Chances are, whether you’re new to health and fitness or you consider yourself a vet, you’ve heard of the kettlebell.
One of, if not the most well-known exercises with this gym tool is the kettlebell swing. This move can be tailor-made to fit a beginner’s capabilities, and it will help build strength in the process. In this article, you’ll get helpful tips for beginners looking to start incorporating the kettlebell swing into an already pre-existing workout or establishing a new workout plan altogether.
If you’re looking to build muscle with kettlebells, boost your power, speed, endurance, and overall total body conditioning, the kettlebell swing is a great place to start. Let’s dive into kettlebell swings for beginners.
The Best Kettlebell for Beginners
The kettlebell is a uniquely-designed piece of gym equipment made of cast iron and structured differently from a dumbbell or barbell. It looks like a cannonball with a top handle, and it comes in various colors and weights. Before beginning the kettlebell swing, there are things to consider, such as the proper weight to perform this exercise.
Choosing the Right Kettlebell Weight
One thing to note, if you’re not from Europe, you may have to crunch a few numbers before choosing the right kettlebell weight. That’s because kettlebells don’t come in pounds but in kilograms. One kilogram is equivalent to 2.25lbs, so you’ll have to be aware of this as you’re deciding the right weight for you.
It’s also important to remember those kettlebell movements are explosive and dynamic; this leads you to be able to handle more weight than you usually would. The reps generally involve swinging or rotating instead of direct lifts, like with a dumbbell or barbell.
Starting Point for Men vs. Women
Experts recommend that women start with about 8kg, 18lbs, or 12kg, which is 26lbs.
For men, 16kg or 35lbs should suffice; this may seem like a lot to some who are new to strength training or handling weights but don’t fret.
Since you’re doing a lower-body workout and your legs are much stronger than your upper body, you can afford to start with a weight heavier than you would if you were doing a lift.
Beyond these general guidelines see this article on what size kettlebell you should buy for more detailed recommendations.
Important Tips to Remember
If you are purchasing the weights in person, this next tip will be useful, perhaps a little embarrassing, but helpful nonetheless. So if you’re unsure of which weight to pick, it should be the weight that leaves you out of breath after swinging it for 30-60 seconds. If you swing it for about half a minute and you feel like you still have another 5 or 10 seconds on you, then you should pick a heavier kettlebell.
You will build strength and gradually increase, so the rule of thumb is to start low and work your way up. This helps to prevent injuries and to maintain proper form and technique from the beginning. If you start too heavy, then your firm grip will likely be compromised, and you’ll hinder your potential gains, so remember, go slow and start low. See this article on how to improve your grip strength.
Do’s and Don’ts of the Kettlebell Swing
There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to the kettlebell swings for beginners. It can be challenging to master initially, but with practice, you’ll be swinging in no time. Echoing earlier sentiments, most of these tips are going to be related to your form.
DO: Use Those Hips
One mistake that beginners and experienced users alike run into is using their arms to power through the movement instead of their hips. If you’re doing the swing correctly, the momentum from the bottom part of the movement should make it feel like the kettlebell is floating upwards as opposed to you lifting it with your arms.
A tip from the pros is that you should stand about one foot behind the kettlebell when you’re about to start the exercise to give yourself space to build the momentum on the swing back between the legs before it comes up. As it goes between your legs, you’ll want to thrust your hips as hard as you can so that it pushes the kettlebell up.
That may sound not very easy, but it’ll all come together when you get into position!
DO: Stay in a Neutral Position
Do not round out your shoulders or your back when you’re doing the Kettlebell Swing! Stay in a neutral position, keep your spine straight, and protect your back from injury during the movement.
DON’T: Lose Your Footing
Pay attention to the position of your feet during the Kettlebell Swing. Your feet should be wide enough so that the kettlebell can swing back freely and cleanly through the legs without contact. Be careful; your feet shouldn’t be too broad, which could cause knee injuries.
Sample Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
For the first two or three weeks, you should practice doing your swings in sets of 10. You can rest for as long as you need to in between sets so that you can get your wind up. This should be done daily until you can do 10 sets of 10 reps within a 10-minute time frame.
Once you can do that, you can do the following workout three to four times a week to get an excellent full-body workout.
Kettlebell Swing Workout (Ladder Version)
- 3 sets of 25 reps
- 5 sets of 20 reps
- 7 sets of 15 reps
- 9 sets of 12 reps
Complete this workout with 1 minute of rest between each set and 2 minutes of rest between every circuit. A circuit is the completion of all sets, so you’d rest for two minutes after completing 3 sets of 25 reps before you proceed to 5 sets of 20 reps.
DONT: Give Up
It does take some time to get used to a movement as unique as the kettlebell swing, primarily because this exercise can’t be replicated with any other gym tool. In due time, with practice, you’ll be able to find your sweet spot and master your form; just always pay attention to your back and knees during the exercise. Get to swinging!