How to do an American Kettlebell Swing

Add a burst of intensity to your gym routine with this overhead kettlebell swing.

The key to success with the American Swing is to use the power of your legs to raise the kettlebell overhead. It’s a full-body movement which, according to Taylor Race, trainer and owner of Elevate St. Pete, makes it “a great complement to any strength training routine.”

Race recommends beginners start with five sets of 10 reps.

Keep in mind that the American swing “is a little more advanced because of the extra range of motion and need for more powerful hip extension,” Race says.

The most common mistake? Treating your swings like squats. “Don’t bend your knees excessively,” says Race.

Get started by selecting an appropriate weight.

HOW HEAVY?

Race recommends a 15lb. to 20lb. kettlebell. That may seem on the heavy side, however, “Most beginners have a tendency to use their upper body too much, trying to control the kettlebell with their arms,” Race says. Instead, he recommends people “use your hips” to initiate the swing.

If you feel wobbly or can’t maintain proper form, drop down in weight.

PROPER FORM

  • Don’t round your back. Keep it flat
  • Keep your core muscles engaged
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly
  • Generate force from your legs and glutes — don’t try to generate momentum by swinging the kettlebell more forcefully with your arms
  • Maintain a neutral neck. At the bottom of the swing, look a few feet in front of you. At the top of the swing, look straight ahead
  • Keep the kettlebell close to your body as you move — it should be controlled

HOW TO

  • Use an overhand grip to hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands
  • Start with the kettlebell hanging down between your thighs, wrists lightly touching your legs
  • Lean forward slightly at the hips, then, using the strength of your legs, swing the kettlebell overhead
  • Lock out your arms for stability. Your biceps should be in line with your ears
  • Extend your knees in the top portion of the swing
  • Release, then swing up again

BONUS PRO TIP:The power in this swing comes from your legs, Race says. “Extend up explosively to get the kettlebell directly overhead.”

Once you’ve mastered the American swing, try the Russian swing and single-arm swing. Then, you can “mix in swings as a conditioning tool,” Race says. Add in sets of 10-20 reps between other exercises, like squats, lunges, ab work and pushups.