Tabata kettlebell swings: How to perform this 4 minute workout

Tabata kettlebell swings are swinging a kettlebell in a Tabata protocol format. This is a 2:1 work to rest ratio of twenty seconds of kettlebell swings with ten seconds of rest. Repeat this eight times. In terms of how intense this is, you should not be able to complete a ninth set.

The Tabata Kettlebell Swings Workout

8 sets 20 secs 10 secs

Let’s just be clear, the Tabata workout is the most intense HIIT workout there is. It’s not about time, it’s about going all out and holding nothing back. Tabata workouts only work when you hold nothing back, so although this workout is only 4 minutes long, those four minutes are hell.

If you aren’t ready for the high intensity Tabata training provides, you can try a beginner Tabata workout, which means you use the same ratio as the Tabata protocol (which is a 2:1 ratio of work to rest) but you extend the time, so that means you do 40 seconds of kettlebell swings and 20 seconds of rest. This will still be very intense, but your intensity will be less, and you will get more rest.

Intensity Periods

Although the kettlebell swing looks like an upper body movement, it incorporates your glutes, hips and core. It’s a full body strength and power exercise that improves your balance. Saying that, your intensity during the intervals will focus on steady heavy swing you can keep your form consistently good on. It’s not about speed, it’s about strength and balance. Take read below about keeping your form throughout the movement. 

Rest Periods

Your rest intervals are so short that you won’t have the time to walk around while recovering. Just put the kettlebell down between your legs, take some deep breaths as you get yourself ready for your next set. 

Which swing to use for your Tabata kettlebell training 

There are two main kettlebell swings, the American swing, and the Russian swing. 

The Russian swing ends with the kettlebell and arms horizontal to the floor, and the American swing finishes with the kettlebell above your head. 

Russian Kettlebell Swing

The American swing poses a greater risk to injuring your shoulders and you shouldn’t be doing it until you have perfected the Russian swing. 

American Kettlebell Swing

For this Tabata kettlebell swing workout, we will use the Russian swing. 

Tabata kettlebell swing Setup

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. The kettlebell is between your feet. Slightly bend your knees and hinge your hips backward as you pick up the kettlebell. Ensure you keep your back straight. Keep your arms straight, engage your core and swing the kettlebell between your leg, ready for the first swing. 


From your hinged position, thrust your hips forward by driving through your heels. Let the power explode through your hips, swinging the weight up from between your legs. You will finish the swing by standing completely upright with your arms and the kettlebell outstretched in front of you. 

The return 

The kettlebell will spend a second in the air, and the weight will bring it back down. Your weight will shift back onto your heals as you hinge your hips back into the starting position, ready to explode again for the next swing. 

Common mistakes 

Over emphasising the arms 

There is a temptation to use your arms to lift the kettlebell. This is a mistake., the power of the swing comes from your hips and your quads, and the momentum of these raises your arms 

Squatting your knees too much 

Your knees need to be slightly bent; you aren’t doing a squat. If you bend your knees too much you de-power your hips and in that de-power the swing. 

Caring for your back 

If you end up with a sore back, you probably are dropping out of form. 

As stated, you need to brace your core as you sing, keeping your back straight. 

Don’t push your back too far back and don’t let your back round as you get tired. Rather slow down or continue with a lighter kettlebell weight. 

Swinging through your legs. 

Don’t swing too low through your legs, your hands shouldn’t pass your knees and should be relatively high. Ie the kettlebell should bump your backside at the end of the swing. 

Form over weights and speed 

It’s very easy to get too ambitious and to pick up a weight that is too heavy for you, or to push your swings too fast. You know this is happening because your form with suffer. Your controlled movements will spill over, and it will feel a little uncontrolled. The result of this is asking for an injury from the exercise. 

The answer to this is to lighten the weight of the kettlebell that is challenging but not too heavy for you to control. 

Tip: Tabata kettlebell swings are so intense, with so little rest that you might start off with a weight you can handle but near the end of the sets you might start losing control. Start off with your preferred weight, but when you get too tired, drop the weight to a lighter kettlebell. 

Benefits of doing Tabata kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings are a full-body workout, they work the following muscles if done correctly. For your legs they work the hamstrings, glutes, and quads. On the shoulders the Rhomboids, traps, and deltoids. In your back, your lats and finally your abdominal’s and forearms 

If it isn’t clears, the kettlebell swing is an all-in-one total body conditioning move. It improves your core strength, fitness and balance. 

It has intense fat burning and weight loss capabilities, especially when used in a Tabata interval type training. Apart from burning through a ton of calories, it the perfect exercise to get the body into Epoc. 

Added to that is that it builds lean muscle, improves your posture, and increases your flexibility, so a strength training exercise too.


Well, that is the Tabata kettlebell swing workout. It’s extremely intense and super tough, but it’s over in four minutes.

If you have the courage to try it out, use the Tabata mp3 so you don’t have to worry about your timings.

Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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