The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives

879 Comments


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

  1. Cam,
    Read Tim’s chapter on injuries, specifically the Egoscue part (pg. 306, I believe). The exercise Supine Groin Progressive would be HUGE for you. Let me know if you have any questions about it. I’m in the Egoscue clinic in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Like

  2. So, I don’t understand. Are you supposed to do 5 reps at point A, 5 at point B, then 5 at point C? Or are you supposed to just be doing point C, and the rest is just to show you technique?

    Like

  3. Great post, great books, great blog. I’m a fan. I noticed that you hesitated when converting kg to pounds or vice versa in your video. Working in healthcare, I frequently do those conversions in my head using an easy mnemonic. You can too!

    Knowing that there’s about 2.2 pounds to each kilogram doesn’t help much. But that means you can break the conversion down in the following way:
    kg to lbs:
    (starting kgs + 10% ) x 2 = same weight in lbs
    eg: 10 kgs plus 1 is 11. Multiply that times 2 yields 22 pounds.
    eg2: 15 kgs + 1.5 = 16.5. 16.5 x 2 = 33lbs
    lbs: to kg:
    starting pounds divided by 2 and then take off 10%
    eg: 40lbs divided by 2 is 20. Take off 10% (2) leaves 18kg.

    The actual conversions are as follows.
    1 pound = 0.45359237 kilograms
    1 kilogram = 2.20462262 pounds
    The above conversions rules of thumb are more than close enough for the gym. Most folks can add or subtract 10% and multiplying or dividing by 2 making this conversion easy with some practice.

    Best,
    Ben

    Like

  4. So, I don’t understand. Are you supposed to do 5 reps at point A, 5 at point B, then 5 at point C? Or are you supposed to just be doing point C, and the rest is just to show you technique?

    Like

  5. Hi Tim – LOVE your book and your love of life. Am trying to incorporate as much as possible from the slow carb diet, but also remembering that its ‘better to do something badly than not at all’. So, Im not too hard on myself when things don’t go perfectly. I have switched to slow carb breakfasts – currently 3 egg whites, 1 yolk, lentils, kimchi and seaweed (loving it – all my friends think Im crazy – even making my own kimchi now) but my other two meals of the day are out of my control as my work involves being invited to eat at the homes of others, as well as the occasional restaurant. Of course, I try to stick to the principles as much as possible (nothing white, etc), no desserts, limited fruit – my question is – when I am served a meal like lasagne or pizza (with unavoidable carbs) what can I do at that time to help lessen the caloric/sugar impact? Will doing the exercises (air squats, etc) afterwards provide any benefit? Please keep up your interesting work!

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  6. Hey Tim

    I have a neck and chest compression injury that are both still a bit sensitive although nearly cleared up after a couple of years of relevant therapies. I want to start the kettle bell training but Im a bit cautious- are there known risks or common injuries that come from the workout?

    One day soon, I will be feeding my boyfriend shooters from my butt.

    ~n

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  7. For the T-Bar Kettlebell, you can also purchase 3/4 inch end caps from home depot, to screw onto the 2 nipple pipes that connect to the T, forming the handles. This virtually eliminates the possibility of cutting your hands on the nipple treads, but I still wear gloves because the pipes left my hand with some kind of residue.

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  8. Hi
    Thanks for this great forum. I do a lot of travelling and would like to bring the T-bar with me (without the weight plates of course). But does anyone have any advise to share regarding what to use as substitute for the weights when going abroad?

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  9. Hey Tim,

    I’m just getting into 4HB and would like to try out a lot of the exercises. I’ve learned for a physical therapist that both of my knee caps are off center and that makes even standing and walking very painful. Do you have any tips on how to remedy this? Thanks

    Nick

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  10. Tim,
    John Romaniello hipped me to the Tim Ferriss Phenomenon; I look forward to getting 4-Hour Booty, uh Body. I am intrigued with the take-no-prisoners attack on convention, as I think convention can be limiting and overrated. I am 47 years-old, a wine connoisseur, investment maven, history devotee, fitness enthusiast, and disciple of cool. Have you tried the Malbec from Bodegas Cavas de Weinert ?

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  11. Great! I love swinging kettle bells. Its one of my favorites when I train Muay Thai at gym, and the alternatives…. FTW! I don’t have bells at home and sometimes when I’m not in a mood to go to gym and in a mood to do a little exercise, I do look for kettle bells but sadly, only weights are available.

    Thanks a lot for this! :)

    Cheers!

    Like

  12. Hi Tim (or any other trainers/gym goers with advice),

    I recently read 4hb and was excited to begin working on kettleball swings. I put together a t-bell from home depot and started with the touch-and-go’s from points A and B. Unfortunately, I ended up having a pretty decent amount of back pain and I’m sure my form is reeeeally off. I looked up a bunch of videos on youtube and tried to copy them; I made a mental checklist including straight back, hinge at hips, minimal knee bend, etc.

