Looking for kettlebell swing variations? You're in the right place. 

Kettlebell swings are an effective, dynamic, and fun exercise that you can use to develop your posterior chain muscles. But what happens if you don't have kettlebells or want other options? 

In this article you'll discover the best kettlebell swing alternative exercises that you can use in your workout routines.

I'll even show you some thrifty kettlebell replacements. How about that?

Check out the list below for the best kettlebell swing variations.

If you lack a kettlebell or simply want a substitute for KB swings, you're in luck. There are plenty that you can choose from. Here are some of my favorite kettlebell swing variations and how to perform them.

1. Dumbbell Swing (Kettlebell Swing Alternative With Dumbbell)

man doing dumbbell swing exercise

If properly executed, you can use a dumbbell as the best substitute for kettlebell swing exercises to work exactly the same muscles. However, performing the action may be more difficult as dumbbells are evenly weighted and lack the convenient handle.

By performing the dumbbell swing, you'll be working all of the same muscles as you would during the KB swing such as your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. 

I won't lie, I've resorted to using this kettlebell swing substitute many times when I was teaching overbooked kettlebell classes in my local gym. Overall I think they make a pretty decent substitute.

benefits:

  • Works your posterior chain.
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

how to do it:

  1. Stand over a dumbbell with both feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Keeping your spine neutral and hinging at your hips, grip your dumbbell by the weighted end. 
  3. Still keeping your spine neutral, bring your dumbbell backward between your legs. 
  4. Swing your dumbbell up parallel to the floor, generating the movement with your hips, not your arms.  
  5. Snap your hips forward until stacked under your shoulders at the movement’s top. 
  6. Lock your core to avoid arching your back.  
  7. Hinge your hips again, bringing your dumbbell back between your legs. Your spine should be neutral again. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you’re feeling thrifty, many stores sell kettlebell-style grips attachable to dumbbells. My favorite is The Original Kettle Gryp, which attaches quickly and easily.

Related Article - Kettlebells Vs Dumbbells

2. Barbell Hip Thrust (Kettlebell Swing Alternative For At Home)

Man Doing Barbell Hip Thrusts

"A barbell movement as a kettlebell swing substitute?"

Yep, you better believe it. The barbell hip thrust is one of my favorite kettlebell swing variations, and for good reason. 

This kettlebell swing alternative exercise focuses on training the legs, hip, and back muscles (your posterior chain). If you build a strong posterior chain, you lower your risk of lower back injuries.

On another note, it's a brilliant exercise for sports specific training and is suitable for gym goers or participate in sports such as BJJ, MMA, Football, Soccer, and more.

However, while a good exercise on its own, it does not faithfully recreate the total-body workout needed for true substitute kettlebell swings. Usually, you are better off opting for dumbbell swings if you are able. 

It's one of the best kettlebell swing variations as you can do them almost anywhere. I've used my bed to perform this movement in the past. However, if you are unable to perform this exercise, you can try out hip thrust alternatives.

Benefits:

  • Develops your posterior chain muscles.
  • Develops power.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your upper back touching a bench or other surface as a pivot point. Feet should be flat, hip-width apart, and both knees bent at 90-degree angles. 
  2. Rest the barbell on top of your hips. 
  3. While keeping your spine neutral, pivot your upper back and use your glutes to raise your hips from the floor until they are extended.  
  4. Maintain core engagement to prevent any back arching at the top of the movement. 
  5. Lower yourself with control back to the ground. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Looking for an added challenge? Elevate your feet slightly to increase the range of motion your hips have to travel through.  

3. Good Morning 

Woman Doing Good Mornings In The Gym

If you are looking to strengthen the muscles on the back half of your body (the posterior chain) but don't care about developing power, the slow bracing movements and similar working musculature of this kettlebell swing substitute make it an excellent choice.

However, if your reasons for loving the kettlebell swing are because it improves your explosiveness and power, you are better off looking elsewhere.

I must add that this exercise is best suited for more advanced lifters. While it does come with a lot of benefits, they require a lot of core strength and stability which gym newbies might not have.

If you're unable to perform the good morning exercise due to lower back issues or discomfort, it's important to prioritize your safety and avoid exacerbating any existing conditions.

