The kettlebell swing is my favorite movement to start teaching harder kettlebell progressions, developing power in the legs and hips, and improving deadlift lockouts.
But, oftentimes we don’t have access to a kettlebell.
So I’ve compiled a list of my favorite kettlebell swing alternatives to reap similar benefits, when we don’t have a kettlebell.
Here are the 7 best kettlebell swing alternatives:
- Dumbbell Swing
- Banded Pull Through
- Hip Thrust
- Romanian Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Broad Jumps
If the alternatives we use to replace the kettlebell swing are not similar to the swing based on the musculature used and the explosiveness of the movement, then we will be missing out on the benefits of the movement.
So, in this article I’ll discuss what makes a good kettlebell swing alternative, and go into further detail on the exercises that you can use as substitutes.
What Makes A Good Kettlebell Swing Alternative?
A good kettlebell swing alternative is a movement that:
(1) Targets the same musculature as the kettlebell swing,
(2) Has a power component
Let’s discuss these two criteria now.
Muscles Used In The Kettlebell Swing
The muscles used in the kettlebell swing are:
- Erector Spinae
- Rectus Abdominis
- Shoulder Stabilizers
The kettlebell swing is a hinge movement pattern and therefore recruits the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstring, erectors) to extend the hips.
In addition, we are putting ourselves in a position of knee flexion at the bottom of the swing as we load the legs/hips to explode to the lockout. Because of this flexed position of the knees we recruit the quads to extend the knees.
In terms of core activation, as the kettlebell reaches its final position (parallel with the floor) we need a strong core position to avoid arching the back as the hips lockout. To accomplish this, we engage the rectus abdominis to stabilize the core and prevent any arching/rounding that could occur in the swing and lockout.
Lastly, while the shoulders are not the prime movers because we are using the power of the legs to give the kettlebell momentum rather than lifting with the arms, they are still involved in the movement because the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle (which anchors the arm to the body) must keep the shoulder in position as we are swinging.
Takeaway: A good alternative to the kettlebells swing must incorporate most, if not all, of the same muscle groups. Otherwise, it’s going to less effective.
Kettlebell Swing: Lower Body Power
The kettlebell swing is a power exercise that is used to develop explosiveness in the hips and legs.
It is often used as a foundational movement to master the hip hinge, as a progression to harder movements like the kettlebell snatch or clean, and even used as an accessory exercise to help with our deadlift lockout.
Takeaway: The power aspect of this movement is crucial for proper execution and power development in the lower body. Therefore, an ideal alternative will also have a power component.
Kettlebell Swing Alternatives: 7 Exercises
1. Dumbbell Swing
If we are looking for an alternative to the kettlebell swing because we do not have a kettlebell, but we have access to dumbbells – then the dumbbell swing is the best alternative to replicate the kettlebell swing.
How To Do It
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart or wider
- Hinge at the hips with a neutral spine to grip a dumbbell on the floor by the weight-end (or handle)
- Bring the dumbbell back between the legs while keeping the spine neutral
- Using the hips and not the arms, swing the dumbbell up until its parallel with the floor
- At the top of the movement, snap the hips forward until they are stacked under the shoulders
- Engage the core to prevent back from arching at the lockout
- Hinge at the hips to once again bring the dumbbell back between the legs with a neutral spine
- Repeat the swing
The dumbbell swing is going to be the most specific alternative exercise for the kettlebell swing as we are mimicking the movement with a different style of weight – so we are definitely targeting the same musculature, and achieving the power component we are looking for.
If we plan to do a number of kettlebell movements but we only have access to dumbbells, it could be worth investing in a product like the Kettle Gryp (click for today’s price on Amazon), which converts dumbbells to kettlebells by simply snapping onto the dumbbell handle.
2. Banded Pull Through
The banded pull through is an alternative to the kettlebell swing for those who only have access to resistance bands, because we can mimic the hip hinge and do so explosively.
How To Do It
- Anchor a band to a rack, or sturdy support
- Stand facing away from the anchor point with feet hip-width or slightly wider
- Grab the band between your legs with both hands
- Step out further to increase the band tension, if necessary
- Hips and shoulders should be stacked, arms should be straight, hands are holding the band and resting slightly on the thighs
- Hinge at the hips with a neutral spine to let the band pull the arms through the legs
- Using the hips, explode back to the top position by squeezing glutes and engaging the core to keep shoulders and hips stacked with no back arching
- Repeat the process
With the banded pull through we are using the posterior chain similarly to the kettlebell swing to hip hinge and then extend against resistance explosively.