    I’m a 22 year old male around 5’8” with probably close to 22% body fat, so the fact that I’m experiencing back pain while doing the kb-swings probably means I’m doing them wrong. Are there any other CHEAP resources you can think of where someone can learn to do them right besides online videos? It seems like there’s something getting lost in translation, but I can’t seem to figure out what it might be.

    Thank you, and please – comments from anyone who might have advice. Thanks a ton!

    Best,
    RP

    Like

  13. Hi there,

    I’m very much interested in kettlebells and all the miracles one can achieve with them. I have two questions (I’m a 29-yr-old female in good shape):

    1. I am myopic and have some retina issues which always stopped me from doing weight-lifting. Do you think kettlebell swinging is OK? If so, how much weight should I go for?

    2. I am rather keen on swimming and water exercises. How could I replicate kettlebell swings in water? Is there a kind of aqua version for kettlebells?

    Thanks for your help.

    Anna

    Like

  14. Tim,
    i’ve been doing the KB workout for about 2 weeks now. Is it bad if i eat breakfast about 10-15 minutes before doing the workout? I know you said you waited an hour. Also, is it bad if i do it more than 3 x’s per week? I do 105 reps right now, but want to get to 150-200 reps before long. Would you recommend weight training after the workout to stay toned?

    Like

  15. It looks like I got into this discussion about 2 years late, but I just got the T-bar and started working with it a couple weeks ago.

    Thing is, I don’t know if I’m doing it right… I seem to feel the swing in my biceps more than anything else. Also a little bit in my abs, in my glutes I don’t really feel anything.

    Am I doing something wrong? Or is it just that my biceps are weaker and so working harder?

    Thanks to anybody who can clear this up…

    Like

  16. 3 days into slow carb diet, and 1 kb session in the bag just now, 3×25 reps with 24 kilo bell, short pause in between each group of 25. that is some exercise, 5 minutes later, have just about got my breath back, and feel like my whole body has done a workout. elapsed time for the exercise, less than 5 minutes.

    btw, breakfast for me these days is 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped and mixed into 2 or 3 heaped tablespoons of lentil dhal (very mild lentil curry) and heated. bit odd compared to usual fruit and yoghurt or toast, has taken a few days to get used to it but polished off today with no difficulty. same dhal curry very handy for adding to meals in place of spuds or rice.

    recipe for dhal:

    2 tbsp oil
    12oz red lentils (soaked for 30 mins and drained/rinsed)
    2 large onions, fairly finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1tsp turmeric powder
    2tsp curry powder
    2tsp ground coriander
    2 pints chicken stock (made from cube)
    salt & pepper

    heat oil, fry chopped onion until soft. stir in garlic and all spices and cook for 2 more minutes on a low heat.
    add lentils and the stock, season, mix together, cover and cook gently for 45-60 minutes.

    can be kept in the fridge for days, either zap in microwave or heat through on the stove as needed.

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  17. I’ll try to be brief… 21-y.o. female, can’t lose weight — athletic, works out, does kettle bell swings, runs; also walks everywhere on a vey large campus. Doing the slow carb diet, and initially began losing some weight. Difficult to take protein with her everywhere, especially when a full day of classes, so it’s a challenge for a college student. So it began to not work any longer. Now add to this…
    Recently diagnosed with a POSSIBLE thyroid condition. Taking a small prescribed dose of synthroid for a month or so pending follow-up blood test. No longer losing the weight. Could there be a connection, absorption issue, etc.? Very frustrating and hard to analyze. Doctors (who of course know nothing about nutrition) are not much help. Even an endocrinologist was pretty useless. Any help MUCH appreciated. Thanks.

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  18. Tim,

    On the T Handle I have found using athletic tape on the end works wonders. In fact what I did was put extra on the threading then went ahead and put a single layer of wrap all the way to the T joint. Holds up really well.

    Like

  19. TIm,

    A Quick laundry list of questions on what is and isn’t allowed on the diet.

    Yes or no or Sometimes:
    Sweet potatoes
    Cheese
    Polenta
    Corn
    Corn tortillas
    Whey Lactose free Protein powder
    Almond butter
    Peanut Butter
    Peanuts
    Butter-cow

    Like

  20. Would you or someone provide me some guidelines for how long one should continuously swing? It seems that swinging a very light kettle bell for 20 minutes straight is possible, but swinging a 25 lb or higher weight kettle bell continuously for 20 minutes is unrealistic for many people. So, when one sees references to 20 minutes of swings, is it the case that one swings for a period of time, rests, and then resumes swinging following by resting? Thank you.

