Can I Only Do Kettlebell Swings?


Can I only do kettlebell swings for my training? You can do only kettlebell swings for your workout. It’s ok to minimize your workout routine to a single exercise, and it is imperative that you choose an exercise that can work on multiple muscle groups. Kettlebell swings work on several muscle groups, and they make you stronger at everything else that you do.

Last year one of my buddies Sergiu introduced me to a new way of looking at my workout. To keep it simple. And minimalistic. Here’s what happened.

how to train only KB swings

Is It Possible To Train By Only Doing Kettlebell Swings?

Generally, it is possible to train by only doing kettlebell swings. Minimizing your training routine to just one or two exercises in a short time can help to balance the strength, focus on your weak points and simplify your workout routine.

Simple and minimalistic means less hassle. This also means to focus on one to two exercises only.

And to think about it as a challenge.

So I did pull-ups. And I was blown away with my results.

But since the gyms are under lockdown I needed to continue with my workout at home. So my new challenge was kettlebell swing.

Doing less is more

This is a big claim.

How is it possible that one exercise can get you stronger at everything else? It sounds like some bro-science.

That’s exactly what I thought. But having the experience from my pull-up challenge made me believe that I can see huge results just from the kettlebell swings too.

After 20 years of doing marathon running, Olympic lifting, yoga, kickboxing, cycling, you name it, I thought I knew it all. I was wrong. I guess we never stop learning.

The kettlebell swings workout changed my life.

Normally, before I do any changes to my routine I like to satisfy my curiosity with a lot of data.

That’s when I spend hours reading studies from scientific journals about the current research in the field. With kettlebell swings was no exception. Let me show you what I mean.

Can I Do Kettlebell Swings For Strength?

You can do kettlebell swings as a part of your strength training program. They have been proven to develop strength, power, conditioning, and body composition. Kettlebell swings can be used in the combination with other exercises, or simply by themselves.

In one study, Dr. Jason P. Lake from the University of Chichester in the United Kingdom compared a group of healthy men, who were assigned to perform 12 rounds of 30-second kettlebell swings, with 30-second rest intervals, twice a week, for a 6-week period.

The goal of the study was to assess if kettlebell swings, as a single exercise, are enough to increase the maximum strength in a 1RM squat, and explosive strength in the vertical jump (source).

So basically they wanted to know if just by doing a kettlebell swing they could squat more and jump higher.

Interesting.

Normally you would think that squat and swing are two different movements. The squat is where you go down with your hips, trying to keep your back as vertical as possible.

The swing is a hip hinge, where you bend in your hips and lean forward with the back straight. You push your butt back, not down. Here’s what happened.

The group was measured before and after the 6-week program.

The results of this study demonstrated that after the 6-week time, the group had increased their explosive strength by 19.8% and the maximum strength by 9.8%.

Remember that this was done with just the two weekly 12-minute sessions

But kettlebell swings are not a magic pill.

This means that they can make you stronger, but not from every single angle. Let me explain.

In one study, Marek Kruszewski from the University of Physical Education in Warsaw, Poland, investigated how effective kettlebell training would be on a group of football players.

The typical football training consists of 40-yard runs, shuttle runs, jumps, power, and strength exercises. This was a long term (eight months) research (source).

One group was doing strictly kettlebell workout, where the other group was doing regular American football system training. All participants were measured before and after the eight-month cycle.

There were 5 tests.

40-yard run
Running through the arch (agility test)
Countermovement jump
Long jump power test
100kg bench press
American Football Test

After an 8-months of time, both groups had similar results with the 4 out of 5 tests (run, agility, jump, and power).

However, when it comes to the 100kg bench press, the kettlebell group had significantly worst results.

That’s why I love science. You can see black and white what is working, and what not.

To find out more about different ways how to use kettlebell swings check out my article 7 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Cardio

Can I Do Kettlebell Swings For Recovery?

You can use kettlebell swings as your recovery exercise, or even as a rehabilitation tool. Thanks to its high-velocity low-load, it can positively impact your posterior chain muscle groups. It creates compression in the lower back area that is known for its recovery benefits.

