In the farm markets of 18th century Russia, kettlebells were used to weigh crops. In the 1800s, they were featured in strongman circus acts, and by the 1900s, they had become an important athletic training tool in Russia and Europe.

Today, kettlebell training and competition is a worldwide phenomenon that has produced different styles and competitive standards (like girevoy and hard style). But all forms of kettlebell training start with this one move: the kettlebell swing. It builds an important skill called strength endurance: the ability to generate force for an extended period of time.

For beginners

If you have a history of back problems or injuries, this movement might not be for you, and ditto if you have any issues with your hands and wrists. Check with your physician or physical therapist for clearance before you attempt this move.

Best practices

  • Keep your back flat and strong like a tabletop. You don’t want any movement coming from your spine. Think “proud” posture.
  • Grip the kettlebell firmly and keep your arms straight the whole time.
  • The primary movement here is a hip hinge—don’t squat low.
  • Only swing the kettlebell to shoulder height. Higher than this is not better.
  • Squeeze your glutes tight at the top of the swing.

Master this: Kettlebell Swing

  1. Hold the kettlebell with two hands in front of you.
  2. Start by hinging your hips back and forth to start the swinging action, letting your arms swing, too.
  3. Keep your arm straight as you swing it higher, hinging your hips back farther.
  4. While swinging the kettlebell forward, drive your hips forward and stand tall, squeezing those glutes together.
  5. As gravity pulls the kettlebell down, pull it back between your legs. Don’t let it drop below your knees.

Make it easier: Start with a soft sandbell, a dumbbell (which can be easier on the grip) or a medicine ball.

Make it harder: Swing faster or swing heavier. Kettlebell swings are no cakewalk. A 20-pound kettlebell is a beast to be reckoned with!

Photo/video credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com
Model: Chris Alberts, GX24 Instructor