If you want to burn fat and build stronger glute, hamstring and posture muscles, then kettlebell swings should be a regular part of your training. In fact, the swing is so effective, if you reduced your workouts down to 15 minutes a day, three times per week, and you did swings and one or two other exercises, you’d still make progress.
To see changes, you’d still have to eat like a grown up, but that’s for another post.
The great part is that you don’t need a lot of equipment or space. Start with a kettlebell that you can swing for no fewer than 20 and no more than 30 good repetitions. For most people this is going to be 25, 35, or 44 pounds.
You don’t have to spend a lot. I recently picked up a few kettlebells at Walmart and I was very happy with them. The handles were made nicely and they felt great on two arm swings.
Be ready to buy one or two more kettlebells because you’re going to get stronger. Later you can either continue with two arm swings and have a kettlebell in each hand, or use a single, heavier kettlebell.
If you already have weight plates and a strong DIY ethos, then you can make a T-handle and have the equivalent of a rack of kettlebells for about $25.
Before we get into how to do swings, I’m going to go over how to set yourself up to succeed.
First, stretch the tops of your thighs and front of your hips. In the video I go over a simple tall kneeling stretch to address that. Keep your ribs closed and your abs braced. Also check and make sure that your glutes are firing.
Five to ten repetitions, holding for about three seconds each should suffice.
Next are glute bridges. You should feel these primarily, as the name suggests, in your glutes rather than your hamstrings. You might need to adjust your foot positioning until you feel the work get into the right muscles.
You can also poke a thumb into the side of your glutes if you’re having trouble getting that mind/muscle connection.
Perform a single set of up to 20 repetitions. If you can do that easily, then it’s time to advance to single leg bridges, knock the reps back down to 10 per side, and then work your way up to 20 per side.
The third exercise we’re using to get ready are bird dogs. Start off in six points of contact – toes, knees, and hands. Make sure that you’re actively pressing the floor away and that you’re neither arched, nor rounded.
Lock that position in, then raise an arm, then the opposite leg. Make sure that your back hasn’t dropped into a sway position. Hold for a 3 – 5 count. Repeat on the other side. Do a total of 10 – 15 sets.
Now you’re ready to get into the main work. In the video I go over a few progressions. If you need to lock in the hip hinge, then use a stick or dowel rod. Do a set or two of 10 just to get that hinge dialed in.
After that, then start with deadlifts.
Put both heels on a line, set the bell on the line, and grab it. Push the floor apart with your feet to get your legs and glutes working and really grip the handle of the bell to get your lats (the muscles on the sides of your ribs) firing.
Stand tall, but without over extending your back. Or, as I said in the video, keep your ribs closed. Set the bell back on that line.
I’d suggest starting with three to four sets of 20 – 25 repetitions and do that for a week or so.
The next drill is the swim relay start. Let’s say that you’ve taken a week or two, gotten the hinge and the deadlift pretty well, and now it’s time to add speed.
A set or two of 10 swim relay starts should be enough to get you ready.
Now, it’s time to progress up to the swing.
Address the kettlebell just like you did for the deadlift. Stand up quickly, stay standing and starting small, use that hip drive that you just practiced with the swim relay start. You will most likely start with a few short/small swings and build to speed in a couple of repetitions.
Perform four to five sets of 20 – 30 swings.
For a more comprehensive, total body workout, perform a set of 10 – 15 push-ups after each set of swings. I included key coaching points on push-ups in the video.
It doesn’t look like much, it’s not the stuff of heroic, training montages, but you’d be surprised at how a small amount of focused effort creates big changes.
To recap, here’s the workout summary. Three days per week do the following.
Warm Up – one round:
- Tall Half Kneeling Stretch x 5 – 10 reps per leg
- Bridge x 20, or 10 per leg and work up to 20
- Bird Dog x 10 – 15 sets
Main Workout – four to five rounds:
- Deadlift or Swings x 20 – 30
- Rest thirty seconds, up to a minute if needed
- Push Ups x 10 – 15
- Rest thirty seconds, up to a minute if needed
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