How To Use Kettlebell Swings For Hypertrophy

best ways to gain muscle with swings

If your goal is to build muscle and get stronger then this article is for you. I will show you the easiest ways and explain how to use kettlebell swings for hypertrophy.

Regardless if you’re have already doing strength training at the gym, and you looking to change your routine.

Or if you are new, and you just have heard about the kettlebells. In this guide, I will explain to you the basics of hypertrophy, and explain how kettlebell swings with other great compound exercises will help you to get to your goal.

How Does Hypertrophy Works?

Hypertrophy is a term used to describe building lean body mass (muscle). And the majority of athletes who are engaged in sports like football, rugby, powerlifting, or even just regular people who lift weights, want to gain muscle.

Even on a more general level, more muscle mass is the goal not just to have a better looking physique, but is also strongly associated with better health and longevity.

The good news is that hypertrophy can start to develop within just a couple of months of training.

A study was done by Dr.Bent R Rønnestad from Inland Norway
University of Applied Sciences. They showed that untrained individuals were able to gain 10-15% of lean mass after just 10-14 weeks of heavy-resistance training (source).

And as you advance further, it becomes progressively more difficult. That’s why if you’re looking to continue seeing progress, it’s important to have a proper hypertrophy routine in place.

What got you to where you are right now, may not be enough to get you to the next level.

Remember that there are many ways to skin the cat.

And getting lean mass can be done through a wide range of resistance training programs, some routines will lead to greater hypertrophy than others.

Related article: Will Kettlebell Swings Make My Legs Bigger?

Mechanism Of Muscle Hypertrophy

best way for hypertrophy

There are three main ways to promote muscle hypertrophy: mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress

Mechanical tension is primarily about the intensity (amount of load) and time under tension (duration under load). It is well established that mechanical tension is the main driver behind muscle hypertrophy.

Intensity is about adding more weight to your lifts. For example.

Imagine you do the same workout for 3 months, with same reps and sets, but each month you add extra weight.

Related article: Will Kettlebell Swings Make Me Look Bulky?

Mechanical Tension For Heavy Load

Kettlebell SwingsRepsSetsWeight
Month 110 reps3 sets10kg
Month 210 reps3 sets12kg
Month 310 resp3 sets16kg

This is how heavy you can go.

The more weight you can lift, the more you “shock” the muscle, and as a result muscle fibers have to adapt, and therefore increase the diameter.

And more you progress with the weight (progressive overload) the more effects you get.

Heavyweight will maximize motor unit recruitment, which leads to a greater hypertrophy response. Think of a motor unit recruitment like you have 5 guys trying to push the car.

If they do it one by one, they won’t get any effect. That’s what happens when you use low resistance. You won’t recruit all the muscle fibers.

But why those 5 guys will come together to push the car, then it’s much easier. And that’s what happens when you add weight. More motor unit recruitment.

But progressive overload isn’t only about the weight. It’s also about how often you lift and how many reps you do.

Progressive overload isn’t’ only about weight.

how to do KB swings for hypertrophy

It is about the volume too.

So how many reps per week you lift given weight. For example.

Imagine you lift the same weight for a period of 3 months. You don’t add any weight but you progress win reps.

Mechanical Tension For Volume

Kettlebell SwingsRepsSetsTotal Volume
Week 110 reps3 sets30 reps
Week 212 reps3 sets36 reps
Week 315 resp3 sets45 reps

That’s progressive overload, too.

The best exercises you can use for mechanical tension are:

DeadliftsShoulder PressSquats
Bench PressChin-upHip Thrusts
Pull-upBend-over RowKettlebell Swings (heavy)

Metabolic stress is an effect on the muscle that appears after anaerobic glycolysis and the accumulation of by-products like hydrogen ions, intramuscular metabolites, and lactate.

In other words, this is the proverbial “pump” or “burn”. It’s about doing specific exercises (usually isolated) that will lead to lactic acid production.

The most important are the adaptations (changes) that occur after this effect. This metabolic buildup promotes the release of hormones like IGF-1, testosterone, and growth hormone. So the more you chase the burn, the more it will impact your hormonal status.

You just do as many reps as you can until you feel the burn.

The best isolated exercises to be done for maximum metabolic stress are:

Pec DecPull-over MachineLeg Extension
Lateral RaiseBack ExtensionLeg Curl
Frog SquatsGlute BridgesFrog Pumps
Rope TricepsBand WalksKettlebell Swings (medium)

For kettlebell swings, if you use the lower weight, but you continue to do repetitions until muscle fatigue, you will stimulate metabolic stress.

Metabolic Stress For Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell SwingsRepsWeight
Set 1As many as possible20kg
Set 2As many as possible20kg
Set 3As many as possible20kg

But metabolic stress can also be done with compound exercises. This will involve doing more advanced techniques like forced reps, drop sets, heavy negatives, or supersets.

A study done by Dr.Juha P. Ahtiainen from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland documented the effect of forced reps (reps that involve using a spotter who assists the lifter).

They revealed that people who used a spotter to help them go beyond what they could lift normally had significantly greater levels of growth hormone, compared to people who lift the regular weight (source).

Drop sets increase time under tension, which is associated with more metabolic stress, and greater fatigue.

A study done by Dr.Kazuhisa Goto from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, documented that just adding a single set of low-intensity resistance exercises at the end of the set can significantly raise the growth hormone response (source).

Drop Sets For Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell SwingsRepsWeight
Set 1Until muscle failure32kg
Set 2Until muscle failure24kg
Set 3Until muscle failure20kg

Heavy negatives are loaded eccentric movements. You must lift the weight (usually with the help of the spotter) concentrically, and then slowly lower the weight during the eccentric phase. Because muscle is not fully fatigued during the concentric move, this allows doing multiple reps with 1RM or more.

There is a number of studies that show eccentric movement is critical in achieving muscle hypertrophy.

A study done by B M Hather’s from the University of Ohio documented that maximal muscle hypertrophy after resistance training can’t be done unless eccentric muscle actions are performed (source).

Supersets are already well known in the bodybuilding community, however, there is not much research that reveals a direct correlation between supersets and metabolic stress.

A superset is basically the combination of two or more exercises done back to back. It is known however that reduced rest between sets ramp up muscle fatigue and metabolic stress.


Kettlebell Swing2024kg

Muscle damage is the reaction of the muscle cell caused by resistance training. This leads to the production of myokines that are believed to stimulate cell proliferation and differentiation (growth).

How To Use Kettlebell Swings For Hypertrophy?

The beauty of kettlebell swings is that they can be used from multiple angles. You can use them to stimulate muscle growth, and the best options would be doing heavy load (mechanical tension) or chasing the burn (metabolic stress).

But they can also be used for strength and conditioning as a part of the “finisher” work.

I write couple of the articles where I explain how to use kettlebell swings for best cardiorespiratory adaptations.

5 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Conditioning will show you how to combine kettlebell swings together with other compound exercises to gain strength and conditioning.

7 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Cardio will show you how to use kettlebell swings and together with other cardio equipment.

Related Questions

How often should I do kettlebell swings?

You can train with kettlebell swings 4-5 times a week. You can combine mechanical tension and metabolic stress in one training day. Start from heavyweight and then move on to the lighter weight where you chase the burn.

How long should I do kettlebell swings?

First results you should start seeing in the first 12 weeks of training. If you mix and utilize all of the training methods, it may be even quicker.

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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