The kettlebell swing is an explosive/ballistic exercise with a lot of benefits, including power improvement, strength, muscular endurance, posture, balance burn a ton of calories, making swings great for fat loss.
Swings can be easily integrated into any pre-existing workout regimen. You don’t have to ditch your current routine, simply add swings to reap the benefits.
Slip swings into a simple conditioning circuit with bodyweight exercises (calisthenics, crawling, etc) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difficult and training effect.
Further down, I’ll share a few workouts to get you started.
Very little space is required to swing a kettlebell, making it great for the home gym or travel.
2-3 high rep kettlebell swing workouts per week will do wonders for fat loss while minimizing muscle loss.
Kettlebell swings do a great job of creating a lean and muscular appearance over time.
I’ll talk a little more about using high repetition kettlebell swing workouts below.
The number of swing variations also a major highlight.
Exploring swing variations can change the training stimulus, train rotation, work coordination to a higher degree, and keep workouts fresh.
Swings are a top choice to invest time (and money) into learning, practicing, and progressing over time.
Benefits of Kettlebell Swings
Total body power development
Improving work capacity and conditioning
Impressive calorie burn (accelerating fat loss)
Perfect for the home gym, travel, outside workout
Comparable to running for building fitness
Simple learning curve
[Buyer beware: Swings aren’t a miracle, don’t expect immediate results from 1-2 workouts. It doesn’t work like that.]
The kettlebell swing works a lot of muscles on each and every rep.
Swings are a ballistic (explosive) pendulum-like exercise that hammers the hamstrings, glutes, core, forearm, and back muscles all in one shot.
To maximize power training, turn your focus on pulling the kettlebell through the legs explosively and “pop” the hips forward into an extension on every rep.
Make sure the kettlebell appropriately weighted. Swinging a kettlebell that is too light will not provide enough of a challenge for the powerful muscles of the posterior chain. Explore different weights and be sure to increase the weight when it’s necessary.
Calorie Burn and Fat Loss
I really want to avoid going overboard with the potential fat loss benefits associated with kettlebell swings.
For me, it’s not fair to label any exercise as being SUPREME to others for burning fat.
And the fact is, nutrition you talk to the nutritionists, exercise and there are too many other factors influencing the amount and speed of losing body fat.
That being said, kettlebell swings burn a significant number of calories and can make a nice contribution to fat loss.
The big takeaway, as it pertains to fat loss, is that kettlebell swings recruit a lot of muscles, and the work really adds up (calorie burn) if performed for multiple sets.
A kettlebell swing focused workout could burn up to 150 calories in 12 minutes.
One study, the study that every single article on the internet likes to reference, demonstrated up to 400 calories in an hour.
I wouldn’t advise anything to perform just one exercise for an hour. It’s too much.
Kettlebell swings burn a lot of calories because they work a large number of muscles.
In general, the more muscles working during an exercise, the larger the calorie burn of that particular exercise across time.
Thousands of people have experienced amazing aesthetic transformations (in addition to performance gains) by adding kettlebell swings to their workout.
Kettlebell swings condition the core in a really unique way.
During each rep, the hips catapult the kettlebell up the arc of motion, while the lats pull the kettlebell back down.
A fully active kettlebell swing hammers the core muscles, particularly while pulling the kettlebell back down through the arc of motion. Actively reversing the motion at the apex of the swing hits the core muscles good.
While the kettlebell swing might not deliver the same muscle burn (mostly due to lack of time under tension) through the mid-section (like Turkish Get Ups, L-Sits, or Dragon Flags), the core muscles are getting a solid dose of stress.
Scroll up and reference the first photo in this blog post.
The core gets a workout during swings, no question.
Kettlebell swings are amazing for training power and explosiveness.
The velocity component to kettlebell swings is a key ingredient to its effectiveness for improving power.
Kettlebell swings can improve strength, but they are probably best thought of as an enhancer of strength.
