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How to Master the Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

By Greg Brookes
One Handed Swing

Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

The one arm kettlebell swing is often referred to as the single arm kettlebell swing or one handed kettlebell swing.

Swinging the kettlebell with one arm is a natural progression on from the two handed kettlebell swing. It is possible to perform a dumbbell one arm swing but it feels a lot more comfortable with a kettlebell due to the centre of gravity being below the handle.

If you have not mastered the two handed kettlebell swing then it is very important that you begin with this kettlebell exercise first.

OK, so you are comfortable with the two handed swing now lets look at the one arm kettlebell swing in a little more detail.


One Arm Kettlebell Swing Benefits

The one handed kettlebell swing has the same benefits as the two handed kettlebell swing except it has a few hidden extras.

Swinging the kettlebell with one arm rather than two puts extra demands on the shoulder and also attempts to pull the body into rotation.

Your shoulder stabilising muscles will have to work much harder in order to keep your shoulder in good position and prevent the arm from being pulled from its socket.

Your core muscles also have to work extra hard in order to balance the forces of the kettlebell trying to pull you into rotation.

The upper back muscles on the swinging arm will also need to be strong to maintain good scapular position.

The grip strength of the hand holding the kettlebell will also be challenged as the swinging forces try to take the kettlebell away and out of the hand.

The kettlebell will also feel more comfortable when swinging between the legs because there is more room because the other arm is not involvedAre You Ready.

A quick recap on the single arm kb swing benefits:

  • Increases demands on the shoulder stabilising muscles
  • Improves core anti rotational muscles
  • Strengthens upper back scapular region on the swinging side
  • Drastically improves grip strength
  • Feels more comfortable passing down and in between the legs

The above benefits are on top of the regular swing benefits of increasing: cardio, full body strength, power, posture and being superb for fat loss.


One Arm Kettlebell Swing Muscles Used

There are not many muscles that the one arm kettlebell swing does not help activate and strengthen.

muscles used during the single arm swing
Muscles used during the 1 arm kettlebell swing

Here are the main muscles that are used with the single handed kettlebell swing:

  • Hamstring Muscles
  • Gluteus Muscles
  • Quadriceps Muscles
  • Abdominal Muscles
  • Oblique Muscles
  • Rhomboid Muscles
  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Deltoid Muscles

On top of all these main prime mover based muscles their are also hundreds of smaller stabilising muscles including the shoulder rotator cuff muscles.


One Handed Kettlebell Swing Technique

The fundamentals of swinging a kettlebell with one hand are exactly the same as the two handed kettlebell swing.

Many people actually find the single handed swing a little easier because there is more room to swing the bell in between the legs.

Also if you are guilty of muscling up the kettlebell with your shoulder muscles with two hands then the single handed kettlebell swing encourages you to use more of your hip drive to elevate the kettlebell.

To see more posts about hip hinge workouts, go here.

Watch a tutorial video of the 1 Arm Kettlebell Swing below:


One Arm Kettlebell Swings Progressions

It can be a big step to go from the two handed kettlebell swing to one handed kettlebell swing because effectively you are doubling the load on the shoulder.

As a simple guide to follow here is how I recommend you progress from two hands to one.

  • Step 1: Practice until you can perform the two handed swing for 60 seconds
  • Step 2: Start with just 10 repetitions (or 20 seconds) on each arm. Repeat for 3 rounds
  • Step 3: Practice until you can complete 60 seconds on each arm
  • Step 4: Increase the weight by 4kg’s and return back to Step 1.

Please ensure that you progress slowly following the steps above.

52 Kettlebell Exercises Download PDF

Kettlebell Hand to Hand Swing

The next progression on from the one arm kettlebell swing is the ability to change hands without having to put the kettlebell down in between repetitions.

Once you can swing from hand to hand it makes your kettlebell training flow much better enabling you to easily transition from one exercise to the next.

Watch a tuition video on the kettlebell hand to hand swing:


Single Arm Kettlebell Swing Workouts:

Practice makes perfect and there are lots of different kettlebell workouts for you to try:

Swing Workout 1

  • Single Arm Kettlebell Swing – 10 reps each side
  • Rest as much as needed
  • Repeat 5 rounds

At the end of this is workout you will have completed a total of 100 kettlebell swings, 50 on each arm.

