Do Kettlebell Workouts Work?

Published by Jason Narog on

Kettlebell Swing

Do kettlebell workouts work? It depends on how much work you’re putting into the routine / whether or not you’re doing the exercises correctly. I personally have never been stronger than when I was training for the StrongFirst Girya 1 (SFG1) kettlebell instructor certification. My biceps looked nice and big (as a side effect of all the swinging and pressing I was doing [along with some bad mechanics in curling instead of swinging my cleans]), my strength endurance was good, and my hip hinge was very strong.

Does the Kettlebell Swing Work?

The actual kettlebell swing works wonders for your entire body. Hamstrings on the hinge back, the entire hip complex on the push forward (butt included), then your entire core and back at the top of the swing. This is true of the “hard style” swing that is.

The American Swing (the Crossfit version where the bell floats over the head) will put less work on your lat muscles and can lead to movement compensations not initially intended. The swing is a hip hinge movement. You aren’t supposed to muscle the bell, the arms are just to hold the thing (this works your grip as well.) If you understand this concept that can, in theory, make the American Swing safe-ish. I personally would just snatch the bell overhead as opposed to overhead swing, although learning how to snatch will do a number on your hands, which is probably how this variation of the swing came to be.

Other Odd Swing Variations

The squatty swing is something I’ve seen quite a bit of on Facebook / Instagram. The hip hinge swing is a hamstring exercise. A squat is more of a quad exercise. If you have a Bulgarian bag and not a kettlebell and are performing a swing squat then yes you’re squatting at the top of the swing as opposed to engaging your core. But the “squatty swing” has the squat where the hinge should be.

The squatty swing turns the kettlebell swing from a hinge swing movement to more of a squat to row type maneuver.  That’s fine if that’s what you’re attempting to do, but if you want to do a swing then you should just swing.

The other thing I’ve seen is an attempt to control the kettlebell on the way down. The swing is an arc, where you let gravity do it’s thing and you use the momentum of the bell to hike. If you try to control the arc you may get some arbitrary arm benefit but lose the glute and hamstring benefit. If you find you’re trying to control the bell with your arms, get a bigger bell. You won’t be able to control it and gravity will force you to do its thing.

Benefits of Kettlebell Swinging

Grip strength, improving endurance, calorie burns, hypertrophy, and a sense of well being are all benefits of kettlebell swinging. There are a million different routines one can follow including:

  • swing X times every 30 seconds / minute – 10 swings on the minute every minute for 5 – 10 minutes is a good starting point
  • Swing, swing, pushup (5x every 30 seconds 20 times)
  • swing, swing, swing, swing, rest, push up, push up, push up, push up, rest (30 sec, 30 sec, 30 sec, 1:30 x 6)
  • Swing 100x then do 10 get ups
  • Rep ladder or pyramids – 10, 20, 30, 20, 10 swings (ladder would go 10, 20, 30)
  • Weight ladder or pyramid – 16kg, 20kg, 24kg, 20kg, 16kg (you’ll need multiple bells)

And so on… In each case we’re just playing with time, rep count, and weight. Each serves a different purpose so the type of routine you’re performing is going to vary depending on what your goals are.

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Categories: Kettlebell

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