Swings serve as a supplement to strength exercises like deadlifts and squat.
Muscular endurance is the ability to produce sub-maximal muscle contractions for extended periods of time. Moderate to high rep kettlebell swings SHINE for building muscular endurance.
Other notable athletic benefits include balance and coordination.
Perfect for the Home Gym
Swings require very little space, making them PERFECT for a home gym workout.
Nobody’s home gym is a perfect space. You work with what you’ve got. And that’s fine because kettlebell swings shine in imperfect spaces.
Kettlebell swings are a front to back pendulum exercise, so the clearance needed to swing is minimal.
Reach your arms out in front, then reach your arms behind your body. If you didn’t touch anything, you’re good to perform swings in that space, no matter where it is.
Swings reign supreme for home workouts because overhead clearance is not a factor. The swing range of motion rarely rises above sternum height.
I’ve swung a kettlebell in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, etc.
Being able to perform swings almost anywhere decreases the likelihood of missing a workout due to environmental constraints.
Consistency is the gasoline that drives results.
Kettlebells require very little space for training and storage and open doors to a ton of high-quality resistance training options.
Great for Travel Workouts
Traveling? Pack your kettlebell.
Off-setting the long hours spent driving with active mobility training and a quality swing workout can unwind time spent sitting.
Normally, people rely on bodyweight exercise or running while traveling.
The kettlebell can add a new dimension to the usual travel workout.
Kettlebell swings integrate really well with bodyweight or suspension trainer exercise and can boost the training effect.
Or, make a workout by combining swings with other time-tested exercises like presses, rows, squats, snatches, cleans, lunges, or Turkish Get Ups.
Note: Kettlebells aren’t ideal for air travel because of weight and having to lug it around the airport.
Listen to Joe Da Sena talk about this travel habits with his 20kg kettlebell on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.
For people who want to train hard, but need to limit high impact activities for one reason or another, kettlebell swings are a great solution.
Kettlebell swings are a low-impact exercise that can deliver a potent cardiovascular training effect similar to running, accordig to this study.
The subjects in the study swung extremely light kettlebells (in my opinion) and were still able to generate a aerobic training effect comparable to running.
Low impact activities that have a high energy cost/metabolic demand can be great for a lot of people.
Simple to Learn
For benefits, kettlebell swings are easy to learn.
Hike and Hinge
Hike the kettlebell between the legs, hinge and load the hips, shoulders stay higher than the hips.
Pull the kettlebell through legs from the back to the front of the body, “root” the feet firmly to the ground as the bell arcs upward.
Float the kettlebell as it reaches the apex of the swing.
Rinse and repeat.
- Avoid “lifting” the kettlebell or squatting the kettlebell. The best way to avoid lifting the kettlebell is to choose a weight you cannot lift. People can muscle up lighter weight. When the kettlebell is too heavy for muscling, you’re forced to power it up with hip action. Avoid squatting by practicing the kettlebell deadlift, which has very similar mechanics to the swing. The swing is a hip hinge, not a squat.
Kettlebell Swing Variations
Kettlebell swings have a number of awesome variations to keep workouts fresh and challenging.
The three most common swing variations are:
The exercises above are ranked in order of learning importance. Always start and train the 2-hand swing hard.
Once you’re acclimated to the basic three, explore other swing variations.
Hybrid swing variations:
Dynamic Forward and Lateral Single Arm Swings
Single Arm Swing and Catch
Staggered Stance Single Arm Swings
Band Resisted Swings Traveling Swings
The staggered stance single-arm swings are a personal favorite.
Shift body weight to the opposite leg for a more aggressive loading stimulus on each rep and the rotational component of this swing variation is evident.
With a few different weight kettlebells, switching up the swing variations throughout the workout becomes a refreshing approach and a great way to train.
Creating Workouts with Kettlebell Swings
Creating a workout using kettlebell swings is simple.
