Can You Do Kettlebell Swings With A Dumbbell?


I wrote this article to help you decide is it worth (or not) doing kettlebell swings with a dumbbell. Especially, when you don’t have kettlebells at hand.

You can do kettlebell swings with a dumbbell. But to perform this exercise correctly, you must hold the weight, not by the handle, but by the plate. The position of the dumbbell must be vertical. To get better support and grip, use gloves or chalk.

This means that sometimes if you don’t have what you like, you must like what you have. Let me show you how.

Is it possible to do kettlebell swing with a dumbbell

How Can You Use A Dumbbell For Kettlebell Swings?

If you want to do kettlebell swings, but all you have is a dumbbell, this means you must be a little bit creative.

Don’t worry. I will show you everything you need to know.

In fact, when I was training my clients, and gym was packed, we used to do all sorts of weird stuff. Including swings with a dumbbell.

One reason why so many people don’t reap the rewards from doing kettlebell swings is simply lack of kettlebells in the gym.

It wasn’t 100 percent the same experience, but they were happy. Not only they had a good workout. But they also learn how to improvise.

There are, however, some pros and cons to consider.

So I will help you make an informed decision about is it worth doing the kettlebell swing with dumbbells.

Step One

Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

There should be enough space between your legs to allow for the dumbbell swing. Ideally, you want your dumbbell to be placed in line with your feet.

If you place the dumbbell too far behind, or too far forward, this will cause your back to bend and can lead to further issues.

Step Two

Place the dumbbell to stand vertically, between your feet.

This means, one plate will be on the ground, and the opposite plate is facing up, towards you.

Next, grab a dumbbell, with both hands by the plate.

Keep your hands laterally (outside) of the plate. This hand position will allow your shoulders to be in a nice, externally rotated position.

Step Three

With a kettlebell swing, you are doing a hip hinge movement.

This means all the movement is in your hip joint, not in your lower back. You must bend your hips, stay soft on your knees, and keep your back straight.

Step Four

To make a swing, thrust from your hips and swing the dumbbell up towards the ceiling.

Do not “lift” the weight.

Think about how the pendulum works, or the swing in the park. As you swing the dumbbell up, you should stop at the shoulder level.

Step Five

Once you swing your dumbbell, drive it up towards the shoulder level.

No need to go above your shoulder line. Sometimes you will see people do swing where they drive the kettlebell over their head. That’s not necessary. It doesn’t bring you better results, but it be bad for your shoulders.

Plus, you may get away with it using the kettlebell. But don’t try that with the dumbbell.

You remember that you don’t hold the dumbbell the same way you hold the kettlebell

When the kettlebell travels towards your shoulder level, lock your hips by squeezing your butt. Here your torso should be straight, and knees should be straight too.

Step Six

The last step is to let the dumbbell “swing back” to the starting position.

You want to have control over the weight, but do not “carry” the weight down. It should just swing back naturally.

Is It Safe To Do Kettlebell Swings With A Dumbbell?

Swinging a kettlebell, or a dumbbell is extremely beneficial. But only if you’re doing it correctly.

The kettlebell is designed in a way that you can hold it comfortably. It is basically an asymmetric, iron, or metal cast, with one handle attached.

The handle usually stays pointed up towards the ceiling, and the weight is at the bottom. And as long as you hold the kettlebell by the handle, you are safe. But what about the dumbbell?

The dumbbell is different. The dumbbell is symmetric because you have two equal weight plates attached to the handle in the middle. This way the weight is evenly redistributed as you lift.

And here’s the thing.

If I would ask a hundred people about their definition of fitness, I would probably get a hundred different answers.

There is a great line that I’ve read in Dr. Kelly Starret’s book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” about movement.

Human beings are wired for movement.

Dr. Kelly Starret

And we’re also wired to compensate. This means we can get away with doing an exercise in the incorrect form for multiple repetitions.

Until we have a problem.

What are the typical signs that we know we have a problem? Pain.

But pain is a poor indicator to assess if we are doing exercise in a good or bad form. Why?

Because pain usually comes after several weeks, or even months, of bad lifting habits.

