Kettlebell Exercise of the Week – Single Arm Kettlebell Swing (palm down)
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Muscles strengthened: Butt, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Thighs, Hamstrings
- Target: 3 sets of 15 reps
What you need to know
The Single Arm Kettlebell Swing is a great exercise for toning the lower back and glutes (butt) in particular.
Key to performing this exercise effectively is to initiate the swing in the hips rather than the shoulders – which is the most common mistake for first-timers.
But, because you’re lifting with one arm, the distribution of weight will work the side of the body on which the weight is held harder.
If you have weak shoulders be wary of lifting too heavy a weight but don’t just defer back to the double-arm swing, isolating each arm separately is a great way to build shoulder strength.
Use the single arm swing as part of a toning session or circuit workout. The first time you do, find a weight that challenges you on the last two of 15 reps and try to complete three sets in total three times a week. Most people should manage at least 3kg from the outset, stronger exercisers can swing 15kg or even more. Wherever you start, aim to increase the weights you use by 10% in the first month.
Remember that kettlebells are meant to feel heavy. Your form when exercising can suffer as much with a weight that’s too light as it does with a weight that’s too heavy, so experiment with different weights on the first few occasions and ensure you don’t take it too easy or to make it too hard.
What you need to do
Start with the kettlebell on the floor in front of you and set your feet wide of your hips with your toes and knees turned outwards.
Maintain a long back and long arms, bend your knees and hold the kettlebell by the handle in one hand with the palm facing your body.
Keep your knees bent but extend them just enough to lift the kettlebell off the floor – ensure the lift comes from your legs not your arms or shoulders.
Before you move, make sure your feet are both grounded heel to toe, your knees are both bent and your back is extended crown to tail. If all this is the case your torso will be naturally tilted forwards.
Ensure also that your shoulders are drawn down from the ears and dropped into your back and that your core is engaged.
Begin to swing by lengthening your legs, tucking your tailbone under, tensing your glutes and allowing the arm holding the kettlebell to rise to shoulder level. Breathe out through your mouth as you swing upwards.
Then bend your knees, tilt your tall torso forward and swing your arm under your body until your hand is just behind and below your tailbone. Breathe in through your nose as you swing downwards.
Repeat for the number of reps you’re completing with both arms and then return the kettlebell to the floor by bending your knees.
Tips and Pointers
Remember, the movement is initiated in your hips not your shoulders.
Control the level your hands rise to – if you go too high you’ll lose your posture and put stress on your lower back. Better to be below shoulder height with your hand than above.
If you find your hands swing above shoulder level easily you can probably manage extra weight.
Keep your heels grounded at all times.
The tighter you tense your butt the easier it will be to keep a long spine and a toned tummy as tension in the glutes brings extension to the lower back and creates a better position for the core muscles in the abdominal wall to engage.
If you need some equipment to get started then check out the range of kettlebells in our online shop: Kettlebells