One of my clients said that she started to do kettlebell swings and she loves it! No wonder why. They are tough, minimalistic, and very effective in building a strong physique. I said it many times. If you get stronger at swings, you get stronger at everything else. But some people still are on the fence. Some are skeptical, and question if they are that powerful. And some are hesitating, cause they don’t want to get bigger.
Will kettlebell swings make my legs bigger? Kettlebell swing training is a powerful method that strengthens the lower body, together with the upper body. However, to develop muscle mass you need to use the progressively heavier weight in order to increase muscle activation.
Plus, the kettlebell swing is a hip extension movement. This means that even by doing a high volume of swings with low to moderate weight, you will only target the posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings). Unlike squats, where peak activation is predominantly on the anterior chain (your quadriceps).
Will kettlebell swings makes my legs look bulky?
Kettlebell swings won’t make your legs look bulky. For maximum muscle size, you need weight training with progressive overload. This means that progressively, over the time of few months, sometimes even years, you need to add more weight to your lifts.
If I do squats over the course of a year with the same weight, I won’t get huge muscle gains. I will increase muscle endurance. And I will get fit and strong. But I won’t maximize the size.
But, if I do squats over the course of a year, and systematically add extra weight, then I’m on the fastest way to gain muscle mass.
The same with kettlebell swings. If you are doing kettlebell swings with the same weight, even if you are getting stronger, and you’re able to do more repetitions, this won’t maximize the muscle size.
Related articles: How To Use Kettlebell Swings For Hypertrophy
It’s al about the progressive overload.
Also, remember that the biggest muscles in your legs are the quads (front). And this can get a little bit confusing. Because many times, when people think of bulky legs they may think of this exact muscle group. But here’s the caveat.
The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge exercise. The movement comes from the hip joint. The muscles that are firing (activating), and allowing for this hinge to happen are glutes. So, even if you were adding more weight by using the heavier kettlebell, your quads won’t grow. Only your glutes.
There is some quad activation during the kettlebell swings, but according to data that I’ve seen on EMG, there is no progression of its activation, even with adding the extra weight. This basically means that you may add as much weight as you like to the swings, but it won’t make your quads bigger (source).
Kettlebell swing is a hip extension exercise.
So depending on which camp you’re on (bulk or not to bulk) I’m gonna show you the perfect way to use kettlebell swings.
To bulk or not to bulk?
Most of my clients, who want to know more about the kettlebells train at home. And they not necessarily are looking for adding muscle bulk on their legs. They just wanna be fit. So they buy a kettlebell to be able to work out at home. Which means they will use the same weight.
But many people would love to gain more mass, especially on their skinny legs. And they may have considering to start doing swings. That’s why I’ve prepared a perfect kettlebell swing program based on your goals. To bulk or not to bulk. So regardless of which side you’re on. Don’t worry. I got you covered.
Related articles: 5 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Conditioning
How To Use Kettlebell Swings And Not Get Big Legs?
So if you want to get in shape, but you don’t want to have bulky legs, kettlebell swings will do the trick. You won’t need a ton of volume, but for the best results, you want to train every day.
It doesn’t mean that you will do swings every day. Use one day a week as an active recovery where you stretch, go for a walk or play with the ball. Do something fun.
There is a term called the hormesis effect that is usually used in pharmacology. However, it does apply to physical activity as well. It’s defined as a dose-response impact of the stimulus, for example – running.
This means if you would run every day for 5-10 minutes it can give you some great results. You will feel invigorated, uplifted, and energized. So it’s a small dose of exercise that gives you the best results.
However, what happens if you are about to run every day for 2-3 hours? It’s not fun anymore. Your mood will drop, your performance will drop and your ability to recover will drop too.
Here’s how it would look on the graph.
So technically, you can do training every day, but you need to adjust your volume. That’s why kettlebell swings are great.
Kettlebell swings doesn’t beat you up as the weights do
I will break down two separate workouts. One for swings only. And one for a combination of kettlebell movements. But, before we carry on I want to just remind you that if you are new to swings you may want to keep extra attention on the correct form.
In that case, I’ve written an article about how to train safely, what I’ve learned from over 10 years of working with clients, the main faults, and how to do it right – are kettlebell swings bad for your back – check it out.
In the first workout, I want you to go immediately from one exercise to another. Back to back.
First of you start with squats and kettlebell swings, followed by lunges on the right side (this means you take 10 steps forward carrying the weight and you start the steps with your right leg only).
Then you repeat the process and you finish off with lunges on the left leg. By the time you get to the second lunges, you will hate your life!
Do 2-3 rounds in total. If you’re brave.
|Walking lunges (right leg)||10||–|
|Walking lunges (left leg)||10||5 minutes|
Here the job is simple. You only do kettlebell swings. And you have some rest in between.
|Set 1||10||1 minute|
|Set 2||15||1 minutes|
|Set 3||20||2 minutes|
|Set 4||25||2 minutes|
|Set 5||30||5 minutes|
The best thing about this program is that you start slow, but then you have a set or two where you feel the burn. Feel free to adjust the rest time to your fitness level.
What Is The Best Way To Build Legs?
Have you tried many things in the pass to build up muscle on your legs? Kettlebell swings can help you with that. But you need to go heavy.
The most popular heavy hip hinge movement is the deadlift. If you’ve been in the trenches for a while, I’m sure you have done some deadlifts. Heavy deadlifts can build your legs like no tomorrow. But here’s the difference.
After 5 sets of heavy ass deadlifts, you feel destroyed.
After 5 sets of heavy ass kettlebell swings, you feel amazing.
This means you can, and you should train the more frequently. Doing high volume of heavy swings will literarlly get you stronger at any lower body movement (squat, lunge, deadlift, and jump).
Here is an example of a program that will help you build up your legs over time. This training is a full-body workout, with a strong emphasis on the legs. It’s not easy. It requires some calculations. But it works like hell.
Monday – Workout A
Tuesday – Workout B
Wednesday – OFF
Thursday – Workout A
Friday – Workout B
Saturday – OFF
Sunday – Active recovery
|Back squats||12||3||60% 1RM|
|Bench press||12||3||60% 1RM|
|Kettlebell swings||12||3||60% 1RM|
|Front squat||8||4||75% 1RM|
|Shoulder press||8||4||75% 1RM|
|Leg press||8||4||75% 1RM|
|Kettlebell swings||8||4||75% 1RM|
% 1RM (one rep max) means the percentage of the maximum weight that you can lift for 1 rep. So for example.
1 RM for squat = 60kg then 60% 1RM = 36kg
1 RM for deadlift = 100kg then 75% 1RM = 75kg
Every 6 weeks make new 1RM measurements and adjust the weights accordingly. So, if after 6 weeks your 1RM for deadlift went from 100kg to 110kg, then adjust the numbers.