Different Types of Kettlebell Swings

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

Using different types of kettlebell swings is great for changing up the way you train, and all have the common goal of providing full body work with an emphasis on core stability.

The ballistic nature with KB swings helps develop explosive hip power, and a nice add-on is strength based cardio.

These 5 types of kettlebell swings can easily be mixed into the same training day for a full workout:

- Kettlebell Swing (Russian Swing)

- Overhead Kettlebell Swing (American Swing)

- Kettlebell Side Swing

- Half Kneeling Kettlebell Wood Chop

- Kettlebell Pirate Swings

Now, I do love the good old fashion Russian swing, but the other variety provided rotates your trunk and hips differently from conventional lifts.

different types of kettlebell swings

1) Kettlebell Swing (Russian Swing)

Experience Required: Beginner

Called the Russian swing since this is the country given credit for making use of the kettlebell for athletic and health purposes. Although other countries seem to have versions of it from centuries ago as well like Scotland.

Anyways, of all the swing variations this is the one to master first. Don't move on to the other types of kettlebell swings unless you have.

The reason why is you got to understand how the ballistic-nature of this movement is, and teach your body how to stabilize to counter the pulling resistance.

Those not involved in weightlifting or CrossFit usually don't understand much about ballistic exercises. A power clean is probably about the only one more commonly executed.

There's so much core stability and hip-use improvements simply being missed out on. Your traps, lats, shoulders, glutes, and several other major muscle groups also see growth.

2) Overhead Kettlebell Swing (American Swing)

Experience Required: Intermediate

I've always joked and said it's called an American swing because you get a slight rest period at the overhead position. Basically a lazy way to do it.

Joking aside, the American swing offers the advantage of getting a full stretch against your abdominal wall. This encourages better use of all core muscles contracting to remain stable.

It's imperative your entire core stiffens up as you reach the overhead position, and grip is excessively firm. This prevents the kettlebell from rotating down to your head.

Use slightly less weight than you would for the Russian swing.

3) Kettlebell Side Swing

Experience Required: Intermediate

The kettlebell side swing differs from the Russian swing because now you are slightly twisting your trunk to bring the KB down to your side vs. between your legs.

Your trunk and hips need more emphasis for use to handle the rotation, and losing stability could cause the kettlebell to smack you in the thigh.

Lats get a bit more work as they're stretched further to reach the side position, and other small muscle groups surrounding the scapular region are targeted as well.

A little tip for the kettlebell side swing is to let your hips push out opposite from the side receiving the KB.

4) Half Kneeling Kettlebell Wood Chop

Experience Required: Advanced

I deem this as being advanced due to the kneeling position and potential for easily being performed improper. A slight change in your trunk or grip can lead to your knee taking a blow from the kettlebell.

However, it's not dangerous or to steer you away. Any exercise has risk to cause injury. Just more experience is needed.

Moving on, you may notice the name doesn't necessarily say swing, but you're technically doing a kettlebell side swing from the kneeling position.

Your core muscles will take much of the movement and help develop the strength you need for them. The hips are also involved as with all swinging motions.

A good tip would be ensuring that your arms are stiff to keep the same path of the swing throughout.

5) Kettlebell Pirate Swing

Experience Required: Intermediate

A fun name for an effective exercise. The use of your trunk is in full swing with this variation, and the name comes from the motion like those ship swaying rides in carnivals.

You can perform them two different ways. One is rotating your feet to go with the swing, which is more for those new to learning core stabilization, or athletes involved in sports with similar movements like baseball and hockey.