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The Kettlebell Swing - King of Exercises

By Edited Oct 6, 2015 6 0

Introduction

The Russian kettlebell swing can be described as the king of all exercises. Using the proper technique and weight will allow you to give the majority of muscles in your body a really good workout in a small amount of time. But before we get into the technique and description, it's best to know what you're dealing with.

A kettlebell is a weight (usually cast iron) that resembles a cannonball with a semicircular handle at the top. They come in a variety of weights ranging from 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) all the way up to 64 kilograms (141 pounds). They were originally developed in Russia in the 18th century as a tool for weighing crops. However, farmers found them good for strength and fitness and used them to show of their newly found strength during farming festival. By the 19th century, the Soviet army used kettlebells as part of their physical conditioning programs, and they have been used in competition format since 1940.

Now that little history lesson is complete, I can further explain why the kettlebell swing, and kettlebell training in general, is so useful for all round physical fitness. The main reason for this is the fact that they are a holistic training exercise, where a large array of muscle groups are used in conjunction that mimics real world uses of strength. This is opposed to standard weight lifting, which focuses on singular muscle groups and can cause the muscle strength of a person to be vastly unbalanced. In particular, the kettlebell swing is perfect for improving the physical body aesthetically, as it focuses on the posterior chain and core muscles, which is every muscle from the top of the neck down to your ankles, with the biceps, shoulders, forearms, and abdominal muscles thrown in for good measure. Sound too good to be true? It gets better. All that is needed for visible results is around 30 minutes a week, including resting times. 

The Kettlebell Swing - King of Exercises
Credit: bodymax-fitness.com

Let's Get Started!

So, hopefully I've amped up your motivation a bit with that introductory section. Now you know that you don't have to frequent the gym five days a week to actually see some results, in fact, you don't have to go to the gym at all! A kettlebell, whilst not cheap, isn't incredibly expensive, and you only need about 6 square metres in space to perform the kettlebell swing. 

First, you need to decide what weight of kettlebell to start with. If you have access to a gym with kettlebells you can find your weight there, what you are aiming for to begin with is to be able to do 20 repetitions of the kettlebell swing, but not 30. If you don't have access to a gym, but do know a bit about yourself, you can use me as a baseline.

I am 6 feet tall and weigh 76 kilograms (168 pounds), when I began kettlebell swings I could bench press 35 kilograms (77 pounds) for 10 repetitions. Not a particularly strong guy. I started with the 20 kilogram (44 pounds) kettlebell and found it to be perfect.

As another guideline, Tim Ferriss in his excellent book 'The 4 Hour Body' recommends that men start with either a 20kg or 24kg kettlebell, and women start with either a 16kg or 20kg kettlebell.

Now you have decided what kettlebell you will start with, you can learn the technique of the king of all exercises, the Russian kettlebell swing.

 

Bodymax Cast Kettlebell - Black, 16 Kg
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Oct 6, 2015)
A classic kettlebell, there are others available that have a bit more style to them, but I like to be traditional!

Kettlebell Swing - The Technique

Before getting into the actual technique of the kettlebell swing, first you must make sure your stance is correct, in order to avoid injuries and maximise the kettlebell swing's effectiveness. I suggest practising the kettlebell swing with low repetitions to begin with to ensure that your stance is correct, it is of utmost importance.

  • Stand with your feet about 6 to 12 inches outside fo shoulder width on each side. Your feet should be pointed slightly outwards (if straight ahead is 12:00 on a clockface, your feet should be at 10:00 and 02:00.
  • Make sure your shoulders are locked (pull them back and push them down a bit to keep them in a retracted position). This stops your back from arching, which can cause injury.
  • Your shoulders must stay behind your knees at all times during the swing.

Now you have your stance perfected, you can start to learn how to do the perfect kettlebell swing. This method of learning the swing is based on the method that was developed by Zar Horton, a leading kettlebell instructor who has trained firefighters, police officers, and fitness enthusiasts.

  1. Touch and Go Deadlifts - Stand in your kettlebell stance, with your kettlebell being spot on in the middle of your feet, between your toes. Now, bend down and do simple deadlifts, speeding up as you get more confident and ensuring the kettlebell returns to the exact same spot as it started with each repetition. If you do this facing a wall it can help you keep your deadlift technique correct, head up and hinging at the hips.
  2. Touch and Go Deadlifts (2) - Repeat the process that is outlined above, with the kettlebell starting spot on in the middle of your feet, but just behind your heels this time. As you are coming up with your deadlifts, thrust your hips forward, contracting your glutes and causing the kettlebell to swing upwards.
  3. Kettlebell Swings - Now you have the above two techniques nailed, started with the kettlebell between your toes again. Once you have lifted the kettlebell, sit back and then pop your hips forward, starting a swing. You want the kettlebell to swing back to a point in the air, behind your hamstrings and under your buttocks. The sequence of photographs below illustrate this much more understandably than any description. 

Kettlebell Swing - Perfect Technique

The Kettlebell Swing - King of Exercises
Credit: mattersquared.com

Kettlebell Swing - The Workout

So now you have your equipment and your technique purchased and perfected, I'll get onto the workout regime. You will be happy to know that this is a short paragraph.

You want to perform two workouts of kettlebell swings each week, totalling at least 150 repetitions over the week. Obviously, this is best split into two sessions of 75 repetitions each. At first you will be unable to complete the 75 repetitions in a single set so break the 75 repetitions up into three or four different sets, with 2 minutes rest in between each set. Do this twice per week, building up on the amount of repetitions you can do, both in total and in single sets. 

That's it. That is all you need for visible, noticeable results.

Conclusion

The Russian kettlebell swing really is the king of all exercises, there is very little that can compete with it in terms of full body workouts, minimal time consumption and maximum results. You can definitely just add this into your existing workout regime to simple increase your physical progression, but you can also use it as a standalone fitness exercise that improves strength, looks, and aerobic fitness. 

Obviously, this exercise is best when use in conjunction with other positive changes, such as the Slow-Carb Diet I outlined in 5 ways to lose fat, which produces breathtaking results. It is also more effective when combined with some other more focussed exercises that I will detail in the future.

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