kettlebell swing alternative
Fitness

5 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternative Exercises

Russian kettlebell swings – commonly referred to as just kettlebell swings – are an excellent way of working numerous muscles at the same time. The abs, shoulders, lats, glutes, hamstrings, and quads are all engaged during the movement and put under strain from the resistance of the kettlebell.

However, they can be a slightly intimidating exercise to do, especially for beginners. Given the nature of the movement, it doesn’t take much for your form to be slightly off, thus adding load to your lower back and increasing the chance of injury.

So, here are 5 effective alternatives to the kettlebell swing.

1. Barbell hip-thrust

How to:

  • Find a padded bench or box and sit in front of it with your legs straight out in front, and a barbell across your hips.
  • Place your upper back against the padded equipment and bend your knees to bring your feet closer to your glutes.
  • Drive your heels down and push your hips upward until they are fully extended.
  • Lower under control and repeat.
  • 10-12 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell
  • Padded bench, box or step

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Hip thrusts work a lot of the same muscles as the kettlebell swing, without putting too much potential strain on your lower back. This exercise also allows you to add more weight than a kettlebell swing.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your back straight and neutral all the way through this exercise to ensure your lower body is doing all the work.

2. Cable Pull Through

How To:

  • Attach the rope handle to the cable machine and place it on the lowest slot in the tower.
  • Stand over the rope handle, with your back toward the tower, and hold a side of the rope handle in each hand. Your feet should be just over hip-width apart with your arms extended, your knees bent and your spine neutral.
  • Hinge at the hips and lower your chest toward the ground until you feel the tension in your glutes and hamstrings, allowing the cable to pull your hands through your legs.
  • Drive through to a standing upright position by engaging your glutes until your hips lock.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.
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Equipment Used:

  • Cable machine
  • Rope handle attachment

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This exercise doesn’t require much equipment, and it’s very easy to change the weight settings on the cable machine, meaning you can tailor this exercise to your needs. Like the kettlebell swing, it’s focusing on your posterior chain meaning your glutes and hamstrings are getting a great workout.

Pro Tip: 

Start with a lower weight to ensure your form is correct, then gradually increase this over time. Pay attention to your lower back; if there’s any sort of pain, then stop and reduce the weight, as well as re-assessing your form.

3. Sumo Deadlift High Pull

How To:

  • Stand in front of a barbell with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  • Hinge at your hips and bend down to grip the bar, overhand, with your arms between your legs.
  • Drive-up from your feet to stand back up, pulling the bar with you and keeping your eyes forward.
  • Keep your belly button tucked in.
  • As the bar passes your hips, continue its momentum by pulling the bar up toward your chin with your arms, letting your elbows come out wide.
  • Lower the bar back down under control and hinge at the hips and bend at the knees to return to the starting position
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Though it’s a complex movement, the sumo deadlift high pull works a lot of muscles and many of the same ones as the kettlebell swing. 

Pro Tip:

Keep your back straight throughout and keep the bar close to your torso at all times. At the top of the movement, ensure your elbows are raised above your ears.

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4. Romanian Deadlift

How To:

  • Start with the bar in your hands held at your hips, as opposed to on the floor, with an overhand grip.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, slowly lower the bar by hinging forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Once you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings, which is usually once the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This exercise allows you to add a bit more weight while still targeting your posterior chain, but it also doesn’t require excessive weight in order to be effective.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t feel like you need to lower the bar all the way to the ground; remember that you should stop lowering once you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings – you don’t want your lower back to be doing the work.

5. Box Jumps

How To:

  • Stand in front of a box with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees at roughly 45 degrees and swing your arms backward.
  • Swing the arms forward and explode off the ground by pushing up from your feet.
  • Land on the box as softly as possible, with your feet flat and knees slightly bent.
  • Step back down and repeat.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Plyo box.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is a great way of replicating the power from kettlebell swings by getting your body to move through a similar range of motion.

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Pro Tip: 

If you find yourself landing on the box in a full squat, this means you’ve chosen a box that’s too high. When you land on the box, try not to let your knees collapse inward.

Conclusion

While kettlebell swings are a convenient way of targeting numerous muscle groups at once, they can also be a bit risky, especially if you’re not used to them. These alternatives will allow you to hit the same muscles while minimizing the risk of injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles are worked with kettlebell swings?

The abs, shoulders, lats, glutes, hamstrings, and quads are all engaged during the movement.

Can you use dumbbells for kettlebell swings?

Yes, absolutely. Avoid using dumbbells with removable plates as these have a chance of sliding off during the movement. Place the dumbbell between your legs, end on end, and hold it by the end closest to you. Perform the swing in the same way you would with a kettlebell.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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