The fundamental kettlebell motion is the "swing".
This deceptively simple exercise is closely related to the Romanian deadlift; It will train your Posterior chain (lower back,glutes and hamstrings) in a functional,highly aerobic motion that is an excellent complement to squats. Here's the how and why :

  1. Standing erect holding a KB with a double overhand grip and your arms straight,
  2. Like a pendulum, swing the KB forward and back ramping up each cycle - letting the KB swing between your legs by bending at the
    knees and leaning forward (your back should be straight like a deadlift posture)-

  • Like an archer, you are "loading the bow" of your posterior chain ( hams, glutes, lower back) which should all tighten up as the
    KB reaches it's farthest point behind you.
  • Now, as the KB starts swinging forward, snap (hard!) your hips forward and pull with straight arms. The KB should pop up
    without any shrugging or effort by your arms.
  • How much weight should you use ? How many reps ?
    Here's a few suggestions:

    • For the KB swings, light,medium, heavy would probably correspond to 10%,15%,20% of your max deadlift.
    • keep the reps between 15 and 25 to start
    • you want enough weight that you can focus on
      1. proper form
      2. sharp, aggressive hip snaps,

  • no worry about the KB flying over your head.

    Use enough weight that you can pop the KB to shoulder or even eye level; If you have don't have adjustable dumbbell or
    kettlebell, then choose a light to medium weight to learn the motion; A foot or two of height change can make a lighter KB
    feel heavier.

    A few fine points on technique.

    1. Keep your arms straight and your shoulders "down". Keep the emphasis on the hip snap; This is not a clean or a cheating shrug.
    2. Hams or Quads ?
      This is hard to describe but easy to experience.
      To get a feel for this, do a few KB swing reps and vary the knee bend and forward lean. At the "hamstring" extreme you are a
      stiff-legged and your body hinges almost entirely at the waist- your hamstrings acting like a spring that pulls your back upright.
      At the "quad" extreme, you bend your knees more.
      This unloads the hamstrings and as a result the back hinges
      farther forward. and the legs do more of the work.

      A hamstring dominant swing with a good,hard hip snap would uses 40% lower back, 40% hams and 20%quads. If you haven't been training your hamstrings you will likely fall back to a quad dominant hip snap which uses 25% lower back, 25% hams and 50% quads. Good form lies between these two extremes, and you get to choose the mix on every rep and figure out if our percentages hold in your own case.

    3. The timing to the hip snap can be tricky. It helps to visualize the hips snapping forward while you are pulling back and up
      with your shoulders. Not unlike the olympic lifts.
    4. If you are trying this motion with a dumbbell, your grip will be overlapped "thumbs-up" instead of an overhand grip and you will need a wider stance to prevent the wider DB from hitting your shins- That shifts the emphasis away from the lower back and hamstrings to the quads.

    Tired of being "face down" on a leg curl machine ?
    Snap your hips, pop your kettlebell up and stand up like a man!

    Try 3 sets of 25,20 and 15 reps with a medium weight KB swung to eye level. Mix in some pushups and situps between sets !

  • Heavy Kettlebell Swings

    The kettlebell swing should be respected for it's pure simple physical challenge, so "heavy" is enough weight that you don't have to worry about swinging it over your head (a crescent swing btw ). Before you load up on snatches, go back to the swing and refocus on the fundamentals; Basically, a kettlebell is about the best tool for training the hip snap. Swing a kettlebell with purposeful intent and you will definitely improve your basis for seriously athletic things like vertical jumps and short "popping" acceleration off the line (whatever sport you play).


    Here are a few differences between men and women to consider w.r.t. kettlebells or

    300 workouts with Kettlestacks

    Following the "300" movie there's been a lot of buzz of about an old fashioned idea - athletic "fast circuit" style training. This style of training works really well with kettlebells with their natural focus on strength-endurance. Basically, we want to design a circuit that challenges a variety of larger bodyparts with relatively simple "whole body" motions and avoid burning out any smaller bodypart; These are hard, all consuming workouts so you really want to understand what you're going through (and why) before you start, so please read through.