Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing: Exercise Guide

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Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing: Exercise Guide

Once you have mastered the two arm kettlebell swing (double handed swing) it’s important move onto the single-arm kettlebell swing. That’s mainly because you will need to use the single handed swing technique for the clean and snatch.

The only real difference between the single-arm swing and the two arm swing is that you need to consciously keep the kettlebell in the centre and in it’s path.

A single-arm kettlebell swing shouldn’t be much more difficult that a two arm swing since neither is performed primarily with your arms. With a strong lower body snapping motion, the kettlebell will easily float up regardless of whether you are holding it with one or two hands. Remember that the kettlebell should be an extension of your arm. If it is handing down as you lift, you are lifting more with your shoulder than your entire body.

Exercise instructions for the single-arm kettlebell swing

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, push your hips back as if shutting a door with your butt (your knees will bend slightly), and grab the kettlebell’s handle with one hand. Your nonworking arm can hang at your side.

single-arm kettlebell swing

single-arm kettlebell swing

EXERCISE EXECUTION (PULL): Keeping your back naturally arched, swing the weight between your legs and then squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward as you swing it to chest level. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs. That’s 1 rep. Continue swinging for the required number of repetitions without returning to the starting position. Switch arms and repeat.

Additional tips (performance pointers)

  • Don’t “arm it up” – all the drive should be coming from your lower body. The kettlebell should feel weightless in your arms throughout the entire motion.
  • Fluid motion. Create a nonstop, fluid motion of the swing; the kettlebell will go behind the knees and back up to shoulder level.
  • Use your hips. Most men initiate the swing by squatting down and leaning forward, which can strain your back. Instead, perform a hip hinge. Push your hips back, keep your chest up, and maintain a natural arch in your lower back as you swing the kettlebell between your legs.
  • Think hips not knees. Minimize the bend in your knees. The swing is a hip hinge movement, not a squat. To get in the proper position, imagine you are at the start of performing a standing long jump.
  • Stay shoulder height. Never allow the kettlebell go any higher than your head or you risk hyperextending your lower back.

The single-arm kettlebell swing video demonstration

This video is designed to show you exactly how to perform the single-arm kettlebell swing using perfect technique (proper form) so that you can get the most out of this great total body kettlebell exercise.

Exercise variations

  • Alternating single arm swing (Swapping hands). When doing the single handed swing it’s pos­sible to change hands mid swing. When the kettlebell swings up at the highest point, it will for a brief moment pause before it swings back down again. During this peak you can change hands but remember to practice this out­doors on grass beforehand. EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS: Keep both arms next to each other as you swing the keltlebell.  At the top of the movement, right before the kettlebell begins to descend, switch the kettlebell to the opposite hand. Or switch hands at the bottom of the movement, when the bell is between your legs.

Alternating single arm swing (swapping hands)

  • Two arm kettlebell swing. Exercise instruction here.
  • Double swings. Double swings are performed with a bell in each hand and are actually two one-hand swings performed simultaneously.

double kettlebell swings

Muscles engaged

Primary muscles:

  • Deltoids
  • Upper Back
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes

Secondary muscles:

  • Lower Back
  • Calves
  • Abdominals

Closing thoughts

The only difference between the traditional kettlebell swing and the single-arm kettlebell swing is that when your arm goes back and behind the knees to swing, you must make sure that your thumb is facing back, not up in front of you. This secures a good and safe arm position.

Finally, we use the two-hand swing to initially teach the swing, but one-hand and double swings are far more beneficial in the long term.

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