Muscles Worked by Kettlebell Swings

Dive into the world of kettlebell swings, a simple yet powerful exercise that targets key muscle groups in the posterior chain. In this article, we cover the muscles engaged during kettlebell swings and their variations, offering insights into how this versatile exercise can enhance your fitness regime, regardless of your experience level.

What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?

Kettlebell swings are a dynamic exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the posterior chain. This exercise is particularly effective for developing strength and power in the lower body and core.

  • Gluteal Muscles (Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus)
  • Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus)
  • Lower Back Muscles (Erector Spinae)
  • Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Transverse Abdominis)
  • Shoulders and Upper Back (Deltoids, Trapezius, Rhomboids)
  • Forearm Muscles (Flexors and Extensors)
Labelled diagram of muscles worked during kettlebell swings

Gluteal Muscles

The gluteal muscles, also known as the glutes, are the primary drivers of the hip extension movement in kettlebell swings. They are most active during the upward phase of the swing, where they contract to extend the hips. These muscles are crucial for generating the power needed to swing the kettlebell upward.


The hamstrings, located at the back of the legs, assist in hip extension and knee flexion during kettlebell swings. They are engaged throughout the exercise, lengthening as you hinge at the hips during the downward (eccentric) phase and shortening during the upward (concentric) phase as they help to extend the hips.

Lower Back Muscles (Erector Spinae)

The erector spinae muscles, running along the spine in the lower back, provide critical support and stabilization during kettlebell swings. They are active, working isometrically throughout the exercise, maintaining spinal alignment and posture, which is essential for preventing injury and ensuring effective force transfer.

Core Muscles

The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, surround the midsection of the body. They play a vital role in stabilizing the torso during kettlebell swings. These muscles engage throughout the swing to maintain torso stability and support the spine, working isometrically.

Shoulders and Upper Back

The deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids, located in the upper back and over the shoulder joints, are involved in controlling and stabilizing the kettlebell. They are most active at the top of the swing, where they help to control the kettlebell’s momentum and stabilize the shoulders.

Forearm Muscles

The forearm muscles, including both flexors and extensors, are responsible for gripping the kettlebell. They are engaged throughout the swing to maintain a firm grip on the kettlebell, ensuring it is securely held.

In summary, kettlebell swings engage a variety of muscle groups, each playing a specific role in the exercise. The gluteal muscles and hamstrings act as the primary drivers of the movement, while the lower back, core, shoulders, upper back, and forearms provide stabilization and control. Understanding the role and activity of each muscle group can help in focusing on proper form and maximizing the benefits of the exercise.

Muscles worked for variations of Kettlebell swings

Banded Kettlebell Swing

The banded kettlebell swing is a dynamic exercise that combines the traditional kettlebell swing with the added resistance of a resistance band. This variation not only targets the posterior chain strength, but also makes you move faster to develop power in these muscles.

Muscles Worked

  • Hamstrings and glutes: The primary movers in the banded kettlebell swing are the hamstrings and glutes. The resistance band adds extra tension, requiring these muscles to work harder during the hip hinge and extension phases.
  • Lower Back (Erector Spinae): The lower back muscles play a crucial role in maintaining a strong and stable spine throughout the movement. The band’s resistance adds an element of anti-flexion, requiring the erector spinae to resist the pull of the band.
  • Core (Abdominals, Obliques): The core muscles are engaged to stabilize the spine and pelvis, preventing excessive arching or rounding. The resistance band introduces an anti-rotation component, challenging the obliques and transverse abdominals.

This variation is suitable for individuals looking to enhance their power in their posterior chain..

Double Kettlebell Swing

The Double Kettlebell Swing involves swinging two kettlebells simultaneously, one in each hand. This variation increases the overall load and demands more from the stabilizing muscles.

Muscles Worked

  • Forearm Muscles (Flexors and Extensors): The demand on the forearm muscles is increased due to the added weight and the need to control two kettlebells (stabilizer).
  • Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Transverse Abdominis): The core muscles work harder to stabilize the body against the increased load and bilateral movement (stabilizer).

The Double Kettlebell Swing is a useful variation for those looking to add more intensity to their workout and challenge their grip strength and core stability. It’s suitable for advanced practitioners who have mastered the single kettlebell swing and are looking for a new challenge.


Kettlebell swings are a multifaceted exercise that strengthens the posterior chain and core. Key takeaways include:

  • The exercise primarily engages gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and lower back, with significant involvement of the core and upper body for stabilization.
  • Variations like Single-Arm, Sumo High Pull, American, and Double Kettlebell Swings target specific muscle groups and goals.
  • Incorporating kettlebell swings into your routine can improve strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

Start with a weight and variation that suits your level and gradually progress. Embrace the power of kettlebell swings to elevate your workout experience!


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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.