You can make the workouts even more challenging by trying to perform the 20 repetitions (10 on each side) every minute.

Set your interval timer to beep every 60 seconds and then perform your 20 total repetitions every 60 seconds.

You will complete all 100 swings in 5 minutes, a great achievement.

Swing Workout 2

  • Single Arm kettlebell Swing Left – 30 secs
  • Slingshot – 30 secs
  • Single Arm kettlebell Swing Right – 30 secs
  • Slingshot – 30 secs
  • Repeat 3-6 rounds

Each one arm swing is broken up with the kettlebell slingshot which gives you time to get your breath back.

Using a gentle exercise like the kettlebell slingshot in between more cardio based exercises is called active recovery which means that rather than stopping you still keep your heart rate elevated.

Swing Workout 3

  • Single Arm kettlebell Swing – 15 secs each side
  • Rest 15 seconds
  • Single Arm kettlebell Swing – 30 secs each side
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Single Arm kettlebell Swing – 45 secs each side
  • Rest 45 seconds
  • One Arm Kettlebell Swing – 60 secs each side

With this single arm kettlebell swing workout we increase the repetitions at the same time as increasing the rest periods.

The harder you work the more rest you require.


Conclusion

Once you have mastered the two handed kettlebell swing then your next goal should be the one arm swing.

The one arm swing delivers the same benefits as the two handed kettlebell swing but with a few extras included.

Don’t rush into the single handed kettlebell swing use a sensible progression because you are fundamentally doubling the load on the one shoulder.

Using the kettlebell hand to hand swing will also be useful to improve the flow of your workouts.

I’ve also listed three kettlebell swing workouts for you to use to practice your one arm kettlebell swings.

Happy Swinging!

Do you use the single arm kettlebell swing? Let me know your feedback below…

52 Kettlebell Exercises Download PDF

FAQ

What muscles do one arm kettlebell swings work?

Kettlebell swings work most of the muscles in the body but in particular those of the posterior chain, namely the glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and core muscles.

How do you do a one arm kettlebell swing?

The kettlebell swing is based on the deadlift movement pattern and requires a thrust of the hips in order to move the kettlebell dynamically. It is important that the lower back is kept stable via a strong contraction of the core muscles and a good hip hinge technique.

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    1. Melodie Mayo Avatar
      Melodie Mayo

      Greg – great video and instruction on how to smoothly change hands with the KB swing. I had been struggling with alternating arms and once you explained the turn of the KB at the top of the swing and I tried it, the change actually became fun!

    2. Mari Avatar
      Mari

      Hello Greg,

      I’m interested in starting kettlebell exercises at home. My issue is that due to a stroke Seven years ago I have weakness on my left side (not a big issue) and my left arm/hand is paralyzed below the elbow (big issue).

      If I only ever do exercises with my right hand, will it cause problems or is it just as effective for the core but just doesn’t work out the left arm/shoulder area?

      Or is this a too difficult question?

      Thanks a lot

    3. MIKE ALFTER Avatar
      MIKE ALFTER

      Hey Greg I have a bad left shoulder is it ok to do 1 arm kettlebell swings with just the right hand for awhile ?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Sure Mike, does it hurt when you perform two handed swings? Often movements below shoulder height can be OK.

    4. Cara Avatar
      Cara

      Thank you – clear, detailed demo with great instructions and tips.

    5. Stefano Avatar
      Stefano

      Hi Greg. What do you think about the single-arm skier swing?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        It would depend on your goals Stefano, is there any particular reason why you want to use that exercise?

        1. Stefano Avatar
          Stefano

          Well, it seems to work my back more than any other version. Being a senior, I need a strong back. I’m currently doing 2 back-to-back sets of 15+15 reps with 12 kg.

    6. Christine Avatar
      Christine

      Tried the one arm swing today for the first time, I can definitely feel it in my shoulders! Thanks for creating the workouts. I did #1 today and am looking forward to doing the others!

    7. Pat Avatar

      Greg,
      In your one handed swing video, you showed it from the side view. I would have like a front view as well. At the top of the swing, where is the KB? The arm is straight out but is the KB center chest which means the straight arm is angled in. Or is the arm straight out with the KB aligned with the side of the body?

      In week 3 of the 12 week program.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Hi Pat, the arm is chest height and the kettlebell is in the centre of the body and slightly angled in as you mention.

        Best of luck with the program.

    8. Maria Avatar
      Maria

      I’m doing the two handed swing with a 12 kg kettlebell, should I start the one handed swing with a 10kg kettlebell or try right off with a 12 kg?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        If you have a 10kg Maria then you can certainly try that first, keep the reps low 5-10 each side. Just ensure that you can swing the 12kg for 60 seconds non-stop before moving onto the single arm.

        1. Maria Avatar
          Maria

          Thanks for the reply. Yes, I can swing the 12kg two-handed for 60 seconds (about 40 reps). I’m finding with the single arm swing at 12 kg that my hand gets sweaty pretty quickly and my grip starts to slip. Any suggestions there? I’m doing the Women’s training package right now and am on week 3. One more question: I’m also noticing that with the one arm swing, my wrist turns back a little (thumb pointing backwards) versus remaining flat like it does with the two handed swing. Is that just from the extra rotation or should I concentrate on keeping the hand/wrist position the same as for the two-handed swing? Thanks!

          1. Greg Brookes Avatar

            Hi Maria, your grip strength will naturally improve and although your hands may get sweaty you will feel more comfortable holding on, just keep practicing but don’t let go 🙂

            As for your thumb pointing backwards, yes mine does the same too, I think it is a natural alignment with the shoulder as you take the arm down and back so no need to worry about that.

            Keep up with the training.

    9. Joanne Keenan Avatar
      Joanne Keenan

      Oh — by the way — I’ve been doing practice one-legged squats in anticipation of the pistol squats. They won’t be pretty. But I hope by Week 12 they grow closer to becoming a thing of beauty!

      Again I say — I’m so glad I found your apps and the rest of your programs. It’s fabulous to be able to travel anywhere with my own gym!

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Sounds like you are going along nicely Joanne, those Pistol Squats will really wake you up! All the best.

    10. Joanne Keenan Avatar
      Joanne Keenan

      Good morning Greg — or I guess it’s afternoon! I’m in Week #9 of the 12-week Muscle Building Program. Wonderfully challenging and good practice at managing weight vs repetition and very timely with your newsletter of last week.

      I just want to clarify that the swings in Week 9, Day 2 are 30 single arm swings ON EACH SIDE — I assume this is for endurance — x 5 sets. As I look ahead to that particular workout, I’m tired already! 😉

      I’ve really enjoyed learning a few new exercises and perfecting them through the weeks. Great program with a lot of thought put into it.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Hi Joanne, the Swings on week 9 are Two Handed Swings x 30 reps rather than One Handed 🙂

    11. Douglas Cobb Avatar
      Douglas Cobb

      Greg, while most people talking about how to do kettlebell swings online seem to be saying that when doing one-arm swings, the arms goes straight in front of your body, some people like Valery Fedorenko believe it is best to have your elbow bent towards the chest somewhat at the top of the swing. He says this makes the kettlebell “fly” better, and it helps prepare people to later on learn to do the snatch. What do you feel about this? Personally, I’ve been doing the one-arm swing as you suggest and demonstrate, but Fedorenko should know — maybe he’s just coming from a different perspective…..

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Hi Douglas, good question. The most important and effective part of the swing is the hip drive, this is what most people have trouble with. You are activating the largest muscles in your body, the glutes, along with the whole posterior chain. I tend to teach a straight arm because as soon as you mention a bending of the arm then the beginner starts to “muscle” the kettlebell rather than using their hips. Once you can swing well and effectively from your hips then whether you bend your arm at the top or not is up to you. The most important thing about the arm is keeping the shoulder back and in its socket purely because you don’t want to be putting a passive stretch through your soft tissue when it’s vulnerable.