1 Arm vs 2 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?

the differences between the 1 arm vs 2 arm kettlebell swing

When I started lifting I used the 2 arm kettlebell swing to help strengthen my deadlift lockout (because I could go heavier).  But after further research of kettlebell movements, I learned that there are different types of kettlebell swings, including the 1 arm vs 2 arm swing, each of which have different benefits.

So what are the differences between the 1 arm vs 2 arm kettlebell swing?  The 1 arm kettlebell swing is more advanced because it increases the stability required and challenges the grip to a greater extent.  The 2 arm kettlebell swing is easier for beginners to learn, but allows you to go heavier if you have more strength-based vs endurance goals.  

The kettlebell swing can be a gamechanger in any program whether we’re powerlifting, weightlifting, competing in crossfit, or participating in kettlebell sport, but whether we need the 1 arm swing or the 2 arm swing depends on our training goals and our current skill level.

In this article, I’ll give an overview of both movements, the pros and cons of 1 arm and 2 arm swings, and which one is likely the best option for you.

Looking for a kettlebell? Check out our reviews of the Top 5 Kettlebells For The Money, which are still high quality.

2 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Overview

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The 2 arm kettlebell swing is one of the first exercises that lifters usually learn with a kettlebell because it is used to teach us how to hip hinge, to maintain a neutral spine under load, and to develop strength and power in the legs.

How-To Perform The 2 Arm Swing

  • Maintain a flat back (neutral spine)
  • Keep neck in a neutral line
  • Swing the kettlebell back bringing the wrist to inner thigh (don’t go further back)
  • Engage the hips to power the kettlebell up
  • Do not use shoulders to swing (keep away from ears)
  • Snap the hips forward and squeeze glutes to lockout
  • Keep the arms straight
  • Swing to chest height

Muscles Worked:

muscles worked in the 2 arm swing

The 2 arm kettlebell swing primarily works: the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, erectors) but also engages the quads, core (rectus abdominis), and shoulders.

1 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Overview

The 1 arm swing has similar benefits to the 2 arm swing but also has an anti-rotation component because we need to resist rotation by using our core muscles while performing the swing with one arm at a time. For this reason, the 1 arm swing is a more advanced movement than the 2 arm kettlebell swing.

Another anti-rotational exercise we’ve talked about before is the Jefferson Squat

How-To Perform The 1 Arm Swing:

  • Maintain a flat back (neutral spine)
  • Keep neck straight
  • Swing back with the wrist to inner thigh (don’t go further back)
  • Engage the hips to swing
  • Do not use shoulder to swing (keep shoulders away from ears)
  • Keep upper back tight to avoid rounding
  • Avoid twisting to compensate for unilateral loading
  • Snap the hips forward and squeeze glutes to lockout
  • Keep the arm straight
  • Swing to chest height

If you struggle with the kettlebell hitting your wrist while swinging, check out my article on How To Keep Kettlebell From Hitting Your Wrist (7 Tips).

Muscles Worked:

muscles worked in the 1 arm swing

The 1 arm kettlebell swing works the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, erectors) as well as the quads, core (rectus abdominis, obliques), and stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle (which anchors the arm to the body).

2 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Pros & Cons

pros and cons of 2 arm kettlebell swing

Pros

The benefits of the two-arm kettlebell swing are:

  • It Can Be More Heavily Loaded
  • It Is More Beginner Friendly

Can Be More Heavily Loaded

The 2 arm kettlebell swing can be loaded more heavily to emphasize strength and power in the leg musculature while practicing to maintain a neutral spine.

The 2 arm swing is often used to practice the deadlift lockout because it is a similar movement pattern and uses the same musculature. For this use, it makes sense to use a heavier load to practice locking out with more force and to ensure that the movement is coming from the hips rather than lifting with the shoulders.

Beginner Friendly

The 2 arm swing is much more beginner friendly because it teaches basic movement patterns that beginners need to master before moving onto more complex movements.

The 2 arm swing is a progression that all lifters should start with no matter if they are interested in powerlifting, weightlifting, kettlebell sport, or crossfit because it teaches us how to hip hinge and maintain a neutral spine as we move under load, which is required for each of these sports.

Cons

  • Less Benefits
  • Less Comfortable Position

Less Benefits

The 2 arm kettlebell swing lacks the stability component that the 1 arm swing has and therefore has less overall benefits.

While the 2 arm swing is still beneficial to train the hip hinge and encourage a strong and powerful lockout, it has less benefits than the 1 arm swing because it does not have the same core stability and shoulder stability requirements that the 1 arm swing does. 

Movements that do not have a stability component lack the ability to create strength and resilience in these small stabilizing muscles to make them more resistant to injury

The kettlebell swing is likely an accessory movement (lighter movements that compliment heavier movements like the squat, bench, and deadlift) in our training and it is beneficial to have accessory movements that focus on injury prevention by choosing exercises that recruit the stabilizing muscles of the most injury-prone joints (shoulders, hips, knees, ankles).

That being said, the 1 arm swing is very beneficial to beginners who need to learn the basics first.

Less Comfortable Position

The 2 arm kettlebell swing may be less comfortable than the 1 arm swing because both hands are gripping the kettlebell at the same time and have to travel between the legs together.

If we struggle with hip mobility we may not be able to comfortably get our legs wide enough to swing both arms between our legs, especially if we have a larger kettlebell. 

