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Kettlebell Swing — Hit Your DELTS With The Kettlebell Shoulder Swing!

Written by Adam

This exercise is a shoulder assassin! It’ll carve up your front delts with surgical precision.  It’ll also sculpt your shoulders into a form Michelangelo would be proud to render into stone.

You may think you’ve seen this one before under another name, but the Kettlebell Swing is a slightly different exercise. (We show you the difference between them in the video, so be sure to check it out.)

This variation hits the shoulders hard because you’re removing most of the leg drive from the bottom of the swing. You’ll only have a small snap with your hips to absorb and decelerate the weight at the bottom of the movement. But you’ll have to drive it back up — to the sky baybee! — with those screaming front delts.

Don’t expect much help from your bulging biceps either… You’re keeping your elbows locked throughout to make it a true swing. Those hands and arms are just hanging on for the ride. Their job is to connect the load directly to your shoulders.

Beastly? Sure. But we did film this one in the octagon after all…

Check out the video and give it a try:

Let’s review the performance cues for this movement:

  • Hold your kettlebell by the horns
  • Don’t swing back all the way — the kettlebell just breaks the plane of the knees in the bottom position
  • Little drive with the legs, but big explosive drive with the shoulders
  • Move that weight as quickly as you can!
  • Keep your elbows locked to make it a true arm swing

You’ve got several options for this exercise. You can do the Kettlebell Shoulder Swing ballistically, as an activation exercise. You can grab a heavier weight and perform 8 to 10 reps for strength or hypertrophy. Or you can grab a lighter weight and do higher reps for muscular endurance.

That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Give it a try, and let us know how you did in the comments. And if you have any questions, that’s the place to post ‘em!

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Adam

32 Comments

  • This isn’t totally relevant to this article…but.

    I just finished my first 4×7 wave of BER hypertrophy. Starting the program I thought I was tough stuff. I was a bum. I have made more progress in these 28 days than in my previous 2 years of training. I became complacent and didn’t even know it.

    Many thanks to you guys for waking me up from my dogmatic coma. Excited to keep on keeping on.

    • Hey Brian,
      That’s great man! And you know, I was just thinking about something along these lines today. I can push myself pretty hard in my training. But I can NEVER push myself as hard on my own as I can if I’m pushing “for someone else.” I always have my best training cycles or workouts when I’ve got a training partner, coach or even if I’m following someone else’s program. It totally changes the dynamic.
      Cheers,
      Adam

  • I’m a big fan of kettlebells and indeed teach a kettlebell instructor award – I’m a little perplexed by this example. Why are you using a kettlebell and not a dumbbell for this exercise? There is no elastic demand on the posterior chain within the swing due to excessive knee and ankle flexion. May as well be using a medicine ball or a standard free weight.

    • Having tried this out with multiple tools, the horns of the kettlebell provide the best anatomical position for the movement. It’s actually quite awkward with the other tools that you mentioned.

  • I think I like this kettlebell variation better than the “standard” swing. Conventional swings start to irritate my sacroiliac/external hip rotators if I do them with any appreciable amount of leg dip or hip drive…this looks like a decent substitute.

    BTW, that’s some serious guns you’re sporting there, son…whatever you are doing is obviously working for you.

    Keep up the great work.

  • What is the brand of kettlebell you are using there out of curiosity?

    Also, is the activiation similar if using a kettlebell design similar to the ones found on the IKFF store (straight as opposed to angled handle connections)? If not then how would you alter the exercise to produce the same effect?

  • Awsome exercise Adam. BTW, you’re looking pretty beastly these days; much biggere than your earlier videos. What you been doing?

  • Give it up Adam, what have you been “training hard” at?
    I’ve done a lot of your stuff…bought some vids as well; I’m in great shape but have found that variety and confusion has been my best result.
    So I would very much like to know what your philosophy is and what you have been doing as of late because a few of us have noticed your change.
    Good job my man; inspiring, keep it up!

    • You guys are crackin’ me up! 🙂
      It’s true… train hard and eat right. But yes, you have to do it specifically for your goal. My goal in the second half of the year was to put on 5-7 pounds of lean mass and I managed it. I started with our Bodyweight Anabolics program. But I also evolved into some other stuff that’s still “under wraps”. But I promise to share (but not for a couple months still).
      Cheers,
      Adam

  • I’ve been doing that exercise but not with the kettlebell, I usually take a 45 pound plate, hold it in front and swing. I think it’s the same thing, well maybe not the same since the weight distribution of the kettlebell is different, however I do get a great pump on my front deltoids and it hurts like a bxxxx.
    PS. Concrats on your new body composition, it looks great.

    • Hi Sinisa,
      You can do it with many tools. Just make sure you use proper form. I’ve simply found that the KB is the most “comfortable” tool for the job.
      Cheers,
      Adam

  • I just started training with kettlebells this past year and really love them. They are just so raw and basic that they make for an incredible workout. I am kind of hooked on body weight training now versus lifting with weights (after 28 years of meathead training in a gym), but kettlebells are something that I really love.

    -Kelly

  • Have been using dumbbells in similar exercises but yesterday attended the kettlebell group class that just started up at my gym.

    Going back today for shoulder day and will make sure to include those swings as a finisher to my workout, thanks guys!

  • James, this would be a totally different exercise than the standard swing, therefore you cannot call it a “variation” since it is NOT a hip driving movement. If your external rotators and sacroilliac joints are bothered by a CORRECT swing then you had best look at why and correct since the bend pattern is so often used by all of us on a daily basis.

  • I have a question for you Adam, I am curious about how you develop your physique, is this all through bodyweight exercises, or you also used different machines and weights to build your muscle where they are right now?

    • Hey Jun,

      I use a variety of tools depending on my goals at any given time. Bodyweight forms the base, but I am far from dogmatic about using only BW. I rotate through tools like Clubbells, kettlebells, med-balls, sand bags and even conventional free weights.

      For example, right now I’m fascinated with force production. So my latest passion is Olympic lifting (barbell snatch and clean).

      Cheers,
      Adam

  • I have downloaded your bodyweight combo, and I don’t know how to progress this from that, meaning more sets to each, and that would defeat the purpose of doing this exercise for under 30-45 mins. Should I just do it for 1 month, then switch to another exercise routine, and which one?

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