Is Kettlebell Swing Better Than Deadlift?


In this article, I share some insights about the pros and cons of kettlebell swings and deadlifts, and which one is better in my opinion.

Is kettlebell swing better than deadlift?

In general, a dynamic kettlebell swing is better than a heavy deadlift. First, it provides more range of motion. Second, it doesn’t require maximum load, so it’s less strenuous on the body, less prone to injury, and can be performed more frequently.

One of my clients, Sue, asked me a good question about her workout. She wanted to know what is the difference between a deadlift, and a kettlebells swing. And, which one is better?

So I’ve decided to do some additional research, and here’s what I got for you.

which exercise to choose? KB swing or deadlift

Why Are Kettlebell Swings Better Than Deadlifts?

Generally, kettlebell swings are better than deadlifts because kettlebell swings utilize more range of motion during the exercise. They can be done on a daily basis by both experienced lifters as well as beginners, without worrying about overtraining.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to be obsessed with deadlifts. To the point where I would do them 3-4 times per week.

But It came at a cost.

Because I was always feeling wiped out after the training. I wasn’t feeling better. I was exhausted.

Also, I want to make it clear that I don’t demonize deadlifts by any means. I think that these two exercises are the actual foundation of any strength and conditioning program.

Or even if you just want to look good naked and you need some badass exercise.

But the results come from the repetition, over a period of time. So to reap the rewards, you need to stay consistent.

And what I’ve noticed over the years that the more often I was doing heavy deadlifts, the crappier I felt.

Of course, I was getting stronger. One hundred percent. And it’s a great feeling. Because I think it’s rooted deep in our DNA to be stronger. And when we do, it just naturally feels good.

But at the same time, after my workout was done, it just felt like the truck would run over me. Every week.

And, if you’re a full-time athlete that needs to be better at your craft, then that’s fine. Go for it.

But, if you have some responsibilities on your shoulders, your family, your bills, and your business, then you want to find the exercise that energizes you, rather than destroys you.

You want to find an exercise that can give you lots of results, and doesn’t require to change your life around.

And finally, you want to find an exercise that makes you move more, do more, be more productive, and more focused.

You are using exercise as a tool. It’s not just the physique. Let me give you an analogy here. The picture below perfectly describes how I feel after the kettlebell swings workout.

deadlift versus kettlebell swings how I feel

That’s what kettlebells swings do for me.

They always leave me better than I was before. Without feeling crippled. And thanks to that I can be much more productive during the day.

I have no brain fog.

After the workout, any obstacle, or a problem that I have, always seems to comes with the solution for that problem.

You may say that is after any exercise. Not exactly.

Deadlifts stimulate tons of muscle activation. And you can get super strong quickly.  You lift more weight, you get stronger. So why that’s bad?

Because the benefits aren’t worth the cost.

With a heavy load, the time to recover from that load will be significantly longer.

Let me give you an example here. Let’s compare two workouts. Heavy deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

Health And Recovery

If you do heavy deadlifts on Monday, then for the next 48-72 hours you will ache. This will put you out of the optimum training for those 3-4 days.

That’s a lot of time without training. Sure, you can technically do some light training on Tuesday, but it won’t make you feel better.

You will make you feel even more broken.

It’s kind of like making a toast and burning the house down in the process.

Where on the other hand, imagine that you perform 5-8 sets of just 20 kettlebell swings.

Of course, it won’t stimulate your muscle activation as much as deadlifts would, but who cares? Tomorrow you will do it again. And then the next day. And so on.

So, you may not be the strongest kid on the block, but you will feel invigorated every day. That’s what you want. Kettlebells work the muscles, without killing them.

This makes the kettlebell swings 1 and deadlifts 0.

Related article: Are Kettlebell Swings Better Than Squats?

Building Muscle Mass

If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, then deadlifts are better than kettlebell swings.

No question.

Erector spinae, hamstrings, and glutes have much greater muscular activation from deadlifts than from kettlebell swings (source).

Therefore, it will result in better muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth).

Not only it activates large muscle groups. It also ramps up the CNS (central nervous system). This is crucial in hypertrophy signaling (source).

Plus, psychologically is extremely satisfying to lift something heavy. And lastly, high weight works on the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

This is what kettlebell swings won’t mimic. So if you’re looking for the best muscle building exercise from these two, the deadlift is a winner.

On the other hand, if you are looking for the exercise that will get you stronger, without putting on lots of muscle, I wrote an article will kettlebell swings make me bulky. So feel free to check it out.

Body Composition

Fat loss doesn’t happen overnight.

And here you may have heard that weights are good for fat loss. So technically, the more weight you lift, the more fat it will burn.

But there’s a caveat to it.

Even if deadlifts do activate more muscle, therefore increase the demand for calories required to heal, remember that majority of success in losing weight is diet (source).

When it comes to body composition, diet is the king

Personally, I found that doing less intense workouts, but doing them every day, helps me with managing my hunger, cravings, and appetite.

After doing a heavy training session, all I could think of was food. So I eat a lot. And in my mind was that I deserve a good meal after a good workout.

So long story short, it didn’t get me to where I wanna be.

But the moment I’ve reduced my intensity, I found that I don’t have those crazy cravings for food, that I used to get when I was training heavy.

In fact, now I barely think about the food. So, instead of looking at which exercise burns more calories, think of it in terms of which exercise I can be consistent with.

But that’s just me. You may found that your cravings are just fine. And your appetite. So here I give one point to both swings and deadlifts.

Related article: Are Kettlebell Swings Better Than Rowing Machine?

Performance

Lastly, let’s talk about your performance. If you considering adding a hip hinge movement to your training program, then that’s an excellent idea.

But which one to choose? Again think about the benefits versus cost. Remember that performance is not just the strength or muscle mass.

It is also speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, reaction time, and power. And there is only so much in the “tank” that you can do. So if you bust yourself with a heavy load, then you will compensate with other important areas.

Depending on your sport, cycling, cross-country skiing, judo, running, baseball, or full-contact karate, then you need to implement all of the components into your training program.

Some can be even sport-specific drills that require time and energy.

So blasting a heavy load of deadlifts can compromise the results. If that would be as easy as lifting the heavy bar once a week, we’d all be doing it.

On the other hand, kettlebell swings don’t’ tax the body too much, so they can be an excellent addition to any type of workout.

Regardless if it’s for endurance, speed, or power. That’s why I will give 1 for the swings, and 0 for deadlifts.

Related article: Burpees vs Kettlebell Swings? What is Better?

Deadlifts vs Kettlebell Swings Results

CategoryKettlebells SwingsHeavy Deadlifts
Health and Recovery10
Muscle mass01
Fat loss11
Performance10
TOTAL 32
deadlifts vs kettlebell swings

So in this little competition, I believe that kettlebell swings can outperform deadlifts.

But it is your call at the end of the day.

So if you are totally new to those two movements, try them on your own. Knowledge without mileage is worth nothing.

So if you won’t do it yourself, you will never know which ones are better or you.

Here I wrote several articles where I compare kettlebell swings with other popular exercises.

You will learn all the good (and bad) things that I’ve learn from training my clients, and myself.

Related questions

How effective are high repetition deadlifts?

I believe that if you were to choose deadlifts over the swings, then stick to the medium weight for more reps. This way you won’t exhaust your body too much, be able to recover faster, so you can repeat the process.

Can you combine kettlebell swings with deadlifts?

Yes you can combine deadlifts with kettlebell swings, as long as you don’t over do it. Those two exercises works similar muscle group so you want to add some other exercises, like push0up or dips, into to program.

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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