Which is the Best Kettlebell Swing & How to do Them.

In this vlog we’re discussing the difference between the Russian kettlebell swing and the American kettlebell swing. Who else would be better to join Cat Kom on this topic than our favorite Russian Fitness Trainer, “The Olganator!”? 

A kettlebell swing is an incredibly functional movement that works the glutes, hamstrings, and core. It’s also a killer endurance conditioner. We see this exercise done improperly a lot, and y’all know that proper form means better results and fewer injuries, so how DO you get it right?

How to do a Russian kettlebell swing:

Russian kettlebell swing

  • Olga likes to start by looking at a proper deadlift. In a deadlift, you want to hinge your hips, tilting at the hip with soft knees, and have a neutral spine and neck. Cat likes to say you’re sending your butt to the back wall (versus a squat where your hips go only slightly back and down, bending at the knee).
  • The second step is to be sure the kettlebell starts at the proper position in front of you on the floor. Too close, you end up squatting, too far, you’ll overreach straining your back. Olga starts with her feet just wider than hip-width and the kettlebell about a foot away from her feet.
  • To do the swing, keep your arms straight and drive the kettlebell back between your legs, hinging at your hips. Then drive your arms up, pressing your hips forward. Repeat.
  • For a Russian swing, your arms should stop when they’re about parallel to the ground. 
  • To recap, it’s all about the hips, baby! 
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How to do an American kettlebell swing: 

American kettlebell swing

  • While it uses the same basic mechanics as a Russian swing, the American swing finishes with your arms straight above your head.
  • Done properly, tuck your tail, keep your shoulders over your hips, and keep your spine neutral.
  • The most common mistake with the American swing is over-arching your back, so be sure to focus on proper arm and spine alignment. If this is breaking down, lighten the weight or switch to a Russian swing.

Which is better? I bet you’re thinking that Olga would say the Russian swing, right? She said, “Well, the Russians did come up with the kettlebell as an exercise tool, but in reality, both have benefits.”

  • Your arms and shoulders are not as involved in the Russian swing, so you can use a heavier kettlebell. Lighten it up with the American swing.
  • For the Russian kettlebell swing, using heavier weight is all about muscle strength in the posterior chain, while the American kettlebell swing with lighter weight becomes more metabolic and drives up your heart rate.
  • Because of the potential for a breakdown in form, the majority of trainers would say the Russian swing is better. We say you should start with the Russian swing to get the proper form, and then experiment with the two depending on your goals.

Whichever you choose, we bet you’ll love this exercise! And for tons of body-sculpting, kettlebell swinging (like these), fat-torching workouts, check out Studio SWEAT onDemand! Download the app, or if you happen to live in southern California, visit us in our San Diego studio.