Instead, you can explore good morning alternatives that provide similar benefits without putting excessive strain on your lower back. 

benefits:

  • Strengthens your posterior chain.
  • Minimal equipment required.
  • Ideal for advanced lifters.

how to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and knees bent slightly. Rest a barbell on the upper back's trapezius muscles near the shoulders. 
  2. Prevent any rounding of the shoulders or back by tightening your upper back and engaging your core.
  3. Keep a neutral spine and hinge with your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. 
  4. Push with your hips and legs through the floor to undo the previous motion. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Start light on this exercise, you don't need a lot of weight for this movement. Try to think of it as more quality over quantity. 

4. Romanian Deadlift (RDLs)

Man Doing Romanian Deadlifts

This alternative for kettlebell swings works the same muscles as the barbell hip thrust but is more similar to a kettlebell swing, as the reps are completed without resting your a barbell on your hips.

This makes it a more strength-building-based exercise, but you can improve your power too by performing reps faster.

Romanian deadlifts can be performed with either dumbbells or a barbell. I'm a big fan of dumbbell RDLs as I find they're more comfortable to hold and I can get a deeper stretch in my hamstrings without the weight touching the floor.

If you're unable to perform the Romanian deadlift exercise due to equipment availability, personal preference, or any other reason, you can explore Romanian deadlift alternatives that can target similar muscle groups and provide comparable benefits.

Benefits:

  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • Develops your hamstrings and glutes.

How to do it:

  1. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, arms fully extended, gripping your weight, core engaged, and knees and hips stacked together.  
  2. With a neutral spine, hinge your hips and allow your knees to bend – do this until the weight reaches mid-shin height. 
  3. Push through your legs to stand up again, driving your hips so they meet the weight as it progresses up the thigh to its lockout position. Keep the spine neutral throughout. 
  4. Repeat the next rep without putting the weight down. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you do decide to use a barbell but find that it's constantly touching the floor before you hit maximum hamstring stretch, stand on a weighted plate to elevate your position.

5. Sumo Deadlift 

woman doing sumo deadlifts

This kettlebell swings substitute works many of the same muscles with the inclusion of your adductors.

The sumo deadlift is often seen as a "poor man's" deadlift due to it's reduced range of motion. However, I think it's pretty useful and can be beneficial to gym goers who have back issues. 

As the sumo deadlift doesn't require you to hinge forward as much, the strain on your lower back is far less than it would be during the traditional deadlift or kettlebell swing.

While a great exercise, it cannot replicate the repetitive explosive power that the kettlebell swing produces.

Benefits:

  • Less lower back strain.
  • Trains your posterior chain.
  • Develops strength.

how to do it:

  1. Load barbell with 45lbs+ each side or use wider bumper plates if too heavy. 
  2. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width, shins vertical, and toes turned outward. 
  3. With a neutral spine, hinge your hips and bend your knees to grip the barbell with arms fully extended. 
  4. Tighten your lats by squeezing your shoulders together, then use your legs to push away from the ground and stand, tightening your glutes as you rise. 
  5. Raise until arms are fully extended. Keep your core engaged and your knees and hips locked.
  6. Reverse the previous motions by hinging your hips and unlocking your knees, return the barbell to the ground while keeping your spine neutral. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Be mindful when you place the barbell down between reps. As your feet are in a wider position, there is an increased risk of dropping the loaded barbell on your toes... I've seen it happen a lot, and it always results in broken toes. 

6. Banded Pull Through 

Man Doing Banded Pull Throughs

If you’re looking for an alternative kettlebell swing exercise that works many of the same muscles, this is a good choice.

The main difference is that your shoulders are not worked as hard, but your lats receive a more significant amount of focus instead. 

If you're like me and travel around a lot, then you'll love this substitute for KB swings as you can do them anywhere. I've performed this exercise in my hotel room many times.

benefits:

  • Creates a constant tension on your glutes and hamstrings.
  • You can do them anywhere.
  • Minimal space required.

how to do it:

  1. Anchor your resistance band to something sturdy. 
  2. Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing away from your anchor point. 
  3. Grab the resistance band with both hands between your legs. 
  4. If the band is loose, step forward to increase tension. 
  5. Keep shoulders and hips stacked, arms straight down, and hands holding the band while resting on your thighs. 
  6. With your spine neutral, hinge your hips to pull your arms through your legs. 
  7. Explode yourself back to standing using the hips, while squeezing your glutes and engaging the core. Your shoulders and hips should remain stacked, and your back shouldn’t arch. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • I recommend using high reps and focusing on extremely slow movement during the negative phase of this kettlebell substitute. 

