Can Kettlebell Swings Replace Running?

kettlebell swings
July 14, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “can kettlebell swings replace running?”. Kettlebell swings are one of the most well known kettlebell exercises.

They are great for conditioning and fat loss. Heavy kettlebell swings done properly will also build mass all over the body. This exercise is very challenging and will work lots of muscles simultaneously.

If you perform kettlebell swings does it mean that you no longer need to run? This is the topic that I will be exploring in more detail in this article.

Can Kettlebell Swings Replace Running?

It is important to remember that running is a purely cardiovascular exercise. Kettlebell swings are a resistance exercise with a cardiovascular component.

The two exercises are different so you can’t really replace one with another. The cardiovascular benefits from kettlebell swings can mean that you don’t have to incorporate running into your program if you don’t want.

Kettlebell swings are not easy and will fatigue you quite fast. Running is more stressful on the joints overall, swings with kettlebells are safe as long as you utilise proper technique.

Swings with kettlebells are intended to be an exercise that involves the posterior chain heavily. Running doesn’t involve the posterior chain to the same degree, but it still works the quads and hamstrings.

Running will generally improve your endurance more due to the time component. You can run for a lot longer than you can do kettlebell swings. Even if you perform light weight kettlebell swings, you won’t be able to do them for hours!

kettlebell swings

Cardiovascular Component

Both running and kettlebell swings incorporate a cardiovascular component. Running is pure cardio and kettlebell swings also involve a big cardiovascular component.

This is especially true if you go for high rep swings or circuit training involving kettlebell swings. You will find that you will start to fatigue quite quickly. This is due to the fact that kettlebell swings involve resistance as well and work so many muscles.

It is a tough exercise and one that you can’t do for hours. Running on the other hand doesn’t involve a resistance component. You can make the exercise harder by running up a slight incline.

But this exercise is pure cardio. Running can work cardiovascular endurance overall better than kettlebell swings. This is because you can run for a significant length of time.

Therefore, the distinction between the two exercises is the fact that swings involve more resistance and a lot more muscle mass. It is a harder exercise than running due to the sheer amount of muscle mass involved and the difficulty of the activity.

Do You Have Joint Issues?

Some people may suffer from joint issues such as knee pain. They may not be able to run frequently or for much time. For these people kettlebell swings are a great option.

Kettlebell swings are less stressful on the joints. This comes with a caveat – you have to ensure that you master good technique. You don’t want to be throwing up heavy bells with sub optimal form. You will increase the risk of injury.

If you find that running causes you a lot of knee pain then you should replace this exercise. You could replace it with kettlebell swings and also find a lower impact form of cardio.

Walking in nature for instance is an example of low impact cardio that is therapeutic for the joints. Kettlebell swings will improve your conditioning but that exercise is not a purely cardiovascular one.

Running long distances can also interfere a lot more with your weight training in the gym. Your recovery will be impeded and you have to pay more attention to programming.

Kettlebell swings don’t have the same implications. You can perform these swings in a separate conditioning workout, or at the end of your regular weight training workouts.

Previously I have discussed kettlebell training in more detail.


Doing Kettlebell Swings Properly

Performing kettlebell swings with the correct technique is crucial if you want to reap the benefits of this exercise fully. 

The key is to use your posterior chain to perform the movement. This exercise is great at building up your posterior chain and strengthening your glutes and hamstrings.

When you are getting the kettlebell off the floor and transitioning into the swing you need to think about humping the air and getting your hips into the movement. 

Squeeze your glutes hard and drive through with your hips. When you are swinging the kettlebell you don’t want to make the mistake of pulling with your upper body.

Your arms should be like hooks like they are on the deadlift. All the power should come from the posterior chain when performing this exercise. When you are swinging the kettlebell you need to ensure that you keep your shoulder blades retracted.

The movement will take some time to master. You should start with light kettlebells and work up slowly to heavier ones.

Choosing Between Running Or Kettlebell Swings

First of all you don’t have to incorporate either exercise into your workout routine. You have full control over the exercises that you choose to include in your training.

Personally I am not a fan of running. I find it to be stressful on the joints and think that it can interfere with your weight training to a degree. This is especially true if you are running for longer distances.

In terms of a pure cardio exercise, I prefer walking on a treadmill on an incline or walking outdoors in nature. Kettlebell swings incorporate both a resistance component and a cardiovascular component.

Swings are a great conditioning exercise. You can build muscle and burn fat at the same time. You will also find that your cardio and work capacity will improve which will benefit your weight training.

If I had to choose either running or kettlebell swings, I would choose the kettlebell swings. You will improve your conditioning, but you won’t put as much stress on your joints. In addition you will build more muscle than you will from running.

Final Thoughts

Can kettlebell swings replace running? You really shouldn’t look at this as a replacement option.

Running and kettlebell swings are very different exercises. Both will improve your cardio and conditioning, however kettlebell swings are brutal in that they work a lot of muscle mass and have a strong resistance component.

Running can better improve your endurance as you can run for very long distances. You can’t really do kettlebell swings for too long without getting fatigued.

If I had to choose between the two exercises, I would pick kettlebell swings. You would be able to improve your conditioning whilst putting less stress on the joints. Kettlebell swings will also interfere less with your weight training if you program it in correctly.

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Is Rowing A Viable Alternative To Cardio?

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