Swings aren’t an exercise you’ll often see in most commercial gyms, but they do offer a number of benefits. Swings are usually performed with a kettlebell, but dumbbell swings can be just as effective and are an ideal replacement if you don’t have access to a kettlebell or aren’t sure how to use one. Start including swings in your lower-body workouts or as part of a cardiovascular circuit.
To perform a swing, stand with your feet slightly wider then hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in both hands with your arms hanging straight down. Swing the dumbbell back through your legs, then lift it up by explosively snapping your hips forward, while keeping your back and arms straight. Swings hit the group of muscles known collectively as your posterior chain. This includes the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core muscles. A weak posterior chain can be a major cause of lower back pain, says Dr. Todd Sullivan, chiropractor to many NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA athletes. By strengthening these muscles, not only are you helping to make them leaner and more defined, you’re also protecting your lower back and reducing your risk of injury.
Swings are a combination of a strength exercise and a cardiovascular one. To make them more strength-based, use a heavier dumbbell and perform a low number of sets. Five sets of eight to 12 reps works well. Training in this rep range with a challenging weight will increase muscle size and strength. Strength training isn’t just about hitting the muscles though, it’s also beneficial for burning fat and boosting your metabolism, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cardiovascular fitness is vital for optimal health. To make dumbbell swings into a cardio drill, use a lighter weight and perform a higher number of reps, or go for a certain amount of time. Three to six sets of 20 to 50 reps, or a timed circuit where you swing the dumbbell for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds and repeat this 10 times, will provide a seriously challenging cardio workout. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. While you may not be able to swing a dumbbell for this long, you can incorporate dumbbell swings into high-intensity circuits or do intervals, combining sets of swings with active rest periods of fast walking or light jogging.
Swings are commonly used in athletic strength and conditioning programs. According to strength coach Eric Cressey, owner of Cressey Performance, the increased posterior chain strength gained from performing swings greatly increases your speed, power and performance on the field. Swings also teach you how to decelerate knee and hip flexion, which reduces your risk of injury.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.