Dumbbell Swings to Get in Shape

Tamsen Butler
Dumbbell With Woman Sitting In Background

A workout that includes dumbbell swings will tone your body, giving you noticeable results from your strength training. There's no denying that lifting weights can be challenging. Yet, being able to see the effects of your efforts can prove very motivating. The most difficult part may be getting started.

The Swing Movement

It's important to control your movements during swings to avoid injury. Dumbbell swings - particularly those with heavy weight - are advanced moves and may not be appropriate for people with lower back injuries. Regardless of the swing, this guidance should be followed:

  1. Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Keep your knees soft and don't allow your back to become rounded.
  2. The first movement of the swing is a push of the weight - this begins the momentum. During the push, keep your spine neutral and allow your upper body to come forward by hinging at the hips.
  3. As the weight returns to your front, pop your pelvis forward. This increases the momentum and recruits your hamstrings and glutes to work (dumbbell swings aren't arm exercises, though they look like they are).
  4. Don't allow the dumbbell to swing past your shoulders - keep the weight at shoulder height at the top to avoid potential injury.
  5. Don't swing a dumbbell with a person in front of you.

Classic Dumbbell Swing

Much like a kettlebell swing, this full-body exercise can build strength and increase stamina. Keeping the instructions listed above in mind, here are the additional instructions for a classic dumbbell swing:

  1. Select a dumbbell that is heavier that you would use for arm work - the momentum allows you to work with a heavier weight.
  2. With a firm grasp on the weight with both hands, push the dumbbell between and past your knees while your torso comes forward.
  3. As the weight returns to around your knees, pop your pelvis forward.
  4. This movement should allow for momentum - you don't have to inhibit the momentum with your arms.
  5. Allow the weight to reach shoulder height before pushing it back down between your knees.
  6. As you repeat your swings, time your breathing so you don't hold your breath.

One-Armed Swing

A more advanced move than the classic swing above, this swing uses one hand to do the swing instead of two. Follow the instructions above, but with grasping the weight with one hand instead of two. You may need a lighted weight for a one-armed swing than for a classic dumbbell swing. The arm that isn't holding the weight should mirror the movement of the weighted arm. For example, if the right hand is grasping the weight and pushing through the legs, the left arm should push back on the left side and then follow the movement of the right arm.

Switch-Arm Swings

A switch-arm swing requires coordination and control. Follow the instructions above for the one-armed swing, but when the weight is just below shoulder-height, switch the hand that is grasping the weight. Push through to complete the movement, and then switch hands again as the weight comes forward. This should be a fluid movement with no pause for the switch.

Double Hammer Swings

Similar to traditional hammer curls, the double hammer swings involve grasping dumbbells in each hand with palms facing in toward the body. This movement should be fluid. The momentum allows you to swing a heavier weight than you would with typical hammer curls.

  1. Allow your torso to drop by hinging at the hips. As you come upright, pop your pelvis forward.
  2. Curl the weights up to shoulder-height by bending your elbows.
  3. Hinge at the hips again as you drop, with your arms extending down.
  4. Popping your pelvis forward, return to upright with your elbows bent and weights up by your shoulders.
Female workout weight training with dumbbell at gym

Building Your Exercise Program

One advantage of using dumbbells is their versatility. You can target most areas of your body with a single piece of equipment. Dumbbell swings work similarly to kettlebells for swings in that the movement occurs as a result of momentum created by intentional body movements; this is contrary to most dumbbell exercises in which you don't allow momentum to do the movements for you.

An Effective Workout

Dumbbells swings provide an effective way to strengthen and tone your body while increasing stamina. If at any time you feel pain or discomfort while doing swings, stop and check your body alignment. Swings should challenge you, but they shouldn't hurt.

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Dumbbell Swings to Get in Shape