Small adjustments to big lifts can make a huge difference in your strength training and conditioning. For example, adding an extra kettlebell to your swing routine — so that you’re working with a pair of kettlebells instead of just one — can be a game-changer for your routine.
The double kettlebell swing is akin to performing two single-arm kettlebell swings at once. You’ll have to change your technique slightly. For example, you’ll want your palms facing each other instead of having a simple pronated (palms down) grip. That way, the bells will be less likely to clank into each other during your lift.
Because of little tweaks like this, double kettlebell swings emerge as a powerhouse exercise unto themselves. A member of the kettlebell swing family, this lift also has its own nuances and benefits — all of which you can explore when you toss them into your program.
Benefits of Double Kettlebell Swings
- Lift More Weight
- Improved Cardio
- Use More Muscles and Joints
- Even Out Your Strength
- Increased Side-to-Side Control
- Improved Grip Strength
- More Confidence
- Easier on Your (Uppe r Body) Joints
- Improved Balance and Coordination
- Add Variety to Your Training
Train for long enough, and you’ll eventually feel like She-Ra swinging a single kettlebell around. Swinging two kettlebells will keep the movement challenging (and your ego in check). For some athletes, performing heavy doubles swings, clean & presses, and front squats mean that they can load up more weight that a typical, singular kettlebell allows for. By using two kettlebells in movements like the double kettlebell swing, you unlock higher loading potentials that can catalyze continued progress and muscle growth.
Ultimately, your loading potential per bell will be limited by the bells’ size and how much space your body naturally has between your legs. Still, holding two reasonably heavy weights generally amounts to more total load than holding one very heavy bell.
Even if you have to use lighter individual weights than you would with a heavy single-bell swing, your total weight per swing will likely be higher with double swings. That doesn’t only have implications for your strength. Total load also impacts how much cardio work you’re packing in.
It’s been shown that swinging heavier loads with kettlebells increases your heart rate significantly during your workout. (1) That’s great news for athletes looking to use kettlebells for cardiovascular training. Since doubling the bells helps you increase your load, you’re also increasing the cardio conditioning potential of your swings.
Regardless of load or number of bells, the kettlebell swing is a powerful full-body movement. That said, being able to swing heavier loads has been shown to increase muscular activation and joint recruitment across your entire body. (2) Specifically, your hips and ankles will be even more involved as the load gets heavier. This can translate well into keeping steady during complex exercises that require both full-body strength and stability, such as the barbell snatch.
The double kettlebell swing is a pretty unforgiving movement. It requires you to perform basically two swings at once — one with each arm during the same hip hinge. You’ll have to keep everything stable and strong while reinforcing proper movement mechanics throughout your hips, core, back, and scapular stabilizers. When you do all this with a singular kettlebell, your body’s dominant side often takes over, even if slightly.
That side-dominance makes it very easy to compensate for imbalanced hamstring or hip functioning and side-to-side differences in muscle tightness. Performing the move with two bells will automatically highlight and address any of these imbalances by forcing both sides to work independently and also in unison. You’ll train yourself to remain in control and limit any spiraling movements of your hips or spine.
When performing single kettlebell swings, you may have the ability to compensate for any muscle imbalance in scapular stability, strength, or function. The benefit of using two kettlebells in the swing is that it requires you to stabilize each kettlebell independently. Working to stabilize both bells at the same time means that your scapular stabilizers (the muscles that keep your shoulder blades in place) have to work overtime.
During the swing itself, they’ll be helping keep the bells steady. They’ll also help stabilize at the top of the swing. They’ll do all this independently of each other since you’re using two bells. The double kettlebell swing is a good option for lifters who spend a lot of time with barbells, which don’t allow for independent scapular movement and development.
Since your arms will be working independently, double kettlebell swings have a direct impact on grip strength and wrist control for lifters. By having to control the load throughout the entire range of motion, with no ability to transfer weight from one hand to the other, you force your gripping abilities to improve. This might be especially true because of the added pressure of not wanting to knock the bells together (or into your own body).
Double kettlebell swings are demanding. They require an intense focus, full-body strength, and a whole lot of body awareness. There’s something very satisfying about being able to swing two heavy weights between your legs — without clanking against each other — and hiking them up to chest height.
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It’s a different movement dynamic than you might be used to if you typically lift with barbells. The bell path literally runs through your body. Learning that you’re capable of that kind of precision and power can be a great confidence booster.
Overall, kettlebell movements like swings are a great way to accomplish low-impact cardio. Your feet never move off the ground, so nothing will be pounding the pavement. But sometimes, heavier swings may not agree with your elbows — especially when they get heavier.
Performing kettlebell swings with two bells allows you to lift heavier total weight while going easier on your elbow and wrist joints. Overall, you’ll likely be lifting more weight per swing. But each hand will likely be holding less weight than you would be holding for a single kettlebell swing.
