Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: American kettlebell swing.
If you have to buy one piece of kit, kettlebells have to be at the top of the list. You can do so many exercises with a kettlebell, from goblet squats and deadlifts to figure-of-8s and windmills – and it allows you to work up some serious strength. The most classic move, however, is the American kettlebell swing.
What exactly is an American kettlebell swing?
The American kettlebell swings involve swinging the weight between your legs and up over your head. It’s a full body move that gets every part of the body working to stabilise and move as the weight swings from floor to ceiling.
It’s great because:
- It requires one piece of equipment: You only need one kettlebell and that’s it.
- It’s a whole-body mover: By recruiting so many muscles at once, you can build serious strength from this one move.
- You can work on flexibility, balance and strength: It requires hip mobility, core strength to keep you balanced as the weight moves and strength the weight as it does so.
- It’s a key cardio move: While you can build a lot of strength from kettlebell swings, it’s primarily used or its cardio effect. Add into your strength circuit to give your heart a good workout!
- It improves posture and grip strength: Both of these are crucial for staying functional for longer. You’ve got to maintain a tight grip around the kettlebell handle as it flies into the air, while keeping the spine nice and long to avoid backache.
The key to swings is making sure that you have the right weight. Too light and you might find that it’s harder to control the movement. We recommend trying at least an 8kg kettlebell.
What muscles does the American kettlebell swing work?
A full-body move, it targets:
- Lats (side and lower back)
- Traps (upper back)
- Pecs (chest)
- Spinalis (spine)
In fact, it just about works every single muscle in the body, from the wrists to the toes.
How to do an American kettlebell swing
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Hold onto your kettlebell by the handle and bend the knees slightly.
- Keeping the back straight, draw the kettlebell into the gap between your legs, until it’s behind your knees.
- Now squeeze the glutes and push off from the hips to swing the kettlebell through the legs until it’s directly above your head. Legs and arms should be straight by this point.
- Swing back down, bending the knees as you do so to return to the starting position.
- Go again.
You should feel that the power is coming from your lower half to get the weight into the sky, and that your core and shoulders are working to stablise your body once you’re up there.
Keen to improve your form? Check out our How To library to see exactly how the experts do over 100 of the most common strength training exercises.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.
Recommended by Miranda Larbi
Move of the week: bent over row – for hitting those hard-to-reach back muscles
Move of the week: bicep curl – for arms that can lift, push and pull
Move of the week: front rack march – for a strong and stable body
Move of the week: reverse lunge – the exercise every runner needs to do