The Russian kettlebell swing is as simple as a kettlebell workout goes. Engaging the glutes and core is key for doing this exercise right. Since you will essentially be swinging a weight, you need to clear away any fragile items and have at least five feet of free space in front of you. Here is a systematic guide for your workout.
- Place a kettlebell about a foot in front of you.
- Plant your feet at shoulder-width distance, standing upright.
- Push the hips back and slightly bend at the knees to grab the kettlebell in front of you with both hands.
- Tighten the core and engage the glutes.
- Grip the handle firmly and swing it back and in between your legs.
- Hinge at the hips while keeping the spine neutral through this movement.
- Allow the momentum of your kettlebell to bring it back towards the ground.
- Push the hips forward as you straighten the knees to bring the kettlebell forward and up.
- Your arms and hips should control the movement.
- At the top (normally about shoulder height), the kettlebell begins to drop. Begin hinging at the hips to swing it between your legs once more.
MUSCLES WORKED BY THE RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING
The gluteal muscles are made up of three muscles; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These muscles are located in the hips and butt. This makes them responsible for extension, rotation and abduction of the hip. The glutes along with the arms control the momentum of the kettlebell in this exercise.
The hamstrings are each of the three muscles located in the posterior thigh. These muscles are the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. They are crucial for knee extension. The hamstrings are often overlooked causing tightness in the muscles. This exercise thankfully, stretches the hamstrings to relieve this tightness.
The latissimus dorsi is a large muscle of the back along with the rhomboids, levator scapulae and trapezius. It is responsible for arm rotation, adduction and extension. The lats are muscles of scapular rotation, which makes it crucial to movement of the shoulder joint.
The quadriceps are commonly referred to as quads. These muscles are found in the front of thigh. The quads are made up of the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis. They are crucial to thigh abduction, thigh rotation, knee extension and stabilization.
The core is a group of muscles found in the abdomen, lower back and mid back. These include the transversus abdominis, obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae. The main function of the core is stabilization of the thorax during dynamic movement such as jumping and swinging.
BENEFITS OF PERFORMING THE RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING
Burning calories is a priority for most gym-goers. This will cause you to lose fat, which is eventually replaced with muscle as you progress. The Russian kettlebell swing burns tons of fat in the legs, core and hips depending on the number of reps and frequency.
Your legs and back are set to benefit from this exercise. Working the glutes, hamstrings and quads causes you to build muscle and increase strength. This makes other workouts easier to perform as well as other strength-required activities.
Keeping the back straight is crucial for the Russian kettlebell swing. Re-enforcing proper posture helps correct bad posture and relieve back pain caused by this. You must maintain proper form to ensure you don’t cause more good than harm.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING
CABLE PULL THROUGH
The cable pull through is an easy exercise to set up that requires a cable machine set with weights.
- Set up your pulley machine with your preferred weight and the handle on the lowest setting.
- With your back facing the cable machine and feet slightly wider than hip-width, grip your handle with both hands.
- Extend your arms along your body so your hands are below your waist. Keep your spine neutral.
- Hinge at the hips as you lower your upper body to the ground.
- Your arms should remain straight so the cable pulls through your legs.
- Squeeze the glutes as you raise your upper body and push your hips back into starting position.
- Perform this motion for twelve reps a set.
Romanian deadlifts are a barbell exercise that work the same muscles as the Russian kettlebell swing, that is, the posterior chain. This makes it a great alternative.
- Stand with your feet at shoulder-width apart.
- Your knees should be slightly bent and back neutral as you grab the barbell in front of you.
- With an overhand grip, hold the barbell at your hips.
- Pause then slowly push the hips back as you hinge forward.
- Let the knees bend slightly as you lower the barbell to just below the knees.
- Push your hips forward to straighten as you raise the bar once more.
- This is a single rep. You may perform eight per set.
A dumbbell can be used as a substitute for a kettlebell. If you can’t access a dumbbell either you may use a medicinal ball to perform this exercise.
- Stand a dumbbell on one of its ends at about half a foot away from you.
- Push the hips back and slightly bend at the knees.
- Grip the top end of the dumbbell with both hands.
- Swing the dumbbell back and between your legs.
- Push the hips forward and straighten to create the momentum to swing the dumbbell up in front of you.
- Your dumbbell should go up to shoulder-height.
- As your dumbbell begins to lower due to gravity, push the hips back once more.
- Perform ten to fifteen reps for a set.
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN DOING THE RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING
ROUNDING THE SPINE
Rounding the back is a common and very harmful mistake when performing this exercise. It causes poor posture and back pain which could, obviously, have been prevented. Keep the spine neutral especially when pushing the hips back to prevent straining your back.
On your descent, you may find yourself squatting to bring the kettlebell between the legs and swing it back. This is improper form. You should push the hips back, bringing the upper body forward to lower the kettlebell. Squatting may cause you to lose momentum as you move forward and back since the hips are not properly engaged. This could further cause jerky movements and lead to injury.
FAILING TO ENGAGE THE HIPS
It may feel natural to use your shoulders and arms to control the movement of the kettlebell, however, your hips should control momentum. The hips generate the power to perform your swing. Roll your shoulders back and keep your spine neutral to minimize their involvement.
Consequently, the Russian kettlebell swing is a must-do strength workout that will do wonders for your posterior chain. You glutes, hamstrings, quads and even lats are guaranteed to see an increase in muscle and strength.