For example, you might normally swing a 20-kilogram bell, but hold a 16-kilogram bell in each hand during double swings. That’ll bump your total weight up to 32-kilogram as opposed to 20-kilogram — but each arm will endure less strain. And because you’ll hold less load in each hand to accommodate for swinging two bells at once, you’re less likely to activate elbow, wrist, or shoulder discomfort.
Many kettlebell maneuvers help you become more balanced and coordinated throughout your body. Kettlebells have offset weight distribution and shapes. You’ll also generally use one in each hand for peak unilateral benefits. Add the fact the double swings will have you performing a ballistic lift while preventing the bells from clashing together, and you have a great recipe for increased coordination.
Boost your gains by adding new challenges into your training. Think about the added difficulty of balancing on your feet with two kettlebells swinging back and forth between your legs. Keeping your mind engaged is hugely important for progressive overload.
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Beyond just lifting heavier, you want to be keeping your program enjoyable and fun so that you keep coming back. Adding a second kettlebell to your swing routine might be just the variety you need to keep the move in your wheelhouse.
How to Do the Double Kettlebell Swing
The double kettlebell swing is a complex swing variation that requires great control, coordination, and stability in your core and upper body. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with a wide stance behind two kettlebells. You should be able to bend your knees and complete a full hip hinge. But, stand wide enough for both bells to fit between your legs.
- Hinge forward to grab a kettlebell in each hand. Keep your palms facing each other.
- Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears to “pack your back” and stabilize both kettlebells independently.
- Use the backs of your forearms to cushion against your upper thighs as you hike both bells back behind you. Make sure they’re traveling above your knees rather than low to the ground.
- “Snap” your hips forward with a soft bend in your elbows. Use the momentum to swing the weights up near chest height.
- Use your lats to stabilize at the top as the weights reverse direction.
Double Kettlebell Swing Variations
Simple swings aren’t the only way to get the most out of your new pair of kettlebells. Once you’ve mastered the double kettlebell swing — and the single kettlebell versions of each lift — try these variations to spice up your program even more.
Double Kettlebell Dead Stop Swing
You’ll perform these just like regular double kettlebell swings, except you’ll come to a stop on the ground between each swing. To do this, complete your first rep. The weights will come to chest level, then reverse direction. Let them hike back behind you as normal. But instead of using your hips to send the weights back up, guide them to a halt on the ground slightly in front of you. Then go again.
Think of this a little bit like the difference between bouncing or dead stopping your deadlift reps. In the case of swings, they’re supposed to be a dynamic, ballistic move. You’re doing it right when you perform them continuously. But — like bringing your deadlifts to a full stop between reps — dead stopping your swings forces your entire body to lose tension and momentum. You then need build it up again between each rep. Because that is a lot more fatiguing, prepare to go lighter and perform fewer reps here.
Double Kettlebell Clean
Double kettlebell swings are a great way to get your body used to manipulating two strangely-shaped implements at once. After you get acclimated using swings, you might decide it’s time to add the double kettlebell clean into your repertoire.
The double swing will help you learn more about your body’s relationship to two kettlebells in space. That will better prepare you to clean two bells into a front-rack position without too much fear of iron clashing.
Double Kettlebell Swing Snatch
Mastered the double kettlebell swing and the single kettlebell snatch? It might be time to double it up. Use the double kettlebell swing snatch to take your double swings safely overhead. Note that the swing snatch is not the American kettlebell swing — which takes the bell all the way overhead in a swinging motion.
Adding the snatch component does take the bell that high up. But, it’s a more nuanced movement with more elbow and shoulder involvement. Plus, you’ll end with the bells racked in your hands. That’s prime territory for sinking into an overhead squat if you’ve got the mobility and the bravery.
Double the Swing, Double the Fun
Double kettlebell swings allow you to heft a lot more weight while holding less weight in each hand. Your upper body will still be working hard. Two simultaneous single kettlebell swings are no joke, especially when you have to keep them from clanging into each other.
This dynamic lift allows you to really load up on the lower body. You can practice your hinge mechanics without introducing quite as much strain to your upper body. Think particularly about your elbows, which may not love heavy single kettlebell swings. To gain confidence on the cardio and strength floor while improving your kettlebell mastery, get double kettlebell swinging today.
- Raymond LM, Renshaw D, Duncan MJ. Acute Hormonal Response to Kettlebell Swing Exercise Differs Depending on Load, Even When Total Work Is Normalized. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Apr 1;35(4):997-1005.
- Levine NA, Hasan MB, Avalos MA, Lee S, Rigby BR, Kwon YH. Effects of kettlebell mass on lower-body joint kinetics during a kettlebell swing exercise. Sports Biomech. 2020 Mar 4:1-14.
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