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Top 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebells are a great tool to use in an exercise routine because of their versatility and wide range of benefits. If I had to pick just one movement as my favorite it would be the kettlebell swing.

Middle age and older adults, especially those with desk jobs, can reap big time benefits from this exercise.

In today’s post I’m going to list out my top 5 reasons why you should be doing kettlebell swings. If you don’t have access to kettlebells at your gym or home for workouts, I’d encourage you to pick one up. They’re relatively in-expensive and can be found at most sporting goods or fitness equipment stores.

Before we get into the top 5 reasons why you should be doing kettlebell swings let’s briefly discuss the proper form and technique for the exercise.

More after the jump..

How to do kettlebell swings

The starting position for the swing is to stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding the kettlebell with both hands having your arms straight. To initiate the swing lower your hips as you would do with a squat. Keep your arms straight and locked out for the duration of the movement.

As you drop your hips down into the bottom position let the kettlebell swing slightly behind your legs to gain momentum. Keep your chest tall and head up as not to round the back. Drive your hips out of the bottom position and thrust the kettlebell forward.

You want to make sure that you’re using your hips to initiate the swing and not the arms. Think of your arms and hands as just being hooks for the kettlebell. As you thrust your hips forward let the momentum carry the kettlebell upwards, remaining tall in the process. Exhale forcefully as you drive the kettlebell up, breathing in as you lower it back down.

Coaching tip…

The most common mistake I see being made with kettlebell swings is rounding the back and not staying tall through the movement. By keeping your head up and looking at a particular spot on the wall, you’ll decrease rounding of the back. Think about lowering your hips and not bending from the waist.

There’s plenty of instructional videos on Youtube for the kettlebell swing so let’s just get into the main benefits.

Top 5 reasons you should be doing kettlebell swings

#1: Kettlebell swings burn a ton of calories

The beauty of kettlebell swings is that you can get a lot of metabolic disturbance in a short amount of time. When done with a fair amount of weight caloric expenditure can top 15-20 calories per minute. This puts kettlebell swings in the top tier of exercises for burst training.

While you’ll want to progress slowly into doing intervals and high intensity bursts with kettlebell swings, once you’ve got your form down and have the capacity to do higher intensity, this exercise simply rocks for burst training.

#2: Kettlebell swings strengthen the posterior chain and core muscles

Kettlebell swings are an excellent exercise for developing posterior chain strength and integration with the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. This is done in a very functional manner and not through isolation like with most machine exercises that work those muscles.

For those individuals who are desk jockeys for a large portion of their day, this exercise helps to correct “lower crossed syndrome” that comes from sitting too much. This is where the glutes and core muscles become weak and inhibited while the hamstrings and lower back muscles become short and tight.

Swing work helps to strengthen the core and deep abdominal muscles in ways that traditional crunches and sit-up’s simply can’t. By controlling the kettlebell during the lowering phase, the abdominal muscles work to stabilize the pelvis and low back.

One of the primary functions of the abdominal muscles is to control deceleration as a means to support and stabilize your spine. This is why swings and chops of all varieties are so effective for core work.

#3: Kettlebell swings tone and define the upper back and shoulder muscles

From a body shaping standpoint, kettlebell swings work great to develop the musculature in your upper back and shoulders. This is why I like to take the kettlebell all the way overhead at the top of the swing. If shoulder problems don’t limit your ability to do this, try taking the kettlebell all the way up for maximum benefit.

#4: Kettlebell swings provide cardiovascular conditioning

No one says you have to jog or run to get in your cardio. Pick up a fairly heavy kettlebell and start swinging and you’ll find your heart rate and breathing going up in a hurry. To build up conditioning start by doing as many swings as you can for 20-30 seconds and then rest the same amount of time before repeating.

#5: Kettlebell swings burn fat

Since this exercise produces such metabolic disturbance (when done with a decent amount of weight), it works to boost resting energy expenditure (your metabolism) post workout. Not only will you burn more calories post-workout, but you’ll also have the benefit of hormones such as growth hormone, adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, and others stimulating fat oxidation.

Bottom line…

Simply put it’s pretty hard to find a single exercise that can produce such a broad range of benefits while requiring such little space and only one piece of fitness equipment. Don’t get me wrong I love dumbbell and barbell work, but not everyone has access to these for home workouts.

Your investment in even a single kettlebell can provide you with the means to get in a great workout regardless of the space available to you. Mix in some kettlebell swings, goblet squats, single arm rows, and other exercises with some bodyweight push-up’s, etc, and you’ll be good to go.

As far as the weight goes, most females will want to start with a 15-20 pound kettlebell and most males with a 30 pound or heavier. If anything pick a weight that you can grow into instead of going so light that you miss out on the benefits of metabolic disturbance as you progress.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Fitness Training.