Before you swing a kettlebell with abandon, it’s helpful to know how many swings you actually need to do for the best results. That way, you can make the most of the exercise and feel inspired to keep going until you reach the ideal number of reps (and not tire yourself out from all that swinging).
Kettlebell swings are a challenging hip hinge movement that gets your entire body in on the action. The benefits of kettlebell swings include improved cardiovascular fitness thanks to the intensity of the move, increased power and explosiveness, more hip and glute strength due to the hinging motion, and improved posture and core stability because of the way it works your posterior chain, says Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, a personal trainer and founder of Everflex Fitness.
This swingy move is also great for flexibility and mobility training, says Corey Lewis, CPT, a certified personal trainer and co-founder and CEO of 1AND1. That’s because the exercise stretches your hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and back as you bend, squat, and swing. Here’s a breakdown of the move, plus how many kettlebell swings you should do in order to reap all the benefits.
How To Do A Kettlebell Swing
Here, Hamlin explains how to do a basic kettlebell swing with good form.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Grab the kettlebell with both hands and let it hang in front of your body.
- Hinge forward at your hips.
- Keep your chest up as you drive your hips back.
- Swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
- Bring your hips forward and use your legs to drive the kettlebell forward and up to chest height.
- Use your hips, hamstrings, and glutes to generate the movement.
How Many Kettlebell Swings Should You Do?
According to the pros, beginners should aim for two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps with a kettlebell weight that’s tough but still manageable. “The exact weight will depend on your strength levels and goals, but generally aim for a weight that’s challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form throughout the swings,” Hamlin says. The general rule of thumb is that a heavier weight is good for strength training and a lighter weight is good for cardio training.
As you get started, Lewis notes that it's important to focus more on proper technique rather than the number of reps or sets. “As you progress, you can gradually increase the weight and number of sets and reps to challenge your muscles,” he says.
Once that’s a piece of cake, aim for three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps with a slightly heavier weight. “When you can easily perform the prescribed number of swings with proper form and the weight feels light, it is time to increase the weight and/or reps to continue challenging yourself and seeing benefits,” Hamlin says.
How To Time Your Kettlebell Swings
It’s also an option to do as many kettlebell swings as you can in a given amount of time. You can start with 30 seconds of kettlebell swings and add an extra 10 seconds every week, Lewis says. When you can do 60 seconds of kettlebell swings with perfect form, that’s when you can move up to a heavier weight.
When you start working with a new weight, reduce your time back down to 30 seconds again, then build back up by 10 seconds every week until you can do 60 seconds of nonstop swings. “This system allows for progressive intensity increase, which is the key to making gains,” Lewis says.
How Often Should You Do Kettlebell Swings?
Aim to do kettlebell swings two to three times a week with one to two days of rest in between. “This is a great exercise to do at the beginning of your workout since it's such a powerful movement,” Hamlin says. “Try to incorporate these at the beginning when you are the freshest.” They require your entire body’s strength to do, after all.
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