This is your one-stop guide to the infamous Russian kettlebell swing. A fantastic exercise to add to any workout routine, we're here with all the info you need on why you should be doing it, how to do it properly, and top tips for maximising results.
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Benefits of the Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebell swings are initiated with a powerful hip thrust using your glutes and hamstring muscles. Each movement is short and powerful and therefore can increase your overall power in performance; great for triathletes and runners.
Strengthen your core without crunches
The abdominal muscles remain engaged throughout this movement to stabilise you, giving them a great workout in a functional way. Crunches are good at strengthening your abs in an isolated way, but kettlebell swings can strength the entire core as part of a full body movement.
Burn a lot of calories
Combining weight training with power training takes your heart rate through the roof and training at this kind of high intensity will have a massive calorie burning effect as well as creating EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption), meaning you continue to burn calories even after the activity has finished.
Develop hip flexibility
Our hips are fragile, so working on movements which develop hip hinge strength can help to prevent injuries and replacements in later life. The kettlebell swing will work your glutes and other muscles surrounding the hips as well as keeping them supple.
Condition your lower back
When performed correctly, the kettlebell swing helps develop strength in the back whilst carrying a load. If the lower back immediately aches when swinging, it’s usually the first signal of poor form, although it could be injury or many other issues. Increasing the strength in your lower back can reduce back ache in everyday life as well as improving your posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day.
Muscle pulls against the bone which not only builds muscle but also strengthens the bone, thereby increasing your bone density which is important for staying healthy as we age. As well as burning more calories than fat, the more muscle you have the better chance you have of having a high metabolism.
Build cardiovascular endurance without a treadmill
The high speed and duration of kettlebell swings elevates your heart rate continuously throughout the exercise like regular cardio, so you can skip the treadmill.
Improve coordination and focus
Swinging a heavy object in front of your face requires considerable coordination and concentration. Working on kettlebell swings will work your mind just as much as your body and will help to develop the areas of the brain that communicate between brain and body.
How to: Russian Kettlebell Swing
For the Russian kettlebell swing, we only swing the bell in line with our shoulders; other variations see the kettlebell swing all the way above the head and this is commonly seen in sports such as CrossFit. When the bell is taken above the head it becomes an American swing.
- Place the kettlebell about 30 cm in front of you on the ground and stand with a wide stance. Feet just outside your shoulders with your knees slightly bent.
- Bend at the hips to reach down for the kettlebell with bot hands, keeping your back straight.
- In one swift movement, lift the kettlebell as you thrust your hips forward, as your hips reach full extension the kettle bell should swing in line with your shoulders.
- As you allow the bell to swing back down return to your start position before firing up for the next swing.
Top Tips For The Kettlebell Swing:
- Keep the motion fluid so you don’t stop between reps.
- Thrust with the hips, do not arch with your back.
- Don’t drag the kettlebell up, it should be the force of your hips causing it to travel, not your arms dragging it upwards.
- Breathe out as you thrust the bell forward.
- Practice makes perfect!
What is the difference between a Russian Kettlebell Swing and an American Kettlebell Swing?
This one is a big debate in the world of Kettlebell training and there are arguments for why either exercise is better.
The Russian swing uses explosive power hinging at the hips to take the bell to shoulder height before swinging back to the start position. The American swing take this one step further, forcing the swing all the way up above your head.
“We don’t do half rep pull-ups, we don’t do half rep squats, and we don’t do half rep push-ups. If there is a natural range of motion to any movement we like to complete it. To do otherwise seems unnatural.” - Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit
They have gone so far as to call the original Russian Swing a “half rep”. This is a difficult argument to make, as taking the bell over the head can lead to arching the back and has the potential to impinge the shoulder joint as there is the potential for flexion beyond the natural range of movement, at the moment when the bell passes the ears you are at most risk as it would be easy for the bell to continue moving passed the desired angle.