If you do one kettlebell exercise, make it the hardstyle kettlebell swing.
Strength conditioning for health
No other conditioning exercise is as easy on your joints as the hardstyle kettlebell swing yet delivers the same health benefit. Train the swing and you’ll develop the essential components of long-term physical health – a strong back, glutes and legs combined with cardiovascular endurance. The swing can’t stop the years, but it can slow their effect.
The hardstyle kettlebell swing is a full body exercise. It works the hamstring, butt and back muscles or “posterior chain”, like no other. Swings challenge the grip, forearms and shoulders and simultaneously exhaust the thighs. And swings deliver spectacular results – quickly.
Strength conditioning for life
The swing is a hip hinge, the strongest human movement. And the lift is ballistic – explosive power sending the kettlebell on it trajectory (like an iron ball from a cannon). Hardstyle swings make powerful hips.
Golf drive or tennis serve, Taekwondo kick or boxers punch, the power comes from the hips. Hip power is the foundation of the human athlete. The big and strong muscles of the posterior chain co-ordinate to deliver the maximum power. And that power is delivered through the club, racket, foot, fist – or kettlebell.
Along with strength, the swing restores and maintains your mobility. Every rep is a restorative combination of tension and stretching. Swinging a kettlebell rejuvenates the back, hip and hamstring flexibility you’ve lost from years of sitting. And it counters the poor posture caused by hours hunched over your computer.
Strength conditioning anywhere
If you have four square metres of space you can swing a kettlebell. Living room, garage, garden or gym it’s up to you. 10-20 minutes and you’re finished. An effective workout is done – time to get on with your day.
THE HARDSTYLE KETTLEBELL SWING
The swing is an athletic transition between maximum tension and controlled relaxation.
It’s a dynamic cycle of producing, reducing and reversing force.
The pattern of effort is like a heavy ocean swell. You accelerate the kettlebell to the top, and it crests. Your backswing accelerates the kettlebell down the back of the wave into the trough, where you slow and reverse its direction. Finally, you power the kettlebell back up towards the crest. The top of a proper hardstyle swing snaps like a punch.
If you’ve got it right the kettlebell will briefly float – a hint of spume on a wave.
Swings performed correctly are a very safe exercise. Nevertheless, it is a ballistic exercise with a heavy weight. Learning and maintaining the correct form is essential for your safety.
What follows is a quick description of a hardstyle kettlebell swing – not a how-to guide.
Before you swing, you need to learn a dynamic hip hinge, full-body tension and power breathing. And then you practice coordinating the movement and timing.
If you want to learn the hardstyle kettlebell swing – check out our Beginners’ Kettlebell Class.
Doing the Swing
Hinge at your hips and reach for the kettlebell. Body forward, hips back and down. Keep your shoulders above your hips and your shins vertical or near-vertical
From the floor, hike the kettlebell back between your legs American football style
Swing set Up
Power the kettlebell back with your lat (armpit) muscles and load the weight onto your hamstrings.
Don’t let go!
Stand and snap your hips forward keeping the arms extended allowing the kettlebell to come forward in an upward arc. Use the power of your hips to lift the kettlebell.
Snap your hips
Lock your hips in a straight, standing plank with the arms out horizontally – if you’ve got it right the kettlebell will float for ¼ of a second. That’s your rest.
As the kettlebell drops power it back in a downward arc. Don’t lean forward.
Hip-hinge at the last moment before the kettlebell hits you, sitting back quickly and out of the kettlebell’s way. No squatting allowed
Don’t hinge too early
As the kettlebell passes high between the legs, complete the hip hinge and load the kettlebell’s weight onto your hamstrings
That’s one rep. Snap the hips forward for the next one.
Load your hamstrings
Repeat until the set is complete.
Safe, simple and adaptable – but never easy
So, if the kettlebell swing is such a great exercise, why isn’t everybody doing it? After all, kettlebells are everywhere.
Because a kettlebell swing is deceptively simple. And this simplicity is the swing’s Achilles’ heel. Because in reality, it’s the subtleties of swing technique that unlock its power.
Without the right foundation, the kettlebell swing will disappoint you, could even hurt you. And you won’t get the results you want.
But with the right instruction, a kettlebell swing isn’t difficult to learn. And it’s safe and versatile enough to be part of anyone’s training, from university athlete to 70-year-old grandmother.
And you can adapt your swing training to suit your goals. For raw power and strength, short heavy sets and plenty of recovery time in-between. For endurance or fat loss, lighter kettlebells, more reps, shorter rests. Either way, 15 minutes of hardstyle kettlebells will kick your butt if you want it to.
The kettlebell swing – an exercise for the long-haul
The hardstyle swing is one of the first kettlebell exercises you learn, and it should always be part of your training. It is less flashy than other ballistic kettlebell lifts like the snatch or clean. But you can train it harder and with greater consistency. And that improves your results over the long-haul. And a good swing is the basis of a snatch or clean. So if you train the swing, those lifts will improve.
Learning the hardstyle kettlebell swing does take a little patience and practice, but you’ll quickly develop the skills. And then you train mindfully, concentrating on every swing. Always alert to the subtle differences between every rep. Always seeking perfection.
And in truth that is why I love the kettlebell swing. I have performed thousands and thousands of swings. Yet, I’m constantly searching for the perfect swing. Every swing I do gives me instant feedback. The next swing is a function of the last. The one after can always be a little bit better. Hardstyle kettlebell training is about skillful practice. For me, performing the swing is the embodiment of that principle. And I love it.
Time to add the hardstyle kettlebell swing to your life
So, what’s your goal?
To improve your health? Mobility? Strength? Endurance? Fat loss? The perfect butt?
Then the hardstyle kettlebell swing should be part of your program.
Hi, I’m Ralph
I’ve been training with kettlebells for 15 years and certified as a StrongFirst instructor in 2015. And I’ve been teaching kettlebells ever since.
Why StrongFirst? Because StrongFirst sets the standard for kettlebell instructor certification.
Kettlebells build the strength and mobility needed for life’s physical challenges. The essential fitness that’s vital for your long-term health and longevity.
I teach regular kettlebell classes in Edinburgh.
If you’re not local to Edinburgh, I can help you 1-2-1 online.