Kettlebell Swing 101

Ben Dearman

KDR Fitness

There are hundreds (literally…if not thousands) of how to guides for KB swings.  In fact, the KB swing is probably the most bastardized exercise out there.  There are eight key components:

  • Movement occurs primarily from the hip with little knee movement.
  • The bell moves fast.
  • The bell needs to be between belly button and shoulder level at the top (but nipple level is more preferred in our opinion).
  • At the bottom push the bell between your legs as far back as you can with out your back rounding and keep the bell close to your groin.  Thumbs to bum is a good cue.
  • Tight core and butt at the top of the swing.
  • At the bottom of the swing you should feel it in the back of your legs and butt.  At the top, abs and butt…and maybe forearms the entire time.
  • The bell tells the hips what to do, don’t move the hips back ward in the down swing until the bell reaches roughly belly button level.


Here is the basic swing performed almost perfectly by one of our members.  Quick dialogue about perfect – you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be good enough to get most of the benefits of the swing.  Performing a swing with 80% perfection will grant you roughly 90% of the benefit.  Swinging a bell with 90% perfection will maybe give you an extra 2-5% of benefits.  Not really worth the pay out in my opinion.


There are 2 basic ways that we teach the swing and one “GROOVE” way if you move very well and have good body mechanics.

The Hike Swing

The Dead Swing

The Groove Swing

The Hike Swing

The hike swing starts with the bell in a hike position.  You then pull it towards your hips, absorb the force and then explosively drive your hips into the bell and the bell away from you.  You can then return the bell to the hike position or keep swinging.


The Dead Swing

Where as the hike swing feeds the motion into your hips because of the arc of the bell starting in front of you, the dead swing feeds the motion by having the arc of the bell start behind you.

Same principle in both really.  As the bell leaves the ground it travels to your hips, that’s either happening in front of your body (hike) or behind your body (dead).  There are two ways you can do the dead swing – dead swing to dead position (dead refers to the bell being on the ground with no movement) or dead swing to swing.  The first video is dead swing to dead swing.

Dead swing to swing.

The Groove Swing

I will often use this one if I have a big group of people that I really y want them to do the KB Swing and they don’t know how to do it, but a lot of them move well.  Basically, you just start to rock your hips and keep your torso rigid, initiating the movement from your hips.

Competition Swing

The competition swing is the basis for Kettlebell Sport – one of the most god awful sports you can do.  It’s 10 minutes of moving a kettle bell.  The sport produces some pretty crazy feats of strength, like a 130 lb woman moving a 75 lb weight over 100 times in 10 minutes from her hips to over head!

Here is a video of a 2012 KB competition.  Notice the distinct double knee bend on the down swing.  This is done mostly to minimize energy used and to maximize upright torso posture (among other things).

Here is Coach Chris doing a Competition Swing.  If a swing is like sprinting then a comp swing is like jogging.  A swing is meant to be done for short periods of time, a comp swing is meant to be done for 10+ minutes.

Now grab a bell and start swinging!