The foundational kettlebell movement: the swing

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

The swing is the movement that all kettlebell training is based on.  There’s a reason for this – says master kettlebell coach, Andrew Read. The swing – says Read – puts very little stress on one’s lower back so  making it a great exercise for people (who have lower back problems) to do. He also says that injury owing to overloading during the swing is quite low so if you’re too enthusiastic and try to lift more weights than is actually good for you, because the swing is dynamic in nature you won’t hurt yourself.

What muscles does the swing recruit?

During the kettlebell swing, you’ll use the following muscles:

  • Hamstrings,
  • Glutes,
  • Lower back,
  • Spinal erectors,
  • Upper back postural muscles, and
  • Forearm flexors

How to perform the swing

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell – in both hands – about
    20 cm in front of you with your arms straight. Don’t lock your elbows. This is your starting position.
  • Inhale and pull the kettlebell quickly between your legs. Ensure that tension is loaded  onto your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
  • Next, thrust your hips forward – by contracting your glutes – so that the kettlebell swings forward. While performing this movement, powerfully exhale. Your arms aren’t involved in this movement – the force comes from the hips.
  • The kettlebell should reach shoulder height and dangle there momentarily before making its way back to between your legs.
  • On the kettlebell’s downward swing, load tension on your posterior chain – in other words muscles such as your glutes, hamstrings and lower back – and repeat.


There are a number of points that you need to keep in mind when you perform the swing so that you can perform this exercise safely.

Don’t hyperextend

If you feel – during the movement – unnecessary tension in your hip flexors, you’re leaning back too far. This will put a lot of unnecessary stress on your body.

Watch your form

If your feel that your legs are becoming bowed or your back is getting rounded during the movement, this means that you’re fatiguing during the exercise and the weight you’re lifting is too heavy. Opt for a lighter kettlebell so that you can correct your form.

To ensure that you don’t fatigue quickly, make sure that your spine stays in neutral. In other words, make sure that your spine stays in its natural form and don’t put any added pressure on it.

Shoulders must be packed

Your shoulders must be tight – in other words, not relaxed – so that you can support the weight of the kettlebell during this movement.

There are loads more exercises that can be done with kettlebells and – as they burn upwards of
200 calories per workout  –  we challenge you to find an excuse not to incorporate these beauties into your fitness regime.

Sign up for Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Kettlebell Course and receive the full benefit of what being a kettlebell instructor entails.