In this corner, we have the kettlebell swing, a ballistic exercise with cannonball-shaped free weights that demands great things of your cardiovascular system, your glutes and your hamstrings. Meanwhile, in the other corner, we have the Hindu squat, a similarly flowing exercise relying only on your body weight, that asks for mighty effort from your quads and calves. The battle of the Hindu squat versus the kettlebell swing may seem to pit random, unrelated exercises, but to martial artists and kettlebell fans, the rivalry makes sense.
Martial artists, wrestlers and grapplers consider the Hindu squat a foundational exercise for lower-body strength. The name comes from old-school Indian and Pakistani wrestlers able to complete as many as 4,000 repetitions of the exercise. When kettlebells came along and zoomed in popularity, exercises such as the kettlebell one-armed snatch and the swing jostled the Hindu squat off its perch as the gold-standard test of lower-body strength for martial artists, notes Russian kettlebell master Pavel Tsatsouline.
Kettlebell Swing Technique
The swing begins with the kettlebell’s handles gripped in both hands in front of your body, forearms resting on your abdomen. You propel the bell to around eye level, keeping your gaze forward rather than down, with a snap of the glutes and hamstrings to bring the lower body forward. The exercise includes versions with either both hands, a single hand or alternating hands, and you count off reps and sets or do timed tabata-style intervals.
Hindu Squat Technique
The Hindu squat requires no equipment and entails vertical movement, with an explosive move upward, unlike than the kettlebell swing’s ballistic move in an arc. For the Hindu squat, you stand up straight, extend your arms forward, bend your knees, raise your heels off the ground and lower your body to a full squat, so that your quads and arms are parallel to the ground and your back remains straight. Explode up while staying on your toes, advises kettlebell instructor Mike Mahler. You can set a target to shoot for of 100 reps in three minutes, or 250 in five minutes, he advises.
Combining the Two
For an amazing superset, you can combine 25 reps of the Hindu squat with a minute of the kettlebell swing to provide “a really good, complete lower-body workout,” Mahler states. The swings work on your hamstrings, and the squats work the calves and the quads. Kettlebell instructor David Whitley recommends a similar superset that he calls the “Brutal Minimalist Fitness” workout. This follows several sets of kettlebell Turkish getups with a set of 50 swings and 10 Hindu squats; followed by 40 swings and 20 squats; and so on until a final set of 10 swings and 50 squats.
Proceed with caution on the Hindu squat if you have knee problems. While the kettlebell swing is very knee friendly, observes instructor Lorna Kleidman, some knees don’t respond well to the Hindu squat.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.