However, the movements are slightly different because with the kettlebell swing we would bring the kettlebell to shoulder height, but with the banded pull through we are not flexing at the shoulders; instead, the arms/band stay connected to the thighs throughout the movement.
The banded pull through works the same muscle as the kettlebell swing because of its hip hinge motor patterns – with slightly less emphasis on the shoulder stabilizers, as the arms are not moving at a higher velocity into a flexed position. However, the lats will be active in the pull through to prevent upper back rounding.
3. Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is an alternative to the kettlebell swing for those with access to a barbell, band, or dumbbell because it targets similar musculature at the hip to develop stronger and more powerful glutes.
Check out our other resources on hip thrusts:
- Don’t Feel Your Glutes Hip Thrusting? Try These 9 Tips
- Do Hip Thrusts Help Squats?
- Do Hip Thrusts Help You Jump Higher?
How To Do It
- Find a band, barbell, or dumbbell to use if using added resistance
- Sitting on the ground with the upper back in contact with a bench or couch, to use as a pivot point
- Feet planted hip-width apart, and knees bent at a 90 degree angle
- Place the weight on the hips (if using a band attach under each foot and over the hips)
- Pivot front the upper back, keeping a neutral spine, and engage glutes to lift the hips off the ground until the hips are extended
- Keep core engaged to prevent arching of the back in the top of the movement, and instead create a stacked position
- Lower towards the ground, and repeat
The hip thrust is an alternative to the kettlebell swing because it develops strength in the posterior chain through extension of the hips. It can be made more powerful by increasing the level of effort and weight used during the exercise.
The hip thrust differs from the kettlebell swing because it does not require stabilization of the upper body, and instead just uses it as a pivot point. The hip thrust is also performed with the knees flexed throughout the movement, whereas the kettlebell swing extends the knees as well as the hips.
The hip thrust is a good option for those who have access to a barbell, a band (and do not enjoy pull throughs), or have no equipment. If we have a dumbbell, it is better to do the dumbbell swing as it is more specific to the kettlebell swing than the hip thrust.
Interested in hip thrust alternatives, check out our article for the 9 Best Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives.
4. Romanian Deadlift
The romanian deadlift is an alternative to the kettlebell swing for those with access to a barbell or band because it is also a hip hinge, and it keeps constant tension on the legs, hips, and erectors because like the swing we do not touch the ground between reps.
How To Do It
- Can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a band
- We start with the weight in the lockout position of the deadlift (feet shoulder-width, arms extended with weight in hands, core braced, hips and knees stacked). This is achieved by either deadlifting it up, or unracking it at this position from a rack
- Hinge at the hips with a neutral spine while allowing the knees to bend, until the weight is approximately mid-shin
- Once this range of motion is achieved, push through the legs to stand back up and drive the hips to meet the bar as the bar continues up the thigh to the lockout position, while maintaining a neutral spine
- Begin the next rep from this position
The Romanian deadlift is similar to the kettlebell swing because it is also a hip hinge and therefore targets the same musculature. In addition, because it is performed without touching the ground between reps, it is more similar to the kettlebell swing than a conventional deadlift.
The Romanian deadlift differs from the kettlebell swing because it is more strength-focused and is not as effective in power development; although, we can increase the explosiveness by increasing the speed and intent of the lockout.
Looking for an alternative for the romanian deadlift? Check out our article for the 9 Best Romanian Deadlift Alternatives.
The good morning is an alternative to the kettlebell swing for those with a barbell or band because it helps develop the posterior chain through a hinging movement pattern, which recruits similar musculature.
How To Do It
- With a barbell in high bar/low bar position, or a band looped from the feet to behind the neck
- Tighten the upper back and engage core musculature to prevent rounding of the shoulders and back
- Hinge at the hips with a neutral spine until the torso is almost parallel with the floor
- Push through the floor with the legs and hips to reverse the motion, and return to an upright stacked position
- Repeat the process
The goodmorning is a good alternative for those who are interested in the kettlebell swing to strengthen the posterior chain, but are less interested in power development. The reason for this is that the good morning is a less explosive movement because it requires additional amounts of bracing to maintain a neutral spine position; therefore, it is generally done at a slower rate.