So you may be doing it wrong.

And you don’t even know about it.

Some of the typical complaints I get from people doing swings.

Knee pain and back pain.

If you wanna learn more about why your knees hurt after kettlebell swings, or are kettlebell swings bad for your back, go ahead and read it.

I will wait.

The number one goal is to be able to do the pain-free movement.

So the ultimate goal, and the real definition of fitness, apart from being physically fit is to be able to perform the exercise and stay pain-free.

Which means you want to be extra careful. Here in this video, you can see the bad and the good way of doing swings with a dumbbell.

What type of dumbbells are best for kettlebell swings?

There are many different types and brands of dumbbells.

Some can work perfectly fine for doing swings. But some just aren’t right for it.

After doing some research I’ve listed top brands that is usually available in the gym, or in the retails store.

The difference is usually in the plate size, plate shape, weight, or the material that’s been used to coat the dumbbell.

Shape

Do be able to do kettlebell swings with the dumbbells, the shape of the plate needs to be as thin as possible.

This way it will ensure the proper grip. Dumbbells that have bulky plates are great to do push-ups or renegade row push-ups, but they are horrible to do swings.

Simply because the grip is too thick and you cannot hold the weight comfortably. In the pictures below you have two examples of bulky dumbbells.

bulky-dumbbell

Weight

Another factor is the weight of the dumbbell. The heavier the dumbbell, the more plates will have on both sides.

This will make it very difficult to hold on to. With kettlebells, you can swing even the heavyweight, because it’s got a suitable handle.

And remember that with dumbbells, you are gonna be using the plates. Here in the picture, you can find the example of too much weight that is not practical for doing swings

big-dumbbell-01
big-dumbbell-02

Quality

Always think about your safety first. The last thing you want is your dumbbell falls apart during your heavy dumbbell swings.

If you see that some screws are missing, or the robber isn’t in the best shape, or you can see some parts that are sticking out, or the plates aren’t stable, then I would use that for swings.

Frankly, I would use that at all. Always keep your safety in mind. Here in this picture, you can see some of the dodgy dumbbells.

broken-1
broken-2

What Are The Best Dumbbells For Kettlebell Swings?

You want to make sure your dumbbell has a nice, handy shape. Ideally, the material will be made from some high quality, non-slippery rubber.

The plates will be thin, but heavy enough to feel the training benefits. Also, the plates won’t take up much space.

You don’t want to have 4-5 layers or plates stuck up on each other.

good-form-1
good-form-2

What Other Kettlebell Exercises Can You Do With A Dumbbell?

Here’s the good news. You already know how to perform kettlebell swing using a dumbbell correctly. And you know what are the best types of dumbbells for this job. But here’s the better news. There are several more kettlebell exercises that you can do using the dumbbell.

Single Arm Snatch

snatch

Single arm snatch is a great, explosive movement that works on your power, and strength.

It requires you to grab the dumbbell by the handle, and snatch it up the ceiling over your head. When you do this exercise, you want to keep the dumbbell as close to your body as possible.

Single Arm Overhead Press

overhead

This exercise is usually called shoulder press, military press, or just overhead press. Normally, shoulder press you do with both hands at the same time.

It requires you to lift the weight over your head. Here, you still can do it, even with just one hand at a time. All you need is to stand straight, keep your core engaged, and press.

Goblet Squat

goblet

Goblet squat you can do with either kettlebell or dumbbell. You hold the weight similarly like with the swing, but you place your arms under the plate.

Then, make sure you have the weight touching your chest. Standing with shoulder-width apart, lower yourself down, until your elbows touch your knees, and then come back up.

Related questions

Can you do swing with two dumbbells?

For safety reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this exercise. Simply because you don’t have the opportunity to grab both dumbbells in a way as you have with just one. Also, doing a swing by holding the dumbbell by handle can result in poor form and incorrect biomechanics.

How many kettlebell swings should you do?

It really depends on your fitness level. It can vary anywhere from 50, 100, to even 200 swings a day. Here in this article, I’ve documented my results after doing 200 kettlebell swings every day.

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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