The kettlebell swing is primarily used for its cardio effect which is great for weight loss, hence, it’s such a popular kettlebell exercise—but popular does not mean it’s only good for that. The kettlebell swing can be performed in many ways, but the two most popular variations are the conventional (also known as the Russian swing) and the American swing.
This article covers what muscles are used and when during the kettlebell swing. There is also information on:
- how to kettlebell swing
- how to avoid backaches and injuries with the kettlebell swing
- how to warm up for the kettlebell swing
- a drill used to teach part of the kettlebell swing
What Muscles Are Worked With the Kettlebell Swing?
The kettlebell swing is a full-body exercise that uses muscles for grip, posture, stabilization, keeping the spine erect, and the actual movement (prime movers). This article covers the two-handed swing. The single-handed swing would involve a lot more action around the mid-section.
The areas worked are:
Got questions? Use this post on Facebook or just join the 17,000+ strong group.
- Flexor digitorum superficialis (1)
- Flexor digitorum profundus (2)
- Flexor digiti minimi brevis (3)
- Lumbricals (4)
Download the free Master Kettlebell Grips to learn a lot more about the 25+ grips you can employ on the kettlebell and most importantly ‘why’!
- Rhomboideus minor (5)
- Rhomboideus major (6)
- Lower trapezius (7)
- Levator scapulae (8)
- Latissimus dorsi (9)
- Anterior deltoids (17)
- Pectoralis major (18)
- Serratus anterior (19)
- Coracobrachialis (20)
- Biceps brachii (21)
Flexion and stabilization
- Biceps femoris (22)
- Semitendinosus (15)
- Semimembranosus (16)
- Gracilis (23)
- Sartorius (24)
- Gastrocnemius (25)
- Soleus (26)
- Popliteus (27)
Truth be told, there are plenty more muscles used during the kettlebell swing but I’ve tried to stick to the most common and known ones, I also categorized them a bit differently than normal.
The muscles used for grip are usually not mentioned or thought off, however, your swing is only as good as your grip. In fact, most of your training is only as good as your grip, if you have a weak grip then you won’t be lifting heavy. If your grip has no endurance then you won’t be completing high reps unbroken.
I’m referring to the top part of your body at the top of the swing where your shoulders are nice and safely pulled down. Your chest it out, shoulders blades slightly down and pulled together.
Throughout the swing, your erector spinae muscles need to work to keep your spine erect, and there is actually a lot more going on inside as well to protect the spine and brace the abs.
These are the muscles that create the movement which is the hip and knee extension only when we’re talking about the conventional kettlebell swing.
These are the muscles responsible for getting the kettlebell overhead with the American kettlebell swing.
Flexion and stabilization
The flexion I refer to is knee flexion and the stabilization I refer to is that of keeping the knee in place above the ankle. Keeping the knee above the ankle is important when hip hinging, if the knee comes excessively forward, then the movement starts to turn into a squat. A kettlebell squat swing is not bad, it’s only bad if you need to perform a hip hinge and perform a squat, or perform the squat swing incorrectly, otherwise, the squat swing is an excellent exercise. See a side-by-side comparison of the hip hinge versus squat swing.
How to Kettlebell Swing
Prevent Back Pain With the Kettlebell Swing
Not a great quality video at all, but the content is. I explain how to prevent the common backaches from the kettlebell swing, whether using the conventional/Russian or American swing.
Kettlebell Swing Muscle Activation
The following is an article I wrote a while ago and explains exactly step-by-step when the muscles do their work during the kettlebell swing. The following video is an example of a muscle priming routine I use before starting the kettlebell swing.
Teaching the Kettlebell Swing
The following is a drill I use for teaching the deep hip hinge insert which is what happens during the backswing and is also used to prevent bobbing of the kettlebell.
If you want to be efficient with the American swing, stay safe, and be able to perform high reps then there is no doubt in my mind that you should lay the foundation with the conventional kettlebell swing and then continue that knowledge through the kettlebell snatch.
Other kettlebell swing resources:
- What height should I swing a kettlebell?
- What kettlebell weight to choose?
- Kettlebell fundamentals
- Become kettlebell certified
- Free Master Kettlebell Grips PDF