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Here’s How to Do a Kettlebell Swing

This is an excerpt from Kettlebell Strength Training Anatomy by Michael Hartle.

Single Kettlebell Two-Hand Swing, Inside Legs


  1. Place your feet about a foot (0.3 m) behind the kettlebell. Take a shoulder-width stance behind the kettlebell with your toes pointed slightly outward.
  2. Keeping the hips above the knees and below the shoulders, grip the kettlebell handle with both hands, placing your body into a hip-hinge position. You should feel tension in your hamstrings. Tilt the handle toward you, allowing it to become an extension of your arms.
  3. Grip the ground with your toes; tighten your latissimi dorsi, abdominal muscles, and your grip; and hike pass the kettlebell back between your legs without changing your hip-hinge position. Target the kettlebell to the small triangle above your knees.
  4. Stand up with the kettlebell until you are fully erect, squeezing your gluteal muscles hard, pulling your kneecaps up strongly, and bracing your abdominal muscles hard. The kettlebell will swing up to approximately your chest level.
  5. Once the kettlebell starts descending, use your latissimus dorsi muscles to pull it down. Keep your vertical plank position until the last moment, and then suddenly perform a hip hinge, continuing to bring the kettlebell between your legs near the top of the small triangle. (Think of this movement as getting out of the way of the kettlebell.) Doing this will keep the kettlebell in the small triangle between your legs during your hip hinge.
  6. This is a ballistic exercise. Immediately go into the next repetition.

Muscles Involved

Primary: Erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis), gluteus maximus, hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris), latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transversus abdominis

Secondary: Trapezius, rhomboids, quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius), gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, forearms (wrist flexors, finger flexors)

Anatomic Focus

Hand spacing: Place both hands next to each other on the handle of the kettlebell.

Grip: Use a double overhand grip (pronate both hands). Try to break the handle, thereby strongly activating the latissimus dorsi.

Stance: Position the legs approximately one foot (0.3 m) behind the kettlebell and shoulder-width apart. Angle the toes slightly outward.

Trajectory: Keep your elbows straight on the upswing and the handle of the kettlebell horizontal. The swing is a horizontal projection of force at the top.

Range of motion: Keeping your arms straight, hike the kettlebell back between your legs, aiming for the small triangle above your knees. Pretend that you are playing American football and are snapping the ball to a friend 10 to 15 yards (9-14 m) behind you. Keep your hip-hinge position the same while hiking the kettlebell. When you have reached the end of the hike, stand up quickly. Your toes will be rooted to the ground, your kneecaps pulled up, your gluteal muscles squeezed, and your abdominal and latissimus dorsi muscles strongly engaged. As in the kettlebell deadlift, the erector spinae, abdominal muscles, and latissimus dorsi muscles will help to stabilize and straighten the spine while the gluteus maximus and hamstrings generate hip extension. Your spine should be straight and stiff throughout the movement. Antishrug your shoulders, further activating your latissimi dorsi. Do not overextend your spine.


Dead Stop Swing (Power Swing)
This variation is performed as detailed in the single kettlebell two-hand swing, inside legs except that every rep starts and stops on the ground. This exercise is very powerful and explosive and is generally done for three to five repetitions per set. It can be performed with either one or two hands on a kettlebell. It is better performed inside your legs. It can be used to improve your hike back between your legs at the start or as a standalone exercise.

More Excerpts From Kettlebell Strength Training Anatomy