Kettlebell swings can be performed in an isolated fashion without any other exercises or can be paired with other movements to create a 2-3 exercise circuit, building up to a complex style workout where 6-8 exercises are performed.
Kettlebell ONLY Workout
Grab a kettlebell and swing it for 10 reps.
After the 10th rep, stand over the kettlebell, don’t move.
Rest for 30-45 seconds.
Complete 10 total sets.
Aim for 20 total sets.
This can serve as a workout finisher or as the workout. Don’t let the simplicity fool you.
Kettlebell swings don’t have to be THE ONLY exercise in the workout.
You can increase a workout’s impact by adding other exercises to make a circuit.
1a) Clean to Overhead Press
2a) Goblet Squat
3a) Bent Over Rows
5a) Kettlebell Swings
Amplify the Training Effect Using Cardio Machines
Mixing kettlebell swings with other equipment, cardio machines, bodyweight or accessory lifts is a great way to amplify the training effect of the workout.
Most of these workouts are metabolic resistance training workouts.
1a) Row, SkiErg or Airbike x 1-minute effort
2a) 15 Kettlebell Swings
3a) 15 Bodyweight Push-Ups
Rest for 60-75 seconds, repeat for 6-8 rounds.
Kettlebells (not just kettlebell swings) pair with cardio machines really well.
The effort on the cardio machine can be high intensity, but it doesn’t have to be. Not all cardio training needs to redline heart rate to have benefits.
Several days per week, I put in 60+ minutes of steady-state cardio on the air bike. During the workout, I like to break up the monotony of riding with kettlebell swings and/or hip thrusts.
Performing kettlebell swings saves your ass from falling asleep on the bike, puts you back in the standing position while delivering a potent training stimulus to the posterior chain.
Finish the swings and start riding again.
SkiErg is anterior dominant and kettlebell swings are posterior dominant. Combining the two creates a non-competing, total-body training session.
I love alternating between 8-10 heavy kettlebell swings and 100m-150m SkiErg sprints, for 10 total sets
This power-endurance type training delivers a punch with explosive efforts, cardio and calorie burn using a simple and effective workout.
The rower is a supreme piece of cardio machinery on its own, but when paired up with kettlebell swings, yikes.
Here’s a simple swing/row workout…
8 rounds of:
10 Kettlebell Swings
If rowing, I do my best to accumulate at least 2000 meters in the session.
8 x 250m = 2000 meters.
My Results Using Kettlebell Swings
Earlier I mentioned my personal love of kettlebell swings, I want to share a little more about that because I think it’ll resonate with readers.
Over the years, I’ve become an advocate of kettlebell swings purely from my own aesthetic and performance improvements.
The aesthetic benefits were undeniable.
High rep kettlebell swings create a training effect unlike any traditional cardio activity (running, biking, etc). There’s more muscle engagement.
I got lean and held onto muscle, not atrophied and skinny.
Adding swings to my workout regimen improved other lifts and helped my running performance.
The key is consistency (swinging several days per week), respecting progressive loading (can’t swing the same weight forever and expect different results) mixing in other swing variations to challenge rotation, stability, and balance.
Kettlebell swings improved my power, similar to barbell cleans, but a different path of motion.
The style of the swing matters.
Adjustments can be made to kettlebell swings to elicit varying different training responses.
The weight and reps per set can dramatically change the style of the swing.
High(er) rep kettlebell swing work set is going to look and feel a little different because, at 20+ reps, we’re now dealing with muscular endurance and conditioning.
Low rep efforts are pure power training. You’re swinging that kettlebell as hard as possible, but stopping before it turns into a conditioning effort. The goal here is NOT cardio, it’s explosiveness and power.
High rep swings have diminishing returns for improving power.
Short burst swings don’t deliver the same calorie-burning effect.
Each swing style has its own advantages and benefits. It’s all about what you’re hoping to achieve from your training.
Swings remain my go-to exercise for getting sh*t done.