How to do a kettlebell swing properly, according to a fitness trainer

Posted by for Strength

Nail this move for an effective full body workout. 

If you’ve got a kettlebell at home, then chances are you’ve tried to swing it. It’s one of the most easily associated exercises with this piece of equipment, and for good reason too: kettlebell swings are one of the most functional movements you can do for your body.

It’s been proven to improve maximum and explosive muscle strength (in other words, how strong and powerful you are) and increase those hormones involved in muscle adaptations, helping you build more mass.

“You can work everything quite hard with just that one bit of kit,” says Pennie Varvarides, strength and nutrition coach. “This move is your foundation for any other kettlebell exercise, and once you learn how to do it you can move onto other fun moves like cleans and snatches.”

“The other beauty of this move is that it doesn’t matter what weight you have – it can be done with high reps for more of a cardio exercise, or you can work with a heavier weight for low reps,” Pennie adds.

There are different variations of the kettlebell swing, including the single arm swing and American swing (where the kettlebell is bought all the way up over head), but we will be focusing on the traditional Russian kettlebell swing.

What muscles do kettlebell swings work?

They are a full body move, so lots of muscles will be worked. These include:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstring
  • Quads
  • Traps
  • Shoulders
  • Core
  • Forearms
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Mistakes to avoid during the kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing does work your arms, but it’s a mistake to perform the kettlebell swing by pulling from your upper body. “Think of your arms as hooks, rather than the mechanism for which the weight is going to move,” says Pennie.

Another mistake is flexing your spine, rather than hinging through the hips “the difference is that, in a hinge, your back remains neutral. You should fold down,” says Pennie. If you’re struggling to hinge properly, or experiencing pain through the low back, Pennie suggests perfecting your hinge by practicing deadlifts before trying to kettlebell swing.  

Not bracing through your core properly is also common in this move. “It’s really important that while you’re relaxing your shoulders and your arms, you’re engaging your abs,” says Pennie. “If you don’t, it could lead to hyperextension at the top of the move. You want to finish at the top of the move with your body in a straight line rather than a curved spine.”  

How to do a kettlebell swing

  1. Start with your feet about hip width apart (but play with this positioning depending on how long your legs are and how wide your kettlebell is – you want to avoid hitting your legs during the swing)
  2. Standing in your upright position, holding the kettlebell between your legs with both hands, relax your shoulders.
  3. Push your hips back, allowing the weight to drop between your legs. Keep knees soft, so they’re not locked out.
  4. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, and push your hips forwards to stand back up.
  5. All of the power should come from the momentum in your glutes. The movement is a hinge, so you’re pushing your hips back, and then you’re pushing your hips forwards.

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).