The Kettlebell Ski Swing Will Transform Your Core and Upper Body

kettlebell ski swings
Christopher Malcom

Standard kettlebell swings are a great lower body move with a side of cardio. Adding another hunk of metal turns it up a notch. “Kettlebell skier swings increase power output,” says C.J. McFarland, head strength and conditioning coach at Onnit Sports in Austin. “The weights move faster to achieve movement, which helps develop tremendous hip, glute, and hamstring strength.”

The move also homes in on the upper body. Since each arm maintains a weight—rather than controlling the same one—muscles in the shoulders, chest, and upper back contend with momentum on both sides, forcing them to make small adjustments to stay in sync. It also works grip strength since fingers aren’t sharing a handle. The move keeps you honest about imbalances, as the stronger arm can’t mask weakness on the nondominant side.

The trick, as with all momentum-fueled swinging exercises, is achieving perfect hip hinge form. Lock that down with traditional kettlebell swings, Romanian deadlifts, and barbell good mornings. To try the move, grab two kettlebells that are half the weight you’d typically use for a regular kettlebell swing—or a couple of pounds under to make sure form is down pat. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, shoulders retracted and core tight. With a neutral spine, hip hinge back, letting chest lower toward the floor, and keep arms locked out along the torso (left in photo). Then use glutes and hamstrings to press hips forward and swing kettlebells to shoulder height (right). Engage shoulder and chest muscles to control the weights at the top of the movement, then hip hinge again for one rep. For the first few reps, the arc of the kettlebells will be shorter until momentum builds. Start with three to five sets of swings for 30 to 40 seconds per set, adding weight or time as it becomes easier.

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