The main objective for a rehab therapist is to bring the injured athlete back to normal as quickly, and as safely as possible. 

Although PT’s have many options for the exercises to choose from, kettlebells seem to gain more and more popularity, especially in the chronic phase of the rehab (source).

One key benefit of doing a kettlebell swings is that they specifically target the medial and lateral hamstring muscles (biceps femoris and semitendinosus), two of the muscles that helps to avoid knee injuries.

So during the PT of a knee injury, those two muscles are usually part of a strengthening program (source).

Here is another example. A 21-year old female athlete, a soccer player, was at high risk of injury after having her ACL reconstruction, was following a 6-week kettlebell swing protocol.

Long story short, after a 6-week period, she changed her high-risk profile into low-risk (source).

It’s pretty remarkable that by doing the kettlebell swings only, she could actually strengthen not just the muscles, but the ligaments too.

So, in my opinion, if something is good enough for a high-level athlete, then it must be good for the regular people too.

How Many Kettlebell Swings A Day Should I Do?

ptorein-image
My results after 4 months of doing kettlebell swings

My initial concerns were about volume and rest. Just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean more will be better.

It is easy to get excited from seeing all that data and jump all-in to the training and forget that our body actually needs to heal itself.

Another really important aspect is the weight of the kettlebell. Studies show that there will be physiological and mechanical responses regardless of the weight you choose (source).

However, the perceptual response is greater with higher weight. What does this mean? To simply put, it means you just feel like you had a good workout when you increase the weight.

I choose a 24kg kettlebell (50lbs) as my weight. I could start with a lighter weight. But I was already familiar with 50lbs weight dumbbell before.

Here you can see my numbers with 50lbs dumbbell.

Goblet squat20+ reps
Single Arm Row12-15 reps
Shoulder press5 reps
My numbers before I bought the kettlebell

So I used that as my benchmark. If I was able to do those exercises with that many reps, then I felt confident I could go-ahead for 24kg kettlebell. My first weeks of doing only kettlebell swing looked like this.

  • 1-2 week 100 reps
Kettlebell Swing10-15 reps7-8 sets
week 1-2

I was patient. I didn’t care to see progress as fast as possible. I knew it will be a long game. So I started by doing 100 reps of kettlebell swings every day, for 2-weeks. That was enough to see how my body will feel and respond.

  • 3-5 week 150 reps
Kettlebell Swing15-20 reps7-9 sets
week 3-5

Then on week three, I rump up to an average of 150 reps. Keep in mind that some days I would do 180, even 200 reps. On the other days, I was closer to 100. So the average volume would be 1000 reps per week.

  • 6+ week 200 reps
Kettlebell Swing25-30 reps6-8 sets
week 6+

After week six I went to an average of 200 reps per day. That time I also added some push-ups here and there. Also, remember that I had the advantage of doing the training at home.

So I could spend even up to 5 min rest in between. Usually, I would be doing something else at that time (cooking, blogging, calling friends, cleaning).

The entire program took me 4 months. My diet was moderate. I wasn’t focused on macronutrients.

My goal was to create a minimalistic workout that can be part of my everyday routine. I wanted to be more productive during the day and I needed a tool to give me more energy, not a performance so to speak.

In conclusion, I believe that kettlebell swings only training is a perfect solution for everyone who is looking for training that is simple and effective at the same time.

To learn more about kettlebell swings, and how you can use them in your training program see 5 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Conditioning

Related Questions

How long can you do just the kettlebell swings?

Kettlebell swings can be part of your regular workout. You can do them for years. But as a single exercise, think about it as a challenge, not as a lifetime practice. I recommend 3-6 months. That really worked on my weak spots that I was neglecting in the past.

Can I do kettlebell swings everyday?

You can do kettlebell swings every day, as long as you stay in low volume (reps and sets) range. Do just a few sets per day and as you notice you’re getting stronger, increase the volume.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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