I recently got asked by one of my newsletter subscribers: “Can kettlebell swings replace squats?“
The first thing that is always important to know when answering any exercise selection type question is:
What are your goals?
What If Your Goals Are Purely Fat Loss?
If your goals are just pure fat loss then yes kettlebell swings can replace squats.
Kettlebell swings are a full body exercise that will raise your heart rate without you even needing to move your feet.
You can target up to 600 muscles at a time with the kettlebell swing which is why it’s such a great time saving exercise.
The kettlebell squat is similar to the swing in that it too targets up to 600 muscles at a time and will crank up your heart rate very quickly.
So if you are looking to replace squats with kettlebell swings then that is definitely an option if your goals are purely fat loss.
What About The Daily Movement Patterns?
The kettlebell swing and the kettlebell squat come from 2 different movement patterns.
General movement can be divided up into 5 basic movement patterns:
The kettlebell swing belongs to the deadlift movement pattern which involves bending down and picking up an item from the floor, it’s hip dominant.
The kettlebell squat is part of the squat pattern which is used when sitting into a chair, onto the toilet and getting into a car, it’s knee dominant.
As you can see the kettlebell swing and the kettlebell squat both belong to different movement patterns and so neither can be ignored in daily life.
What many exercise beginners fail to realise is that by switching one exercise with another you are neglecting a movement pattern that will cause compensation problems further down the line.
A good workout program should be composed of all the movement patterns listed above.
The problem can be highlighted by men who do too many push ups (push movement pattern) and end up slumped forwards and round shouldered with a tight chest.
The push up should really be balanced with equal amounts of rowing (pull movement pattern) in order to balance out the body and prevent postural issues.
Here’s the Kettlebell Row a great Pulling Movement:
So although the kettlebell swing can replace the squat in terms of producing fat loss results you are then neglecting an important movement pattern used in daily life.
What If Squats Hurt My Knees?
One common reason why people don’t squat as much as they should is because they complain of knee pain.
Unless the knee has been intrinsically damaged then more often than not knee pain is due to muscle weakness in the squat pattern.
The knee pain soon disappears once the squat pattern has been strengthened.
You can progressively strengthen the squat pattern by first taking some of the load off the movement pattern by holding onto a resistance band, TRX, stick or post.
Here’s a video demonstrating how you can use a resistance band to strengthen your squats:
Once you can squat using assistance you can then progress onto squatting down and onto a low bench making sure your thighs are parallel with the floor.
It is very important that you practice the full deep squat movement as this fully activates the buttock muscles and prevents over development of the thighs and future movement compensations.
If you do have permanent knee issues then yes kettlebell swings are a great alternative as they require a lot less knee bend while still working the full body.
Conclusion Of Can Kettlebell Swings Replace Squats
If your only goal is fat loss then yes kettlebell swings can replace squats as they both work up to 600 muscles at a time while raising your heart rate.
However, neglecting the squat pattern is very unwise as daily life includes many squatting movements.
The less you work on squatting the weaker the movement pattern will become and compensation problems will soon develop.
Unless you have intrinsic knee issues then knee pain is usually down to a weakness in the squatting movement pattern and this can, and should, be developed progressively.
Do you have a question about squats vs swings? Let me know below: