The Barbell Alternative to the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing has always intrigued me. Probably because I don't have kettlebells (aside from my girlfriend's 10 and 15 pounder) and can't “legitimately” do them.

I used  to string a towel through 25 pound plates to use as my “kettlebell” for makeshift swings. Oh I'm sure kettlbell purists would crucify me for this. Whatever.

I'm at the point in my training life where I'm eliminating rather than accumulating. I'm not sure I'd use kettlebells even if they were delivered to my doorstep. (I say that now, but I'm sure my curious conscious would tell me otherwise.) Nevertheless, I don't think a truck-o-kettlebells will make the stop anytime soon, but I still realize the power of the swing.

The swing is a great metabolic exercise and it also is the purest standing hip hinge exercise you can get. The kettlebell doesn't get in the way so the torso has more freedom to enable to full hinge.

But my interest in the swing has always been on the metabolic side rather than the hinge side. I know how to hinge just fine thanks my knee pain woes. The winter months make it tough for low intensity metabolic. Training is a cold garage is enough for me, and you definitely won't find me running around when the snow is falling. No worries. I make due with my athletic-aesthetic aerobic circuits and have mucho fun in the process.

But I know not everyone wants to have near death experiences in their garage  roll around like I do. (Even though they probably should. Seriously.) And I've caught myself saying that the swing is the perfect exercise for anyone that trains at home that wants to boost their heart rate.


No kettlebell, no swing.

Until now.

This “barbell swing”  exercise is a fine alternative to the swing from a strict heart rate standpoint. There are a few downsides though:

  • The upper body takes the majority of the stress, not the glutes.
  • You kinda have to conform your body to the barbell in order for it to land in the “sweet spot” to make this lift effective. The sweet spot is the crease of the hip. When the barbell sits there, the hips can hinge back as far as they want — just as they would in a swing.
  • If you aren't strong enough, you won't be able to do this exercise for the metabolic hit.

Keep in mind that this isn't supposed to be a snatch or any kind of Olympic lift substitute. You want the barbell to travel in an arc. Not a straight line.

It's not a squat either. The knees don't bend. It's all hips moving back and forth.

So it's not a power exercise. It's just something to do if you have limited space and want to get the heart rate kicking with a swing-like exercise.

To be honest, I don't really use it. I'm content with my AAA circuits. But its great for people that want to get some aerobic training in with different methods. And especially good for those without kettlebells or confined spaces. A lot of people in the beta group for The Skinny-Fat Solution were looking for some indoor alternatives to aerobic work, so it's something to consider.

I guess it would work for HIIT too…if you're into that sort of thing. (Unlike me. Sign-up for my newsletter to get The Myth of HIIT and find out why.)

So take it for what it's worth.

Whatever it's worth.

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The Barbell Bastard January 15, 2013, 9:47 am

    My friend, you look like a moron doing these. No offense. 🙂

    • Anthony January 15, 2013, 4:55 pm

      It’s actually my preferred dance move at clubs. Without the bar, of course. The ladies are all over me.

  • Ian January 16, 2013, 11:57 am

    Interesting stuff. I haven’t done swings outside of a warm-up since the summer. I used to do them for breathing ladders, or as part of Horseman WODS.

    I have built the skeleton of my necessary exercises (pull-ups, deads, press, etc (now it is a matter of adding the meat – weighted pulls/chins, wide deads, sumos, grip change, V-Press, Push-Press, etc. etc. etc.)) and have found swings to be a great warm-up exercise. I do have KB access, but would like to try this barbell variation.

    Question: Thoughts on the Smith-Machine (I obviously know swings wont work for this)? I have access to two facilities, yet the more convenient one has no free bars, just the Smith. It has dumbells up to 85s.

    The less convenient one has free bars, bumper plates, KBs and DBs up to 100s.

    I’d say 90% of the time I go to the latter, but when I don’t I dislike the forced stability of the Smith, esp when squatting or DL’ng.

    Also, do you mind if I shoot you an email with a diet/IF related question?

    • Anthony January 17, 2013, 2:40 am

      I’m not much of a smith fan.

      Send away.

  • Jonathan January 18, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Very clever, Anthony. I´ve been doing swings for a while now, and you hardly can find any person who knows kettlebells exist in where I live. Not sure of the value of that in the context here, but the alternative I found was the gripper plate swing, like this:

    It´s doing good for my back until now, and I can use heavier gripper plates as I got stronger.
    Speaking of swings, I just read a interesting article by Pavel Tsatsouline about it related to deadlifts:

    Just my 5 cents in the subject.

    • Anthony January 22, 2013, 7:21 pm

      Nice, thanks Jonathan.

      • Jonathan January 22, 2013, 8:12 pm

        My lower back also thanks… Can´t real do deads right now – whenever I tried, for a week of practice, I needed 2-3 for recovery… And I study good form for it and all.
        Guess swings will have to suffice for the moment.

        • Anthony January 23, 2013, 6:47 pm

          You shouldn’t need 2-3 weeks to recover from deadlifts unless you’re pulling like triple body weight.