7. Broad Jumps (Kettlebell Swing Alternative With No Equipment)

Man Showing How To Do Broad Jumps

If you have no equipment at all, broad jumps can replicate many of the processes of a kettlebell swing. The same explosive power development occurs in the hips and legs, while the arm and shoulder muscle systems are used similarly in the follow-through action.

While handy because you can do them anywhere, the main difference between broad jumps and kettlebell swings is that they are less useful for improving muscle strength.

I think this kettlebell swing substitute would be ideal for the end of your workout as a challenging finisher. 

Benefits:

  • Uses your body weight.
  • You can do them almost anywhere.
  • Great for all ability levels.

how to do it:

  1. Stand with both feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Begin with legs slightly bent and both arms above your head. 
  3. Load yourself by bringing your arms downward and back while your hips and knees are bent, ready to propel your legs. 
  4. Propel your body forward by swinging your arms backward and through, while jumping forward by pushing through your legs. 
  5. Land both feet at the same time, bending your knees to absorb the force of impact. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • The aim of this movement is to jump as far as you can, so limit the height of your jump as much as possible.  

8. Box Jumps (Kettlebell Swing Substitute For CrossFit)

Woman Doing Box Jumps

Box jumps require minimal equipment and replicate the bottom-half benefits of the kettlebell swing, working your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as developing your explosive power.

Your arm and shoulder joints and stabilizers are also worked during the propulsion stage.

While not as good for quickly gaining strength, these are the best bodyweight alternative to kettlebell swings.

You can do this movement in most locations such as your local park jumping onto benches, small walls, and even tree stumps.

Benefits:

  • Uses your body weight.
  • Develops explosive power. 
  • You can do them in most locations.

how to do it:

  1. Stand with a box in front of you and both feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend both knees to 45-degree angles and swing both arms backward. 
  3. Jump explosively onto the box by swinging your arms forward and pushing through your legs. 
  4. Land upon the box as softly as you can, with flat feet and slightly bent knees. 
  5. Step backward off the box to resume starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you keep landing on the box in a squat position, it means your box is too high for the exercise.  

9. Medicine Ball Twists 

Woman Doing Medicine Ball Twists

This Russian kettlebell swing alternative is primarily a core exercise. While you won’t get the full-body benefits of the kettlebell swing, it does touch on many of the same areas. 

As well as your core, both your internal and external obliques get a lot of use. Medicine ball twists also promote good posture, improve balance, develop rotational power, and help back pain in a similar way to kettlebell swings. 

For this movement you can use a dumbbell, weighted plate, medicine ball, slam ball, and any other form of weight you can hold on to.

Benefits:

  • Develops your obliques.
  • Minimal equipment required.
  • Doesn't need a lot of space.

how to do it:

  1. Start seated with your knees bent, your feet off the ground, your body at around a 45-degree angle, and a medicine ball gripped a few inches from your chest. 
  2. While keeping your body centered and your core engaged, twist the medicine ball to your left hip bone.
  3. Again, staying centered and engaged, twist to your right hip bone this time. 
  4. After reps, bring the ball to your front and place it on the ground without twisting. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your feet as still as possible during this substitute for KB swings. The last thing you want is to be swinging your legs left and right using momentum. 

10. Heavy Bag Training With Weighted Gloves 

Man Doing Heavy Bag Training With Weighted Gloves

A varied 20-minute punchbag routine will work the entire body in a very similar way to performing kettlebell swings. 

During heavy bag work your core is placed under a lot of force and tension as you twist, bob, duck, and weave. 

Ever seen a boxer's body...they're usually shredded, right? (Unless you're Tyson Fury).

I boxed for well over 15 years and at the time of training, I had the best abs and core muscles around. I can definitely vouch for this kettlebell swing subsistute.

Benefits:

  • Develops a strong and well defined core.
  • Great cardio workout. 
  • Gets your heart pumping.

how to do it:

  1. Keep a boxer’s stance, with feet shoulder-width apart and one foot behind the other. 
  2. Use your whole body to throw powerful punches, keeping your core engaged and generating force with your legs and through hip rotation. 
  3. Follow through fully with all your punches, ensuring your shoulders rotate, and your arm extends properly. 
  4. Consider combining jabs, cross punches, explosive lunges, and even side kicks if you feel comfortable. The more variety in techniques, the more body parts you will work. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to incorporate squats into your routine to ensure your legs muscles are worked intensely.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Depending on your fitness level, you may need to incorporate scheduled rest periods into your 20 minutes. 

