Kettlebell Swings Are Not Just For Strong People!
The kettlebell swing is not just for strong people. There are many different types of people who use them regularly. Some of these include: Crossfitters, bodybuilders, weightlifters, power lifters, military personnel and anyone else who wants to get stronger or improve their athletic performance.
They all have one thing in common – they want to increase their muscle mass and/or endurance while getting in better shape.
Kettlebell swings are great for those who do not like to train with weights, but still want to build up their strength. They’re also good for people who don’t like doing cardio because it’s easy and doesn’t require any equipment. However, if you’re looking for something that will make your workouts more challenging then kettlebell training might not be the best choice for you.
What Is A Kettlebell?
A kettlebell is a heavy dumbbell used for exercise. Most often they are made out of steel, but some are made from iron or even titanium. The most popular type of kettlebell is the Russian kettlebell. These are usually around 50 pounds (23 kg) and come in various sizes. If you’ve ever seen a professional martial artist using one, then you’ll know what I’m talking about…
Why Do People Use Kettlebells?
People choose to use kettlebells in place of traditional dumbbells because they are better for building strength and power. They also help improve your balance, coordination and agility since they require more effort than the average piece of gym equipment. Kettlebells are different from regular weights because you have to swing them instead of lifting or pressing them. This takes more core strength than you would have ever imagined.
What Muscles Do They Work?
Kettlebell swings work your entire body, especially your legs, butt and core. It mainly works your glutes and hamstrings, but also engages your entire back. The kettlebell swing is primarily a hip thrusting motion, but you can’t just thrust your hips without using your entire body to generate power. This means your back is probably taking most of the brunt, but that’s why you need to strengthen it if you want to avoid low back pain in the future.
You also use your grip strength since you’re holding on to the kettlebell handle. Your forearms get a good workout too since you’re gripping tightly to avoid dropping the weight when you thrust.
How Do You Use Them?
Kettlebells can be used for a wide variety of exercises. The most common are the two handed kettlebell swing, the one handed kettlebell swing, the kettlebell military press and the kettlebell snatch.
The Two Handed Kettlebell Swing: This is a great exercise to strengthen your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Hold the kettlebell with two hands and let it rest between your legs. Quickly thrust your hips and pull the weight up while swinging it between your legs.
Then thrust your hips and push your arms forward to send the weight upwards and let it fall back down. Do not attempt this with a weight you’re not comfortable with. Start with a lighter one and gradually move up to heavier weights.
The One Handed Kettlebell Swing: This is easier than the two handed kettlebell swing because you only have to worry about one side of your body. This one’s for your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Just hold the weight with one hand and perform the same motion as you would with two hands.
This is also a great exercise for your grip strength.
The Kettlebell Military Press: This one primarily works your shoulders and forearms. Hold the weight against your chest with straight arms and then push it up until your arms are fully extended overhead. Be careful not to hurt your elbows!
This one puts a lot of pressure on them.
The Kettlebell Snatch: This one primarily works your arms, back and traps. Hold the weight with two hands and swing it up over your head quickly. Try to get your arms in a fully extended position overhead.
Remember to never swing the weight down behind you. This takes tension off the weight and puts it on your back instead. Stop when the kettlebell is at chest level or just above and repeat.
Don’t swing the weight with your arms. Keep them still and only use your hip thrust to power the weight. This is important for two handed swings, but even more so for one handed swings.
Keep your core engaged at all times to protect your lower back.
Make sure you breathe throughout each movement. This is essential to get the most out of each rep.
Avoid swinging the weight down behind you. This can damage your back.
Holding The Kettlebell:
There are two main ways to hold the kettlebell. The “Russian style” grip is with your thumb on the same side as the rest of your fingers. This puts more emphasis on your forearms and allows you to use heavier weights, but it might be uncomfortable at first since it puts pressure on your thumb.
The “Grip Style” is with your thumb on the opposite side of the handle. This puts more emphasis on your grip and people with larger hands tend to prefer it, but you won’t be able to use as much weight.
Neither one is better than the other, it’s just a matter of personal preference. Some brands of kettlebells also come with rings around the weight for your fingers. These are optional, but some people prefer to use them since they take pressure off your fingers.
What Muscles Do You Work?
One handed swings primarily work your hips, legs and shoulders.
One handed military presses work your shoulders and core.
Two handed swings work your hips, legs, lower back and abs.
Two handed military presses mainly work your shoulders and core.
Perform each of these exercises slowly and with good form for maximum benefits. Unless you’ve had some training in this before, don’t go up in weight too fast or you might get hurt.
If you don’t have a kettlebell yet, try to find a gym that has them or buy one online. This is a great addition to your home workout routine and you’ll see great results if you stick with it.
Where To Go From Here
I mentioned these exercises to a friend of mine who is also a personal trainer and he gave a few more great advice and exercises for the kettlebell. I’ll end this article with his words of wisdom.
These are just some of the things you can do with a kettlebell. Remember to vary your routine as much as possible to avoid hitting a plateau and to work all parts of your body. Also, as with all exercises, please remember to always consult a physician before doing anything like this if you’ve never done it before.
I hope you enjoyed this article and get a lot of good workouts with your kettlebell.
Supplementary Exercises With Your Kettlebell
I’m also going to mention some exercises that can be done with kettlebells but aren’t really common knowledge.
Clean and Press:
This exercise is great for working your full body. You can do a standard clean and press, or an overhead squat followed by a press.
To do the first variation, grip the kettlebell as you would for a standard military press and pull it into your chest. Then push it straight over your head. That is one rep.
For the second variation, do a standard clean and press but pause in the squatting position before pushing it up. This puts more emphasis on your legs and hips so be careful with how much weight you use.
These can be done with one or two hands.
This is a great exercise to hit your shoulders from a different angle. To do a sots press, hold the kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest like you are going to do a shoulder press. Bend your knees and lean forward a bit so that the weight is almost totally on your heels and your upper body is over the kettlebell.
This will be your starting position.
Slowly lower the kettlebell in a arc behind your head until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Try to keep the kettlebell in line with your shoulders. Then slowly press the kettlebell back up to the original position.
Pausing the movement and using slow control, especially in the bottom position, really makes this exercise effective.
This can be done with one or two hands.
Turkish Get Ups:
These are great but they are not for beginners. Do a Google search for pictures and instructions if you are interested in this exercise because it is not in the scope of this article.
This is an exercise that will give you a great core workout and also shoulder and arm strength. Plus, it adds a little more variety to your routine. If you are interested in this exercise I suggest you get some quality instruction first.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Official blog of the RKC kettlebell swing by M Beecroft, RKC Master, M Bos, A Du Cane, A Gala… – rkcblog.dragondoor.com
Kettlebell training for basketball by T Kuivalainen – 2010 – theseus.fi