Discovering the Impact of Kettlebell Swings
Today, let’s dive deep into the phenomenon often referred to as the “what the hell effect” of one of the most effective exercises – the kettlebell swing. It’s likely that at some point, you may have searched for the best exercise for a specific goal. What you usually find is that there isn’t a single optimal exercise for everything – it’s unique for each person.
A successful training regimen entails a variety of exercises. Regardless of how effective an exercise is, it’s crucial to rotate your routine every so often to keep your body stimulated in new ways to keep enhancing your fitness level. That said, some exercises, like the kettlebell swing, hit many key points in fitness. Due to its impact, the kettlebell swing has been dubbed with the “what the hell effect” – a phrase signifying the boost in athletic performance experienced by many after incorporating this exercise into their program.
Why is Kettlebell Swing So Effective?
When performed correctly, the kettlebell swing can boost your explosive power, strengthen your core, build a strong posterior chain, and correct hip and lower back issues caused by prolonged sitting – a common modern-day issue. The explosive hip hinge translates to almost any athletic endeavour, whether it’s jumping higher, sprinting faster, or lifting heavier. The muscles used and the way the kettlebell swing is performed are optimal for enhancing all these areas in various sports or exercises.
The anti-flexion aspect of the swing requires you to resist against the weight as it returns to your hips, teaching you to maintain a strong and neutral spine while activating your core muscles correctly. This helps with resisting arching the back during other movements, which is key to building real functional core strength and endurance.
When it comes to burning calories, the kettlebell excels.
The kettlebell swing is considered resistance cardio. You can perform it for high reps as a cyclical movement, but with resistance, you can work the muscles and cardiovascular system simultaneously, making it a significant calorie burner and a great way to accomplish more in less time.
Kettlebell Swings: Muscles Targeted
The “What the Hell Effect” in the context of kettlebell swings refers to the broad range of benefits and impacts this exercise can have on the body. Kettlebell swings are known for their efficiency in stimulating multiple muscle groups and promoting overall fitness improvement. The term suggests that the positive effects of kettlebell swings extend beyond expectations, leading to enhanced strength, cardiovascular endurance, and functional fitness. Essentially, it captures the idea that the benefits of kettlebell swings may pleasantly surprise you, providing a holistic impact on your physical well-being.
With that in mind, let’s recall what muscles are targeted by the kettlebell swing before we dive deeper into how to perform the movement and a quick workout engineered to let you experience the “what the hell effect” of the kettlebell swing.
Kettlebell swings are an excellent full-body exercise that stimulates various muscle groups. Here’s a breakdown of the muscles engaged during kettlebell swings:
- Hip Muscles:
- Glutes: Kettlebell swings heavily activate the gluteal muscles, especially during the explosive hip extension phase.
- Posterior Chain:
- Hamstrings: The hamstrings are engaged as you hinge at the hips and then forcefully extend them during the upward swing.
- Lower Back (Erector Spinae): The muscles along your lower back work to stabilize and support your spine throughout the movement.
- Core Muscles:
- Abdominals: The core is essential for stabilizing the spine during the swinging motion, providing strength and support.
- Shoulder Muscles:
- Deltoids: The deltoids, particularly the posterior part, are involved in the swinging motion as the kettlebell moves upward.
- Front Thigh Muscles: While not as intense as in some other exercises, the quadriceps play a role in the initial phase of the swing.
- Forearm Muscles:
- Forearm Flexors and Extensors: Gripping the kettlebell and controlling its movement engages the muscles in your forearms.
- Cardiovascular System:
- Heart and Lungs: Kettlebell swings, especially when done in a high-intensity manner, contribute to cardiovascular endurance and overall cardiovascular health.
- Hip Flexors:
- Hip Flexor Muscles: The hip flexors are engaged as you swing the kettlebell forward and then control its descent.
- Latissimus Dorsi (Lats):
- Upper Back Muscles: The lats contribute to stabilizing the shoulders and upper body during the swinging motion.
Kettlebell swings are a dynamic and compound movement, making them an excellent choice for efficiency in targeting multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Proper form is crucial to maximize the benefits and minimise the risk of injury.
How To Perform the Kettlebell Swing
Consider the Kettlebell Swing as a hybrid of an Explosive Romanian Deadlift and a Vertical Jump. You should be sitting back to load up the glutes and hamstrings before explosively thrusting the hips through to propel the kettlebell upwards. Below are the key coaching points to guide you on how to perform the kettlebell swing with proper form:
- Start standing with feet hip-width apart
- Tall neutral spine, proud chest, tight core
- Hold kettlebell at arm’s length with both hands on kettlebell
- Backswing/pull the kettlebell underneath your hips and you hinge backwards
- Engage and press glutes and hamstrings back
- Explosively push your feet down into the ground
- Powerfully thrust your hips to full extension squeezing your glutes and abs at the top of the movement
- Allow the kettlebell to float at about chest height
- Don’t “shoulder raise”/muscle up the kettlebell with your upper body
- Stay tall and fully extended as kettlebell descends back to hips/underneath spine hinging to allow the forearms to hit the hips
- Rinse and repeat
Kettlebell Workout – Experience the “What the Hell Effect”
Now that you understand the “what the hell effect of the kettlebell swing,” let’s put it into action.
Below is a kettlebell swing workout that offers infinite progression options and is a perfect starting point if you’re new to the kettlebell swing. This style of workout is known as “EMOM” in CrossFit, or Every Minute on the Minute. That means you have a full minute to perform the reps in the workout. If you do 15 reps with a light load of the kettlebell in 30 seconds, the remaining 30 seconds on the clock are used for rest. When the minute is over, you grab the next kettlebell and do the reps again; the remaining time on the clock is always used for rest.
Start at the bottom end of the rep range and work up week on week until you hit the top end of the rep range. At that point, increase the weights used.
EMOM for 15 minutes:
- Min 1 – 15-20 Kettlebell Russian Swings (Light)
- Min 2 – 10-15 Kettlebell Russian Swings (Medium)
- Min 3 – 5-10 Kettlebell Russian Swings (Heavy)
- Min 4 – 15-20 Kettelbell Russian Swings (Light)
- Continue until minute 15, always swapping between light, medium, and heavy kettlebells
Add kettlebell swings into your weekly programming and experience the “What the Hell Effect”
If you want more from your Kettlebell Training check out The Graft IV, the most complete Kettlebell Program ever created. This program contains 3 cycles, strength, mass, and power, all designed to give you the biggest bang for your buck possible. Every workout ends with a conditioning piece, ensuring every single aspect of the total fitness wheel is covered. Get your copy here.
Just keep moving…
About Luke Downing
“NASM Certified Personal Trainer Minimal Kit specialist, Daddy to Luca & Roma Ray. As a father and business owner, I’m well aware that not everybody has hours each day to spend in the gym. I believe that you can do a lot without a lot, which is why I’m a lover of the single Kettlebell workout. I like to keep things as functional as possible, which means I do not waste time with unnecessary movement’s. Everything I do with my athletes has a purpose and a carryover to sports, activities and everyday life.”