, your heart will be pumping faster, and oxygenated blood will be coursing through your veins. It may look simple, but the Russian kettlebell swing is an intense cardio workout.
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 bell, especially for cardio training. Tsatsouline advises men to start with a 35lb bell and women should start with an 18lb bell. He also advises having two additional, heavier, bells for progression and for use in some other types of kettlebell exercise. 35 pounds might not sound like a lot of weight to some, but swings are a dynamic workout. As the kettlebell descends from the swing, gravity ensures that the bell 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.
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 length and frequency of your kettlebell workouts depends on the intensity and difficulty of the session. Kettlebell swings are a full body workout, and whether you are training to increase strength or stamina, or even to lose weight, research suggests that shorter sessions are more effective.
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. With this schedule, you will see improvements after about a month.
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. 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 improvements. 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 And Their Benefits
Kettlebell swings are an effective full body workout. They utilize virtually every muscle in the body and they are effective for weight loss as well as explosive strength training. They also require very little equipment, and the intensity of the workout can be increased so that you continue to make the gains you’re looking for.
See our guide to the best kettlebells, and best adjustable kettlebells, to help you find the best equipment for your new workout.
If you’re looking for more home workout equipment be sure to check out our range of resistance bands.