Basics and Technique of Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are effective for improving strength and power in the muscles of the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles.

Understanding the basics and proper technique is crucial for optimizing the benefits of the kettlebell swings and minimising the risk of injury. Let’s delve into the specifics of how to perform kettlebell swings correctly, especially for beginners.

If you don’t feel these are right for you, there is a list of alternative kettlebell exercises that provide the same benefits in this article.

How do beginners do kettlebell swings?

For beginners, kettlebell swings should start with mastering the hip hinge movement, which is the foundation of the exercise. Begin by standing with your feet just wider than hip-width apart and the kettlebell placed between your feet. Hinge at your hips, bend your knees slightly and grip the kettlebell.

Lift the kettlebell off the ground and allow it to swing back between your legs. Then, drive your hips forward, straightening your legs and swinging the kettlebell up to chest height. Ensure your arms are straight and your core is engaged throughout the movement. It’s important to start with a light kettlebell to get the form right before progressing to heavier weights.

Labelled diagram on how to kettlebell swing

Do you bend your knees on kettlebell swings?

Yes, you do bend your knees during kettlebell swings, but the bend is minimal compared to a squat. The primary movement in a kettlebell swing is the hip hinge, which involves bending at the hips with a soft bend in the knees. This movement allows you to drive the kettlebell upward using your hips and glutes.

The knees should bend naturally as you hinge at the hips, but the focus should remain on the hip movement rather than a deep knee bend.

Should elbows be bent in kettlebell swing?

In a kettlebell swing, the elbows should remain relatively straight but not locked out. The arms act more as straps or ropes, with the power coming from the hips and not the arms. Bending the elbows significantly can shift the focus of the exercise away from the hips and glutes and more towards the arms, which is not the primary goal of the swing.

Keeping the arms straight ensures that the movement and momentum come from the correct part of the body.

Where should you feel kettlebell swings?

Kettlebell swings primarily target the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. You should feel the exercise working these areas. When performing the swing correctly, you will feel a strong engagement in your glutes and hamstrings as you drive the kettlebell upward with your hips.

Your lower back should also be engaged, providing stability throughout the movement. If you feel strain or discomfort in your lower back, it may indicate incorrect form, such as rounding the back or not using the hips effectively.

Labelled diagram of muscles worked during kettlebell swings


Understanding and practicing these fundamental aspects of kettlebell swings will ensure a safe and effective workout, especially for those just starting with this exercise. Remember, proper form is key to reaping the full benefits of kettlebell swings and avoiding injury.

If you would like to learn more about the sets and reps you should use with kettlebells check out this article.

Happy training.

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.

1 thought on “Basics and Technique of Kettlebell Swings”

  1. My two favorite websites. Golf Insider and now Sport Science Insider. Keep up the good work.

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