The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives

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Tracy: 100+ lbs. lost with 2-3 sessions per week.

In The 4-Hour Body, I profiled Tracy R., a mother of two who lost more than 100 pounds.

The secret wasn’t marathon aerobics sessions, nor was it severe caloric restriction. It was the Russian kettlebell swing, twice a week for an average of 15–20 minutes. Her peak session length was 35 minutes.

This post will explain how to perform the two-handed kettlebell swing, and it will offer a cheap $10 alternative.

Beyond fat loss, this movement will help build a superhuman posterior chain, which includes all the muscles from the base of your skull to your Achilles tendons. For maximum strength and sex appeal in minimal time, the posterior chain is where you should focus. From “violent hips” for power sports, to the perfect ass for aesthetics, I suggest one starting point:

The Swing

(Trouble seeing the videos? Click here, in order, for Kettlebell Swing ABCs and The $10 T-Bar.)

Reps and Sets – Less is More

Long before I met Tracy, I met “The Kiwi” in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In early 2006, he happened to be taking a private Spanish lesson in the same café where I was finishing the manuscript for The 4-Hour Workweek, and we quickly became close friends. He had competed in elite-level rugby in New Zealand but was equally proud, I soon learned, of applying his BSE in exercise physiology to perfecting the female posterior.

He told me the story over a bottle of Catena Malbec. His obsession started when he saw a professional samba dancer in Brazil balance tequila shots on top of each butt cheek in a dance club. Lamenting the lack of similar scenes in his own country, he set off on a mission to isolate the best exercises for creating buttocks worthy of tequila shots.

By 2000 he had refined his approach to a science. In four weeks, he took his then-girlfriend, an ethnic Chinese with a surfboardlike profile, to being voted one of the top-10 sexiest girls out of 39,000 students at the University of Auckland. Total time: four weeks. Other female students constantly asked her how she’d lifted her glutes so high up her hamstrings.

If The Kiwi could have answered for her, he would have said, “Add reps and weights to the swings.”

In 2005, my interest in kettlebells reinvigorated, I returned to the United States from Argentina and purchased one 53-pound kettlebell. I did nothing more than one set of 75 swings one hour after a light, protein-rich breakfast, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. In the beginning, I couldn’t complete 75 consecutive repetitions, so I did multiple sets with 60 seconds between until I totaled 75. Total swing time for the entire week was 10–20 minutes.

I wasn’t trying to balance tequila shots on my butt cheeks. I wanted clear six-pack abs. In six weeks, I was at my lowest bodyfat percentage since 1999, and l’d reached my goal. I’ve since worked up to 50+ reps with the 106-lb. “beast” (video), which has directly transferred to 100-lb.+ gains in the deadlift.

The king of exercises—the two-handed kettlebell swing—is all you need for dramatic changes.

Here are a few guidelines:

• Stand with your feet 6–12 inches outside of shoulder width on either side, each foot pointed outward about 30 degrees. If toes pointed straight ahead were 12:00 on a clock face, your left foot would point at 10:00 or 11:00, and your right would point at 1:00 or 2:00.
• Keep your shoulders pulled back (retracted) and down to avoid rounding your back.
• The lowering movement (backswing) is a sitting-back-on-a-chair movement, not a squatting- down movement.
• Do not let your shoulders go in front of your knees at any point.
• Imagine pinching a penny between your butt cheeks when you pop your hips forward. This should be a forceful pop, and it should be impossible to contract your ass more. If your dog’s head gets in the way, it should be lights out for Fido.

75 total reps, 2-3 times a week, is the recipe.

Simple works.

###

Odds and Ends: An Appeal

George Bush 691 vs. 4-Hour Body 427 –
Since the book came out, I’ve fantasized about having more Amazon reviews than George Bush. Now, it’s actually possible! The ask: If you’ve enjoyed the 4-Hour Body, could you pretty please take 30 seconds to leave a short Amazon review here?

I’ll toast some wine and do a thank-you video this weekend if I crush The Decider. Thanks in advance — it’s been an exciting few weeks, and this would really be the icing on the cake.

Much more to come soon…

Posted on: January 8, 2011.

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881 comments on “The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives

    • That’s about 20 pounds. Use a dumbbell and hold it vertical instead until you can build up your strength to use a 10kg or 14kg kettlebell. Using a water jug just makes the movement awkward. Hope that helps.

      David

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      • I’ve got some solid metal dumbbells. Do you think these will do for now? Other thant he potential for them to go flying, anything else I should worry about?

        Like

  1. Thanks for posting the videos on the swing. I tried to do them off the pics in the book but it hurt my back. Adjusted my posture a bit and makes a big difference

    Like

    • Kay would you mind describing how you changed your posture? My wife is having some back pain when she swings, and I have been unable to cure it. Thanks.

      Like

  2. That $10 fix will like be what gets me into Kettleballs. My gym doesn’t have them and I ain’t buying them. Have bought weights before and they were more trouble than they were worth.

    Like

  3. That was the only exercise during that time? What’s amazing with the 4 Hour Body and this blog is that there are so many options to get us the results. Thanks Tim.

    Like

      • Hey Tim,

        I’ve been with you since the beginning. I’m in insurance and you inspired me to start my own agency. While it isn’t the 4 hour work week I’ve used several principles to free up my time to get more prospecting done and cut down my work week.

        On another tangent I was curious if you’d be willing to look into anything involving hair loss? I’ve still got a full head of hair but its receding and a thinning spot on the back of my head is worrying me a bit. I don’t want to go the Rogain method, nor do I want to take a pill every day for the rest of my life (and that has the side effect of potentially Errectile Disfunction). I’m wondering if you’ve done any research or plan to in the future.

        Sorry this isn’t really in the spirit of this article but I’m really curious to see how it goes.

        More on topic I’m going to be doing a 30 day video utilizing the strategy of the 4HB and tracking results meticulously. Currently overweight and out of shape so I’m a fresh ginnea pig ready for testing!!! currently 6’2″ 246 lbs with a champion size beer belly. I’m hoping to reduce inches and overall fat with your strategies. Wish me luck and I’ll send you the results!

        Like

      • Hi Mark,

        Thanks for the comment. Can’t wait to see your tracking!

        I might look into hair-loss prevention/reversal methods, but — like you — I find the side-effects of most approaches to be worse than simply going Jason Statham. I’ll keep you posted.

        Best,

        Tim

        Like

      • I find bald men to be quite sexy!!! And I’m not the only lady out there either fellows.

        Remember: there are few perfect heads out there, the rest God covered in hair.

        Also, consider that many men with balding have higher levels of testosterone. Not that my method is scientific, but my experience with bald men has shown them to be quite virile.

        Like

      • Hi Tim
        I just read your book and am excited to see some results. I do have a question in regards to the kettle balls . How much weight should you start off with in the beginning? I’m about 145 pounds and have about 25 lose. I couldn’t find anywhere in book how much weight to swing? Thank you so much!

        Like

      • Same question, I would like more insights, maybe make some posts for responding to this questions? But overall the book is the best I’ve been reading in a while.

        Like

      • It says Tracy used the kettlebell swing 2-3x a week can you do it more or would this be to much? I do the workout you said you used in the kettlebell chapter, but I think that the kettlebell is such a great overall exercise I would like to do it more.

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      • I have been doing Tracy’s workout and her new top 40 since the first of this year. I have lost 2 dress sizes. Yes, I’m also dieting but the swing has shaped my body like nothing else. Needless to say, I have inspired a number of people at my company and many are now using the kettlebell. I just had my 62nd birthday and never thought I would look like I do. This all came about because of Tim’s book (thanks so much). I will now be in the best shape of my life for the rest of my life as I will continue to do KETTLEBELL.

        Like

      • Mark,

        After reading 4HWW myself and a business partner went to work looking for what works for re-growing hair – we found scientific results that support hair growth from topical application of l-carnitine (a compound that is created in the body from amino acids). We developed a L-Carnitine Shampoo by learning the shampoo formulation process on our own, then took our products to expert chemists to finalize – the result is our muse, Hewley – we sell L-Carnitine Shampoo and a Saw Palmetto Conditioner. As a founder, I have been using both for the past 2+ years and I have never had a thicker head of hair. Tim highlighted my muse on his blog about 8 months ago (search Tim’s 4HWW blog for for Hewley).

        Tim,

        I’d be happy to work with you if you ever want to get a jump on the hair regrowth biz.

        Like

      • Help!!! I have started the slow carb diet but haven’t had much time to exercise. I am not overweight according to my height. I am in my mid 40’s. I am about 5’7″-5’8″ and about 134 lbs. But I have BIG, fat, ugly legs!! Definitely pear shaped-with horrible cellulite and saggy skin which makes them look worse!! Pockets of cellulited fat at hips–not just thunder thighs!! It goes from buttocks to knees and is slowly moving on down. I don’t look good in pants and for sure not shorts!! I’m too young to look like this and was hoping for some insight in your book! I saw where you had the left out chapter on spot treatment for thighs but all I could find that talked about cellulite is that you said women can get rid of it. BUT HOW!!! IS this diet and the kettle ball exercises going to make a difference? I was hoping the exercises would tone me and reduce but when I read of Fleur’s results in the book and her thighs only went from 10.4mm fat thickness to 10.2 mm over 5 weeks, I was disappointed. I’ve heard about some supplements but I can’t spend as much as it was going to be!! I have a big event in 3 mths and was hoping for some help. Please!!!!!

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      • About hair loss: 8 months ago I started to use the pagg stack and at the same time i started to follow the cure for low testosterone level, adding coconut oil to the stack. I’ve experienced a dramatic change in my hair, they are thicker and stronger. I don’t know if this two things are directly connected but it happened! :D

        Like

      • Hi Marco
        Could you elaborate a little bit on the cure for low testosterone? I’ve recently heard a lot about coconut oil, and I’m very curious about it.
        Janus

        Like

  4. Tim,
    I got way into kettlebells last year because of you, for that am I totally thankful.

    I built the T-Handle you mentioned in the book, and while you mention the other moves I could do with one, I’m afraid the only thing I can really use it for are swings. Are there any other resources to working with T-Handles besides the swing out there?

    Also, is the financial benefit with T-Handles is that I could go to a gym with the T-Handle and just use the gym’s plates? I bought my own plates, and even with cheap, used plates, I feel like the financial benefit is negated if I need to keep loading it with plates that I would cop to do stuff. I still think it’s an awesome, awesome idea though, I guess it’s not the all in-one gym solution I was hoping for it to be.

    PS: I’m down twelve pounds since getting back on the Slow-Carb train on 12/27 along with the other wight loss stuff you mentioned in 4HB! I lost thirty additional pounds between April and August of last year doing Slow-Carb! On the tail end of an AMAZING cheat day today.

    Thanks for everything, Tim.

    Like

    • Hi Paolo,

      I suggest using the T-bar at a gym, or using it to determine your ideal swing weight before purchasing KBs. Once you guy those, return shipping would costs nearly as much as buying another.

      I also own multiple KBs but use the T-bar for really heavy swings. Other good movements — and you can also make a longer-handled version — bent rows, reverse curls, squats (if you hold it between your legs with wide stance and post on blocks), etc.

      Good luck!

      Tim

      Like

      • Tim,

        Why not use 1-1/2″ inch Wrought Iron pipe instead of 3/4″?

        The OD on 1-1/2″ pipe is 1.9″ vs the 3/4″ pipe’s 1.050″. if you’re using Olympic plates (which have an ID of 2″), the fit would be much better. Standard plates have an ID of 1″ though, which maybe fit very snuggly with the 3/4″, but I haven’t tested.

        http://www.gizmology.net/pipe.htm

        Like

      • Hi guys,

        I found an Adjustable Kettlebell Set on eBay. It’s great. You can adjust the weight by removing plates that are inside the casing. You can change it from 12kg’s right up to 48kg’s. Quite easy to adjust too. I’m in Australia so they came from gymandfitness.com.au, but via eBay. Though I’m sure they’re available all over the world.

        Check it out.

        cheers,

        Richard

        Like

      • $30 45lb Kettlebell!!!

        Wassssup!!!

        Ive been looking high and low for a kettlebell that wont break the bank and my search ended when i found out lombardi sports in SF does price matching from the internet. I got a $60 for $30 groupon for lombardi (these deals happen every couple of months). Went to lombardi and the kettlebell was $90 for a 45lb (pood?) Proceeded to checkout and at the counter i pulled out my phone, did a quick search for the cheapest 45lb bell that was the same as lombard’s (CAP) and the search showed $58. combine with groupon and it was $30 45lbs kettlebell!

        BTW, love everything you write. got into a big argument about the 15 minute orgasm with a mate the other day.

        Like

    • Yes, but it can be a bit challenging. If you flip the DB vertically and hold on around the plates, it duplicates the movement more effectively, but don’t kill anyone by letting a DB fly.

      Enjoy the pain!

      Tim

      Like

      • I asked this same question below, but am also thinking that physically speaking, you lose a great deal of weight by holding one half of the dumbbell in your hand, rather than all of the weight being concentrated at the end of a pendulum as in the T-Bar setup.

        Like

    • I’ve been using those and they work just fine. T-Bar eventually comes along next.

      For me, I swing it by the foot of my bed just in case…

      Like

  5. Hi Tim,

    Quick Q:
    If my goal is to bulk up as much as possible + have low bf (six pack #’s), is the best way to first reach my target weight with “geek-to-freak”/occam’s and then transition into kettlebell training for more rapid fat loss?

    Some Feedback (hopefully helpful):

    4HB was a nice read and I am in the midst of doing a geek-to-freak HIT-style training. Hope to share my improvements at the end of the month (hurray self-tracking).

    2 potential pitfalls:
    1)The 5/5 cadence when lifting is in my opinion, the most difficult aspect to get used to. I’ve had to reduce the weight for most lifts in order to even do 5/5, yet surprisingly, I feel more burn doing 1 set of slow 50lb DB bench than my old, stale 3 sets of 70lb DB bench (w/ no thought about cadence).

    2)Counting to 5 mississippi’s (or 5 one-thousands) twice, 8 – 12 times each set feels like an eternity and sometimes seems impossible with some exercises. The reverse-curl for example – my t-rex stub forearms could only handle 15lbs (the tiny plates =) on each end of an ez-bar. Which brings me to the 2nd potential pitfall: gym ego…especially for the guys that have worked out in the past, but not with this infrequent, HIT-style.

    Anyways, I’m sucking it up and doing the work (really enjoying it actually). Just offering a newbie’s POV.

    P.S. I love eating.
    -Fellow Orca

    Like

  6. Thanks for the videos. The pics in the book don’t do the exercise justice. Going to Depot tomorrow to pick up the pieces for the t bar. First week on the SC diet and I’ve stopes 7 lbs. No exercise, just the diet. Next week dropping in some cardio and t-bar work and seeing what results I get.

    This really is a body hack, fun to see the week to week results. Trial and error, but with no real downside.

    Like

  7. Tim, I discovered the joy of oolong teas and a great oolong chai with loads of cinnamon in it. Is cinnamon beneficial for metabolism or just seem like it? Also I work for Lowe’s (preferential to the depot) and will be making a t-bar, how much weight should I start with for a 34 year old male 6′ ? I’ve lost 7 pounds over ten days with the slow carb diet! Thanks!!!!

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    • The oolong chai with cinnamon is great, but beware any soy or dairy added to the mix. For a healthy male your size, 40 lbs. would probably be the minimum to start with for swings.

      Good luck!

      Tim

      Like

    • Hey, Tim! I read about Tracy in your book which I pre-ordered and enjoy a lot!

      It’s really great and the only slightly negative feedback I would be able to give (if you don’t mind receiving it of course) is that it lacks kind of big picture, advise for experienced (not advanced/professional) athletes and a customizable approach.

      Just to give an example.
      What would kind of 1-10 years plan should one chose if he/she is already at about 10-15% bodyfat, squatting about ~120-140kg, bench pressing & deadlifing ~90-110kg with own weight ~70-75kg who is absolutely fine eating strict diet without binges and his/her goal is to:
      1 priority: achieve optimal long-term health (energy, feeling, longevity);
      2 priority: +15-20kg to own weight while maintaining the same bodyweight in the next years with corresponding increase in strength (let’s say +50-100%)
      3 priority: endurance.

      Would it be just Occam / Body by Science repeated over and over again? Or Occam+Tabatas? Or cycles of Occam & “Becoming Superhuman” strength training? Or just strength training? If cycling is best way to go, then what are the principles & timings. What corresponding changes in diet should be made and how it should be synchronized?
      Is it possible to pursue all of the 3 goals simultaneously if one is 100% fine that it will take few years instead of few months or you need to focus on only one at the time? Then, what’s the right sequence?
      Would eating represent more of a paleo / “slow carb” but with increased protein+fat consumption or dairy + protein shakes and complex carbs found in grains are absolutely necessary to achieve the 2 goal (regardless potential negative health effects)?
      Would it all be possible if doing intermittent fasting every day (leandgains style) or not? Would it be a good idea to do intermittent fasting once a week in this case or not? Would you suggest the same supplements to somebody who never weighted more than 75kg? Should somebody who deadlifts 150% of his weight do kettlebell swings? How should it be integrated into Occam/Strength training? Etc, etc.

      Of course, I don’t expect you to answer all the questions personally (although I would be more than happy to see your perspective ;), but this is the kind of questions that constantly raise in my head when I read 4HB and and that I didn’t always find answers to. I know answers vary from person to person and probably one should find them himself by experimenting but I’m still craving some chapter that would put it all together and explain all the contradictions (obligatory breakfast vs. intermittent fasting for life extension; no dairy in slow carb vs. butter to increase testosterone, etc).

      Hope you’ll find it at least a little bit useful. Thank you very much again for the great work. Aside from that it’s just freaking great!

      Like

  8. Hey Tim,

    Thanks again for some great advice, but I now have so much information that I need a bit of help sorting it out.

    I’m currently 160 lbs, app. 13% bodyfat – I’m looking to put on at least 15 lbs of muscle and hit 10% bodyfat.

    Which protocols should I start with – losing fat or gaining muscle, and would it work to mix and match?

    Would using the PAGG stack work while simultaneously doing Occam’s protocol?

    I’m not necessarily looking for instant results, I’d just like to know the best place to start and where I progress from there.

    Thanks again for all your hard work and dedication – it means a lot to all of us!

    Like

  9. Enjoying the book and trying the different parts. I even also bought a signed copy!

    2 quick questions if you have a chance:

    1. Are the bonus chapters around somewhere? I can’t find them :(

    2. What’s your regular supplement, food, and exercise regimen now that you’re done with all the experimentation?

    Thanks!
    Sam

    Like

    • Hey Sam,

      1. A few are up already, but I’ll be putting up the rest over the next few weeks.
      2. Ah, that’s a longer answer. I’ll reply to that in my next impromptu Q&A :)

      Best,

      Tim

      Like

      • Thanks for the quick reply Tim :) I’ll keep an eye out on your blog for future Q&As.

        Much appreciated,
        Sam

        Like

      • THANKS, TIM!

        Love the book, KB’s, PAGG/AGG, etc. I lost about 30 lbs in about 3 months doing them. Dropped 2 full pant sizes (38″ -> 34″) and continue to refine my workouts to reach other goals!

        Did you ever describe what you do for your “normal” diet/exercise routine?

        Thanks again,
        Eric

        Like

  10. The t-bar idea is really interesting. I’ve got a few clients who either don’t have the cash or are too cheap to purchase an actual kettlebell. What is the bottom piece that that weights are resting on and which the pipe is attached to?

    Like

  11. You encourage checked and NOT carry on? Was this a mistake? I thought you love packing light and doing carry ons?

    Please clarify that bro :)

    Aaron

    Like

  12. If you do not like tape get a set of mountain biking grips and slide them over the ends. Also use hairspray to put them on. It helps lube them on and then tacks them when it dries.

    Like

      • Another idea regarding the handles:

        You typically get a free pipe cut @ the big hardware chains so you can buy 1 8″ double threaded piece and have them cut it in the middle. That way you get rid of the threaded ends where you’re gripping the handle. File off any sharp places on the cut.

        You’ll probably still want to use gloves or sports handle tape for better grip, tho.

        Like

      • I found that I had to use 1/2″ piping to fit into the hole in my plates and cost me $15 at OSH. The T-bar really helped me get into kettle bells. I was able to buy old plates from Play It Again Sports for nearly half the cost of new plates.

        Also, if you plan on trying to do something for hair loss, I recommend visiting the website I created for bald people. I put the address in the form so that it’s not spammy.

        Like

  13. Love the book and all the info in it. Can’t wait to get into the kb training. My only frustration is that I have kindle version and can’t find the weblinks easily. Other lessons from the book that have been good for me- thinking and trying outside the box is valuable, and when something isn’t working, just try something else. Thank you for writing this…

    Like

    • I have the kindle version as well — it’s simple, download the Kindle app for PC (or Mac), and login with it, then download your book onto it.

      It’s the best of both worlds — I get to carry my Kindle around & read on the go, but then I find when I’m trying to put together information from multiple sections, or making a shopping list, I open it on my PC where its much faster to search & jump around sections.

      Like

    • Celeste,

      I’m on the Kindle also. My solution was to dl the free Kindle-for-PC client from Amazon and review the links on it – they are clikable. The PC client can sync with your Kindle if you want.

      JDelage

      Like