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What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?

This once-forgotten training tool has experienced a modern renaissance that has trainers, gym-goers, and weight lifting enthusiasts singing the praises of the swing!

Kettlebells, thanks to their uniquely bottom-heavy shape and easy to grip handle, give athletes the opportunity to work their lower and upper body muscles in a way that standard dumbbells do not. If you're wondering “What is a kettlebell and what muscles do kettlebell swings work?”, you landed in the right place.

Kettlebell exercises are plenty, but one kettlebell exercise is the kettlebell swing. But, how do kettlebell swings work and what muscles are conditioned the most from this exercise?

Here are all the ways kettlebell swings can take you from soft and round to toned and proud!

Can you build muscle with kettlebell swings?

How much muscle you build is going to depend on how heavy your kettlebell is. The heavier your kettlebell, the more muscle mass you will inevitably build.

For those looking to add muscle mass, try using a heavier kettlebell, but for those looking to burn fat and tone the muscle that's already there, use a slightly lighter kettlebell and take more reps in each set.

If you are slowly working your way up the lifting chain to build strength, the adjustable kettlebell might be a great option to incorporate into your kettlebell training regimen. You can also start a collection of different cast iron kettlebell weights if that's something you prefer.

Can I do kettlebell swings every day?

So long as you are employing the proper form and technique, this kettlebell workout is fine to do every day.

Starting your morning with kettlebell swings is a great way to boost your natural energy and get your blood flowing.

Many people find the back and forth "rocking" sensation of kettlebell swings to be almost meditative, allowing the brain to slowly and gradually enter the day while the body takes charge and reinvigorates the circulatory system after a long period of rest. This is just one of the many kettlebell benefits!

What muscles should be sore after a kettlebell swing workout?

Most people find that the backs of their legs, their obliques, their traps, and their lats are the four muscle groups that are most sore. Being that kettlebell swings are a full-body workout, don't be surprised if you're sore in other areas too; those four are just the major areas where soreness occurs after this kettlebell workout.

Your low back can be sore, but it should never hurt. If it feels like you tweaked your back, stop doing kettlebell swings immediately. After a couple of days off, begin a stretching regimen based on what your back can handle.

After a couple days of stretching, you can begin to add kettlebell swings or kettlebell swing variations back into your routine, but by all means, continue to stretch before and after!

Flexibility is key to keeping your body agreeable to the rigors of kettlebell swings.

Why is the kettlebell swing so effective?

The kettlebell swing is one of the modern weight-based exercises that engages the entire body while still emphasizing the core muscles.

In the course of a kettlebell swing, your momentum is generated by the legs, sustained by the back, and then carried to its pinnacle by the arms. The arms must then control the momentum on the way back down, causing the muscles in the leg and back to re-compress stimulating fast-twitch muscle fibers.

In addition to the legs, back, and arms working simultaneously, the abdominal muscles (aka the core) must work the whole time to stabilize and balance throughout the three different shifts in muscle use that take place throughout the course of the exercise.  

In addition to the actual muscles used, kettlebell swings are also a perfect blend of cardio and weight training that can help build muscular endurance.

To properly execute a kettlebell swing, you must establish and maintain a certain rhythm. This rhythm, much like the rhythm established in a more traditional cardiovascular activity like running or biking, causes the heart rate to spike and remain elevated.

The combination of fat-burning cardio with muscle toning lifting is what truly makes the kettlebell swing an incredibly effective exercise.

How heavy should my kettlebell be, and how many should I do?

Typically the kettlebell you use for swings should be about ten pounds heavier than you use for curls. Often this translates to about 25 pounds for women and 35 pounds for men.

Your personal abilities will dictate how heavy your kettlebell should be for swings, but this is a good starting point in case you're really unsure.

As far as how many reps and sets to do, there is an industry consensus that 100 kettlebell swings per day is optimal. While there are those who promote the idea of breaking these swings throughout the day, conventional wisdom dictates that 4 sets of 25 be completed all together with a one-minute break in between each set. Typically this entire circuit takes only 5 minutes, and let's be honest, you definitely have an extra five minutes somewhere in your day!

Will kettlebell swings tone legs?

Kettlebell swings won't serve as a substitute for a good leg day circuit, but they absolutely help to tone your legs.

Specifically, kettlebell swings are great for your calves, thighs, and glutes. If you're looking for a toned butt and the thighs to go with it, then kettlebell swings are ready to help you get there!

We've already said it once, but we're going to say it again, be sure to stretch before you engage in kettlebell swings! The motion of squatting and then exploding upward is hard work on your hamstrings, and you need to make sure that the muscles connecting your lower back to your legs are loose and up for the challenge.

Start Swinging!

Now that you're familiar with this kettlebell exercise, including how much weight to use and how often to engage in this particular activity, you're ready to add it to your workout routine. Add it to your squat workouts, cardio circuit, and more to add versatility to your workout. You can also use it for fat loss and weight loss since the kettlebell swing workout is a full body workout that engages more than one muscle group in your lower and upper body.

As we mentioned before, you certainly can do kettlebell swing variations every day, but when you're first starting, it's probably best to only do them a few days per week.

Try doing swings every other day to start and then graduating to two days on, one day off. Eventually, you'll reach a place where you feel comfortable enough to limit rest days to once or twice a week, and from there, your progress will naturally lead you into a daily routine.

If you're in search of a kettlebell, look no further than Tru Grit. Our selection of premium kettlebells are perfect for your daily dose of kettlebell swings, and we'd be thrilled to be a part of your fitness journey!

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