Dumbbell Swing Tutorial Video – One Super-Versatile Exercise That Can Boost Your Progress Immediately

If I only had one dumbbell and needed to reach a strength training goal, the dumbbell swing would be one of my exercises of choice. This weight training exercise is very simple and yet powerfully effective at eliciting a positive training effect. I like this weight training exercise mostly because it is easy to learn, requires minimal equipment, and works great for burning fat, building lean muscle tissue, and generating strength and power for athletic activities.

While the dumbbell swing may look like an arm exercise, the motion is actually generated in the legs with the extension of the knees and hips pressing into the ground. The core muscles will then channel that energy into the arm which is locked down in order to prevent it from “lifting” the dumbbell. Don’t let the way this exercise looks fool you, this is a full-body exercise that is challenging both to local musculature and to the cardiovascular system.

Programmed correctly into a strength training program, this exercise can create a large metabolic disturbance, resulting in more total calories burned.

Single-arm Dumbbell Swing

There are a few technique tips to keep in mind when performing this exercise.

1) Maintain good posture – this includes a flat back and a relaxed neck and spine, but also a locked down core. Your abdominal muscles should be actively contracted during the explosive, swinging phase of the movement.
2) Maintain shoulder pack position – actively packing your shoulder directly downwards onto your ribcage. This creates a structure that allows the dumbbell to travel smoothly with no excess movement.
3) Maintain elbow lock – bending your elbow will allow energy to “leak out” at that joint. Keeping your elbow locked will ensure that you get the most benefit from the exercise.
4) Use an intelligent grip – using the popular “death grip” with high intensity dumbbell swings isn’t a smart idea because you’re grip muscles will fatigue quickly. Since we want a full body training effect, we must use the intelligent grip protocol. This entails gripping just enough to maintain control of the dumbbell, and even lessening your grip while the DB is in freefall at the top of the motion (the moment when it stops ascending upwards, and begins to descend downwards). This gives your grip muscles a break and allows you to train more.
5) Allow your leg drive to do the swing work – pressing your feet into the ground while you explosively extend your hips forward and straighten your legs is the driving force of this exercise.
6) Exhale forcefully on effort – this is when the dumbbell is in back position (between your legs) and the body is literally coiled down to extend the hips and legs. When you release that elastic energy, effectively swinging the dumbbell upwards, that is when to forcefully exhale through your mouth.

Plugging this into a strength training program is really simple, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. You could do DB swings for time – doing rounds of one minute/arm. You could try doing heavier swings for reps, doing sets of 10, 20, 50, etc. This could also just be a supplementary exercise that you do at the beginning or end of your sessions. It all depends on your goals.

Like training with dumbbells?

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7 Responses

  1. Good video and instruction. I am living abroad and have no access to clubbells or kettlebells. any chance you could post some more dumbbell exercises? i’d appreciate it! really like your blog and exercise vids! we were practically neighbors – i jsut moved from Boston. thank you! Priyam

  2. Hi Priyam,

    yep, I could get some more dumbbell videos up here in the future. thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Hello John, I am a 61 year old woman and have been weight training with dumbells for almost three months three times per week. Biceps triceps underarm shoulders squats etc. I love it. I have lost half a stone and an inch from thighs and half an inch so far from hips and waist. I feel great. Eating healthily but still need to lose three stone. I play tennis twice a week but really dislike cardio. I am looking for dumbell core exercises and have found yours and something called the Double Dumb bell Swing for abs! Please can you advise. Shall I include these on top or drop some of those? Thank you John…..angela

  4. Hi Angela,

    I would definitely include the dumbbell swing (or a double dumbbell swing, which is the same, just with two dumbbells). It’s a great full body exercise that will help you with your fat loss goals.

  5. Hi John,

    I am 50’s years old man.
    I would like to know if I can use the dumbbell swing as an interval training(like TABATA style)and if this exercise can be performed every day?
    also ,what about the arms,do they get any benefits or I still have to do
    pull ups or push ups?
    thx in advance

    • Hi Shimon,

      Yes, the dumbbell swing can be used for interval training, but I would caution against daily use. You may be able to work up to this, but I doubt anyone could keep it up for long unless you really managed your recovery. I think it’s a recipe for burnout.

      Yes, the arms get some benefit, but I would still recommend supplementing your program with more direct arm work – like you suggested, pullups and pushups. In the dumbbell swing, the arm acts more like a stabilizer than the primary mover.

  6. Great blog and video. I am going to incorporate the dumbbell swing into my exercise routine. I am a 45 year old man my normal exercise is 30 minutes of walking or bike riding 3 times per week. Do you have any good suggestions about a complete work out routine for me.

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