The movement may not feel the most comfortable but as long as we can maintain the hip hinge pattern with a neutral spine throughout the swing, we are going to be in a safe position – it just might feel awkward initially if we don’t have much room between our legs to move.

Kettlebells come in different handle sizes. Check out my other article comparing the 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell.

1 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Pros & Cons

pros and cons of 1 arm kettlebell swing

Pros

The benefits of the one-arm kettlebell swing are: 

  • It Engages Core Musculature
  • It Improves Grip Strength
  • It’s More Comfortable

Engages Core Musculature

The 1 arm kettlebell swing engages core musculature more than the 2 arm swing because we must to resist rotation during the swing when only one arm is used.

The core engagement is an added benefit to the 1 arm swing because most individuals struggle with core strength and stability in everyday life and while lifting. 

By practicing an anti-rotation movement we develop the capacity to resist unwanted twisting movements when we are under load, which could lead to injury.

Improves Grip Strength

1 arm kettlebell swings can improve grip strength because it is a powerful movement and when only 1 arm is holding the kettlebell, it is harder for us to maintain our grip.

The 1 arm swing is a great option for those looking to train their grip strength for kettlebell sport, general fitness, or to correct grip weakness in the deadlift. 

Practicing the 1 arm swing can lead to big improvements in grip strength by increasing the amount of time under tension or increasing the amount of weight we have to hold on to.

More Comfortable

When we are performing the 1 arm swing it is more comfortable because only 1 arm needs to pass between the legs rather than 2; therefore, there is more space for the kettlebell to travel comfortably between the legs without us feeling cramped.

The 1 arm swing is also more beneficial for those who have limited hip mobility and cannot get their legs as far apart, because they only need the legs wide enough to accommodate the bell and one arm rather than 2.

Cons

  • Not For Beginners
  • Often Performed Incorrectly

Not For Beginners

The 1 arm kettlebell swing is a more advanced movement that beginners should not attempt unless they have mastered the 2 arm swing.

The 1 arm kettlebell swing is a more complex movement than the 2 arm swing because it builds upon the foundational patterns and adds a shoulder and core stability component that most beginners may not be ready for if they haven’t mastered the basic hip hinge and neutral spine.

Often Performed Incorrectly

The 1 arm kettlebell swing is often performed incorrectly because it is a more complex movement, and has a higher risk of injury if loaded too heavily or with too much repetition with poor movement mechanics.

It’s important to master the hip hinge and neutral spine positions before moving on to the 1 arm swing. Once this has been accomplished we need to learn how to stabilize the shoulder, prevent upper back rounding, and avoid twisting as the kettlebell swings between the legs.

Performing the exercise correctly is important to reap the benefits the exercise provides, and to stay injury free.

Which Type Of Swing Is Best For You?

which type of swing is best for you

When To Do The 2-Arm KB Swing?

If we are a beginner and/or we are still practicing the hip hinge and maintain a neutral spine then we should stick to the 2 arm swing because we need to master these skills before moving on to more complex movements.

The 2 arm swing is also best for those who are looking to load the kettlebell swing more aggressively and increase strength and power in the glutes and hamstrings.

If we are using the kettlebell swing to increase strength and power for general fitness or to improve our deadlift lockout, then the 2 arm swing is going to be the best option for us.

When To Do The 1 Arm KB Swing

If we are an intermediate to advanced lifter and we have already mastered the 2 arm kettlebell swing then the 1 arm swing is likely the best option for us.

We will also prefer the 1 arm kettlebell swing if we are looking to improve shoulder and core stability, because the 1 arm swing requires more stabilization and anti-rotation than the 2 arm swing.

If we are planning on competing in kettlebell sport or crossfit we should practice the 1 arm swing, because it is used as a progression for more advanced exercises such as the snatch and clean which are popular movements in both sports.

What Styles Of Kettlebell Are Best For 1 Arm & 2 Arm Swings?

2 Arm Kettlebell Swing

My favorite kettlebell for 2-arm KB swings is the Powder Coat Kettlebell from Kettlebell Kings, which is made from cast iron (click for today’s price).  

If we’re interested in training the 2 arm swings then we are going to prefer a cast iron kettlebell because the window size (the area between the bell and the handle) increases in size as the kettlebell weight increases – which gives us more room on the handle and in the kettlebell window to grip with both hands at once.

Steel kettlebells will not be ideal because they are built with one-handed movements in mind and therefore do not comfortably accommodate 2 handed movements.


1 Arm Kettlebell Swing

My favorite kettlebell for 1-arm KB swings is the Fitness Edition kettlebells from Kettlebell Kings, which are made from steel (click for today’s price). 

If we’re interested in training the 1 arm kettlebell swing we are going to prefer a steel kettlebell (fitness edition or competition edition) because they are built with one-handed movements in mind.

The steel kettlebells are ideal for one-handed movements such as the 1 arm swing because they have a smaller window size that allows for more efficient movements, especially for those who are thinking of transitioning to kettlebell competitions or crossfit.


Final Thoughts

The effectiveness of both swing styles is reliant on our ability to correctly perform the movements, and therefore it is worth taking our time to master both styles of swings to maximize strength and power while also incorporating some core and shoulder stability into our program.

How to care for your kettlebell and ensure it doesn’t get any rust is important. Check out our guide on How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell, which also includes prevention tips.

Other Kettlebell Resources


About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.