Swinging a kettlebell is a foundational exercise that actually dates back to ancient Greece. In fact, there’s a 143-pound kettlebell on display in the Museum of Olympia in Athens! In the 1700s, kettlebells emerged in Russia as a weighing tool for grains and goods. But as curious humans do, they decided to pick them up and start throwing them around for entertainment and exercise!

Why Kettlebell Training?

Unlike a dumbbell, a kettlebell’s center of mass extends beyond the hand. Kettlebells can be swung, thrown, juggled, pressed, held, moved, and manipulated in so many ways. They are small and portable and can be incorporated into all aspects of athletic and fitness training, making them a really valuable piece of equipment. Ultimately, kettlebells are a highly efficient tool to lose weight, increase your cardiovascular fitness and strength, and maintain joint health, mobility, and flexibility. Score!

Getting Started with Kettlebell Swings

I teach my clients the Russian swing first because it’s safe and effective for most people. In a well-performed swing, hips come to full extension at the same time the upper arms come away from the rib cage. If you swing correctly, there’s no need to go up overhead. Here’s how you work the swing from the ground up. Remember, the power of your swing is driven from your hips!

  1. Stand about armpit-width, placing your thumbs tip to tip, making “moose horns” between your knees.
  2. Work your hip hinge by placing your hands at the hip flexor crease, and fold, pushing your hips back, making a “hand sandwich.”
  3. When you’re ready, place the kettlebell 10-12 inches out in front of you.
  4. Tip the kettlebell slightly back.
  5. Hike those hips! Your wrists should stay high on your inner thighs. At the top of the swing:
  • Hips & knees fully extended
  • Elbows soft
  • Bottom of kettlebell points forward

Remember, it’s all in your hips. On a tension scale of 1 to 10, you should be at a 9 at the top of the swing and relaxed to a 1 at the bottom. If you think you’re still lifting with your arms, use “t-rex” arms. Keep your elbows tucked in; you’ll have no choice but to use your hips.

Note: Don’t crank on your back! The kettlebell needs to stay high up in the hips. If you think you’re going too low, place a med ball under you and stay clear of hitting it. Here’s how it all comes together.