For those interested in strength development of the posterior chain, the goodmorning is an appropriate alternative for the kettlebell swing; but for those wanting to develop power/explosiveness, there is likely a better option for those with access to a barbell (hip thrusts, romanian deadlift) or a band (pull throughs, hip thrusts).
6. Sumo Deadlift
The sumo deadlift is an alternative for the kettlebell swing for those with a barbell, that is more specific to the kettlebell swing when performed at lower weights and in higher reps ranges.
Check out our other sumo deadlifting resources:
- Is Sumo Deadlift Easier On Your Low Back?
- How Wide Should You Sumo Deadlift?
- Conventional vs Sumo Deadlift: Which One Should You Do?
How To Do It
- The bar should be loaded with bumper plates (plates that have a wider diameter) if less than 45lbs per side are being used (45# plates and up, will be the right diameter even if it’s not a bumper plate). This is to set the bar at the optimal height to get into the proper starting position
- Feet should be wider than shoulder-width with shins positioned so that they will be vertical in the start position, and the toes should be turned out to avoid contact of the knees with the barbell
- Once the feet are set, hinge at the hips with a neutral spine, and bend the knees to grab the bar with arms extended (grabbing the bar directly in-line with shoulders, inside the legs)
- Ensure that the hips are lower than the shoulders, but that there is tension in the hamstrings
- Using the bar, tighten the lats by actively trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together or “squeezing the armpits”
- Once lat tension has been created, push the ground away with the legs to begin to stand and squeeze the glutes towards the midline
- At the top, our arms should remain lengthened with the shoulders away from the ears, the core should be tight to prevent arching of the lower back, and the hips and knees should be locked out
- From this position, we want to reverse the motion by hinging at the hips and unlocking the knees to place the bar back onto the floor with a neutral spine
The sumo deadlift is similar to the kettlebell swing because it has a wider stance, and is performed with a starting position of knee and hip flexion – which are extended to finish the movement in the lockout position.
These movements similarities result in us recruiting the same musculature in the sumo deadlift and the kettlebell swing. Performing the sumo deadlift with more intent to lockout faster and more explosively will bring a power component to the sumo deadlift, which more closely mimics the kettlebell swing.
The sumo deadlift is different from the kettlebell swing because it lacks the arm follow-through that the kettlebell swing has and therefore needs less stability at the glenohumeral joint, but does require more lat tightness to keep the upper back from rounding.
The sumo deadlift is probably only an appropriate alternative for those with access to a barbell; if we have no equipment, a dumbbell, or band – there are likely better alternatives.
7. Broad Jumps
The broad jump is an alternative to the kettlebell swing – that does not require any equipment – because of its explosive nature, and the use of the legs, hips, and arms in the propulsion of the body forward.
How To Do It
- Standing with feet hip-width apart
- Starting with a soft bend in the legs and the arms overhead
- Bring the arms down and back as the knees and hips bend to load the legs
- Once loaded we are going to use the arms and legs to propel the body forward by swinging the arms back through and pushing through the legs to jump forward
- Land with both feet at once, and with knees bent to absorb the force
- Repeat the motion
The broad jump is the best alternative to the kettlebell swing for those with no access to equipment, because it is an explosive movement of the legs and hips that uses the arms to follow through with the movement – which is similar to the kettlebell swing.
The broad jump is very power-focused which mimics the kettlebell swing, but will likely not have the same strength developing capacity as the kettlebell swing would.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Is Your Kettlebell Too Heavy? (How To Know Using Examples)
- How To Keep Kettlebell From Hitting Your Wrist (7 Tips)
- Cast Iron vs Steel Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Powder Coat vs Competition Kettlebell: Pros & Cons
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Small Hands
- Plastic Kettlebell vs Iron Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Best 5 Kettlebells For The Money (That Are Still Well Made)
- How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell? (4 Steps For Restoring)
- 1 Arm vs 2 Arm Kettlebell Swing: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?
- E-Coat vs Powder Coat Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- Kettlebell Window Size: What Is It? How Big Should It Be?
- Kettle Gryp Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- 5 Best Competition Kettlebells (Crossfit or Kettlebell Sport)
An effective kettlebell swing replacement targets similar muscle groups as the swing, which are the muscles of the posterior chain, the quads, core, and shoulder stabilizers. An ideal replacement for the kettlebell swing also incorporates a power component to develop explosiveness in the hips and legs.
The best kettlebell swing alternative for you will depend on the equipment you have available, and your ability to perform each of the movement patterns – as some alternatives require more skill than others.