What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?

Kettlebell swings are a dynamic and effective exercise. The efficiency of this total body workout makes them perfect for someone who is looking to save time without sacrificing the quality of their workout. Performing reps of kettlebell swings is not only a cardio workout but it also targets and strengthens many different muscles.

The fact that kettlebell swings basically strengthen all of the major muscle groups in the body makes them a valuable part of anyone’s fitness routine. The areas worked include:

  • the posterior chain
  • core power
  • leg drive
  • shoulder stability

The posterior chain is a network of muscles that extends from the calves to the lower back and are necessary for jumping, swinging and running. We are all familiar with the benefits of core power. The core is actively engaged throughout the entire exercise as it works to stabilize the torso while you swing. Leg drive is what occurs during the upward swing, as hips thrust forward and weight is shifted upward. Shoulder stability is targeted during the entire swinging motion, particularly at the top and bottom of the swing. All of this muscle engagement is happening during one simple exercise. Best of all, the fact that most of your large muscles are being worked equates to a higher calorie burn.

The main muscles you can expect to strengthen and tone when performing a kettlebell swing are calves, hamstrings, quads, butt, upper and lower abs, interior and exterior obliques, deltoids and rotator cuffs. Few exercises are able to target the core as well as all of the major leg muscles all in one move. Kettlebell swings are often described as the new and improved squat. They do everything a squat can do and more!

There are many other smaller muscle groups being worked at the same time as the larger groups. These smaller muscles help to improve balance and agility as they get stronger. Therefore, kettlebell swings can improve your power, balance, strength and endurance all at once. An added benefit is an improvement in joint mobility, especially in the knees and hips. You may also benefit from increased bone density due to the weight-bearing activity.

A final positive attribute of the kettlebell swing is that it can be tailored to almost any person’s workout needs. The weight of the kettlebell can be increased or decreased depending on ability and the focus of the workout. For example, heavier weights can be used in a strength-based workout while lighter weights, with higher reps, make for an excellent cardio workout.

Kettlebell swings are, without a doubt, an excellent exercise for anyone to try. Someone who is interested in kettlebell workouts can start here with this simple movement. Form and technique are similar to regular squats so it is quite easy for most people to make the transition. Give kettlebell swings a try, and feel the burn in your entire body!


  • Updated May 25, 2020
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