    Like

    • Swinging 20 minutes continuously would be quite a feat. I usually do 10 sets of 20 swings with one minute of active rest between sets. So, 20 swings, then one minute of active rest, then 20 swings, then one minute active rest…and so on. Active rest can be anything that keeps you up and moving. I have an elliptical in my basement where I work out, so I just hop on it for a minute in between sets of swings.

      This gives 200 quality swings, which usually takes about 10-15 minutes overall. I use a 53-lb kettlebell, but I started with a 35-lb bell.

      For reference, I’m 39, male, and have been practicing kettlebells for a couple years now.

      Check out Pavel Tsatsouline’s, Enter the Kettlebell book and/or DVD. That’s what I started with and continue to go back to to sharpen my technique.

      Good luck.

      Like

      • Jason, Thank you very much for your response. I found it very helpful (and reassuring). I also appreciated the specificity of the context (i.e. your reference). I am older than you and am working with a lighter kettle bell and want to avoid injury to so I am proceeding tentatively with a 12-15 swings and the resting until I can do another set or 12-15 swings. I continue along these lines for about ten minutes. The rest time is whatever it takes to catch my breath sufficiently to maintain what I think is proper form.

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  21. Awesome blog post, i have actually started adding kettle bells to my work out a 3 days a week because i read it in your book. i also started a personal blog where i track my own little tweaks in an effort to make improvements like the ones you talk about in the 4 hour body. kicked my soda and fast food habits and lost 10 pounds so far.

    but I wanted to point out that the website you link to under “purchased one 53-pound kettlebell. ” no longer exists.

    Like

  22. Dear Tim,

    Would ezekiel bread be able to be integrated into the slow carb diet? I have been attempting to yield away from all white carbs which is harder than expected.. You also stress breakfast within 30 minutes of waking.. I have found that doing AM cardio on empty stomach aids in loosing weight, would this be an allowable method to incorporate into this diet ? or would one be better off to take a protein shake upon awakening then go perform the cardio??

    Thanks

    Like

  23. Hello Tim,

    I am very interested in taking up kettlebell exercises, any recommendations on a brand/name of kettlebell would be highly appreciated!

    Many thanks.

    Like

    • Read “Enter the Kettlebell” by Pavel Tsatsouline. Dragon Door has the best kettlebells, but you may be able to find a decent one at a second-hand sporting goods store. My wife uses a 20-lb kettlebell. Make sure whatever you get is all metal. I’ve seen a lot with rubber coatings and even plastic handles. Those won’t work.

      Like

  24. “…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.” Ha, ha, ha! Tim, are you trying to master comedy also?

    Like

  25. Should the critical mass (A/B) workout be incorporated in addition to the kettle bell swings on separate days or is it in a supplement for the swings? I’m just confused because the B doesn’t have kettle bells.

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  26. Is this ok to do for someone who’s not exercised at all in the last couple of years? And who has a belly which is looking more like a 3-4 months pregnant woman’s! Will this help in reducing that fat and tone up everything else? Thanks.

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  27. In 4-Hour Body you write that maximum fertility should be the bar for measuring health, even if you aren’t trying to have kids. I agree. In the Critical (M)ass section, though, you describes a case study in which a woman comes down from a perfectly healthy ~24BMI to a 19BMI, which according to the Nurses’ Health Study, is below the maximum fertile BMI for women. (21BMI is the peak fertile spot, if I remember correctly).

    What gives?

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  28. Thanks for sharing this great information. I shared it with a friend of mine and he cautioned against potential shoulder issues and I said from my reading it’s ok if proper technique is used. It feels good that much I know, thanks again!

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  29. Hi there. First off, where can I go to do a BSE in ladies butts? Secondly good article. I have just got started with Kettlebells after a life time of Barbell work and running. I’m finding them fantastic! I’m aiming to start the 75 swings on Monday and see how it goes.

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  30. I absolutely love the 4-hour body. I’ve recommended this book time and again. Thank you Tim for writing it and thank you Tyler for recommending it!

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  31. I’ve been reading a lot about the kettle bell swing and how great it is for your lower back glutes and hammies…..my question is what would be the best weight to use if I’m looking for maximum fat burn and butt building without adding bulk to my legs? I have a 15lb KB and just purchased a 30lb KB a few days ago…..I was told for the fastest results you should swing decently heavy….ie the 30lb purchase……is that too heavy or about right? It doesn’t overstrain my back or shoulders when I swing it so I’m hoping that it was a wise purchase…. Also if I was to do a 20 minute session every other day how quickly should I start seeing results and weight loss? I’m looking to drop about 25lb in two months……any suggestions?

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  32. This might be a very stupid question. But if you need to do 50 repetitions but need to choose a weight that allows you to do 20 but not more then 30. How do you do that ? Do you do 2 times 25 repetition and take a break inbetween and if so how long of a break do you take ?

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