The Russian kettlebell swing is a complex and powerful exercise that works out your hamstring muscles, glutes, hips, and abdominals, and gets your heart rate up in one full swoop. You can add it into your training by placing it in a circuit with other lower body exercises. You can even work the kettlebell swing alone as a ladder or work them in intervals to get a great workout! However, making sure you have proper form with the kettlebell swing is crucial, so check out these instructions on how to perform the kettlebell swing appropriately and check in with a certified trainer to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly.
The kettlebell swing is a hinge exercise, similar to a deadlift, in which your hips are above your knees and your shoulders are above your hips. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs and then use the power in your glutes and hamstrings to drive your hips forward so that the kettlebell floats up to your chest height.
Your butt should shoot backward as the kettlebell swings between your legs, not down towards the ground like a squat position.
To begin preparing for the kettlebell swing, start by finding your hinge position. Place your hands on your knees and have a slight bend in your knees. Keep a nice arch in your back and make sure your hips are still above your knees and your shoulders are still above your hips. Once you’ve found that position, memorize it- that’s about as low as you should be going during the backswing of the kettlebell swing.
Second, begin to practice the motion without the weight. Start from the top, imagining that you have a kettlebell in your hands, and that it is floating in front of you at chest height. You should be standing tall with your knees locked out (no bend in the knees) and you should feel a lot of tension in your glutes and abdominal muscles, as this will help protect your lower back.
Your arms should be relaxed, and you can have a slight bend in the elbows, as this movement is lower body driven and the kettlebell shouldn’t be pulled back and forth with your arms. Allow your arms to start coming down, imagining as if the kettlebell is starting to swing back between your legs.
Stay in your upright position with lots of tension in your glutes and abdominals until you feel your forearms make connection with your midsection. Once you feel that connection, that’s your cue to then sit back into your hinge position as if the kettlebell has now swung back between your legs. Then, use the power of your glute and hamstring muscles to drive your hips forward and shoot your arms back up to chest height, just as if you had a kettlebell in your hands.
Practice this motion a few times to make sure you feel comfortable with the mechanics. Again, you arms should be relaxed, there should be lots of tension in your glutes and abdominals at the top position. You shouldn’t start to hinge backward until you feel your forearms make connection with your midsection, and you should sit your butt backward in a hinge, not down into a squat.
Once you’re comfortable, grab a light kettlebell (start with 20-25lbs) and practice this motion. Focus on driving the kettlebell up in front of your body with your hips, and allowing gravity to bring it back down, ultimately bringing you back into your hinge position. Your arms shouldn’t feel like they are doing any of the weight.
Check in with your position in front of a mirror - make sure you have a nice arch in your back in the back swing and make sure you can feel your glutes and hamstring muscles engaged.
If you can comfortably do the kettlebell swing for 10 repetitions without feeling winded and without feeling anything in your lower back, grab a kettlebell that’s 2.5-5lbs heavier. If you feel winded after performing 10 repetitions and don’t feel anything in your lower back, you’ve got a great weight to begin working with. If you feel anything in the lower back, drop the weight and practice the position in front of a mirror. Make sure you hit all of those touch points previously mentioned, and then once you feel more comfortable, grab a kettlebell that is 2.5-5lbs lighter than what you were just working with and retest the motion.
Check out this video for a visual guide:
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit & Fourth Photo Credit : wavebreakmedia/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Smolina Marianna/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com