What Can I Substitute For Kettlebells At Home?

If you have shopped for kettlebells recently, you’ll have noticed low stocks and eye-watering prices due to supply chain issues and coronavirus increasing home gym supply demands.

Thankfully, many household items can become DIY kettlebells. They just need a sturdy handle and the ability to hold customizable weight.

Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Backpacks or Gym Bags
    Bags with handles can be filled with heavy items (water bottles, canned goods, books, etc.) and used as a kettlebell replacement. Wrap individual items in a towel to keep them together and observe for signs of tearing.
  • Detergent, Milk, or Water Jugs
    The side handles on many of these containers excellently replicate kettlebells. You can fill them with water, rice, or even coins, depending on your desired weight.
  • Jerry Cans, Paint Cans, or Tea Kettles
    These are sturdy, have convenient handles, and can be filled with your choice of liquids or solids.

Related Article - Best Cable Crunch Substitute

Benefits Of The Kettlebell Swing Movement

This is a popular exercise among gym-goers because of the numerous benefits of kettlebell swings, making them a valuable addition to any workout routine.

The exercise: 

  • Provides an efficient total-body workout, strengthening the arms, shoulders, back, legs, glutes, and core. 
  • Is an excellent cardio workout. 
  • Improves athleticism by strengthening explosive power areas.[1]
  • Improves posture, balance, and flexibility, reducing back pain.[2] 
  • Calories burned from kettlebell swings are the same as a six-mile run in 20 minutes. 
  • Is super convenient – all you need is a short space of time and a kettlebell to work towards multiple fitness goals. 

Kettlebell weights vary, so everybody can find a perfect match. You only need a relatively able body and good form. 

What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Substitutes Work?

Core Muscles

Your abs work in opposition to the erector spinae, flexing and resisting spinal hyperextension. They are used predominantly during the top of the swing when the momentum of the moving kettlebell is felt most. 

Deltoids

Kettlebell swings mimic the front raise, generally regarded as the best workout for the front deltoids. These muscles that are worked by kettlebell swings contribute to the swing alongside momentum from your hip extension and are responsible for controlling the lowering arc of the kettlebell too.

Erector Spinae

These muscles do a lot of work throughout the process of your swing, working to keep the spine erect and prevent injuries caused by shear force. Working them with a kettlebell swing improves posture, power, and mobility.

Glutes

The primary focus of the workout, your glutes are responsible for extending your hips during the swing. They work alongside your shoulders to generate the momentum and power of the movement that swings your arms.

Hamstrings

Your hamstrings also work to extend your hips during the swing. They also stabilize your knees, counteracting the forces coming from your quadriceps. The straighter your legs remain during the exercise, the harder you’ll work the hamstrings.

Latissimus Dorsi

Keeping your lats, located below the shoulder blades, activated during your swing is essential for keeping your swing stable, as well as achieving upper body toning and strengthening.

Quadriceps

Although not specifically targeted by the exercise, your quadriceps are involved in extending your knees. This means that the muscles here are activated most when your knees bend during the swing.[3]

Trapezius

The trapezius maintains the position of your upper back and shoulders during the swing, which is essential for keeping good form and preventing injury. Ensuring a neutral position where the shoulders do not protract forward is the key to maximizing their benefits.

Kettlebell Swing Alternative FAQs

Why shouldn’t you do kettlebell swings? 

You shouldn't do kettlebell swings if you use poor form, or have a spinal injury. The kettlebell swing relies on the hip hinge movement which can place a lot of force through your back. If you don't do the correctly, you can cause serious back pain or injury to yourself. 

How do you modify a kettlebell swing? 

To modify the kettlebell swing, you can consider increasing the weight of your kettlebell or incorporate other exercises such as lunges, goblet squats, and Russian twists into your routine.  

Is it OK to do kettlebell swings every day? 

Yes, you can do kettlebell swings everyday. However, the answer is different for everybody. Each person’s body recovers at different speeds depending on their age, diet, fitness level, genetics, and day-to-day routine. 

Conclusion

There is no denying kettlebell swings are among the best and most efficient full-body workout routines out there.

However, this doesn’t mean the same results aren’t available if you don’t use kettlebells.

Using other equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, cable machines, or creative repurposing of household items, can give you the same benefits.

Choose a handful of the exercises on the list above and give your posterior chain a killer workout.

References:

1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22580981/

2.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21997449/

3.https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-quadriceps-muscles-2696379

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.