It’s time to make room for the double for unique benefits for both men and women of any size and fitness level.

For a warmup, cool-down or a full-out working routine, you should consider doing double kettlebell swings for the shoulders.

For those who’ve never done these but have observed people doing them, different interpretations may come to mind.

For instance, is the kettlebell swing a back exercise? Is it chiefly a lower body workout? Or if the kettlebell is heavy enough, can it be considered a shoulder workout (frontal raise)?

The kettlebell swing is a compound exercise, hitting several muscle groups at the same time: shoulders, middle back, core (lower back and abs), glutes, quads and hamstrings.

There are also variations of this movement, but a not so common variation is that of the double kettlebell swing.

Kettlebell Swing Basics

To make this exercise recruit more shoulder muscle, you should use a weight that’s heavier than what’s typically used in the kettlebell swing. Often, just one kettlebell is used, with both hands on the handle.

Usually, women use a 5 or 10 pound bell (2 and 4 kg, respectively), and men use up to 20 pounds (9 kg), when focused on simply doing this movement the way it’s been taught.

The traditional way is to stand with feet more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out a bit, arms hanging straight in front holding the bell.

With a soft knee bend, you swing the bell upward to shoulder level, then “unswing” it, letting gravity do most of the work. The back remains upright for the most part, and an arch in the lower back is maintained.

The KB slightly breaks the plane created by the legs, but doesn’t actually go through the legs.

However, a variation is to let the kettlebell travel right through the legs, in which case you must bend at the trunk. This variation recruits even more of the lower back.

In these above examples, the legs go into a small or “quarter” squat. They can go deeper, but it’s not necessary.

But another variation is to add a half-squat, with your thighs parallel to the floor. It’s important to keep an arch in your lower back at all times.

A half-squat will recruit more of the glutes and legs. The constant in any variation is that the shoulders are moving, and the frontal or anterior deltoid is the main shoulder muscle at work.

How to Make the Kettlebell Swing More Shoulder Dominant


The first way is to double up on the kettlebells. The start position is with both arms hanging in front, each holding a bell, and the lower part of the forearms are crossed over each other.

Raise the arms outward, forming a V, as in a hybrid of a frontal raise and lateral raise. Bring the weights up to at least shoulder height, even a bit higher.

Using both arms in this trajectory right off the bat targets more shoulder muscle fiber (front and middle deltoids).

NOTE: The KBs are swung up, not lifted per se. Keep arms as straight as possible, just short of an elbow lockout.

How much weight should each kettlebell be?

The total weight should be heavy enough to allow you to perform between eight and 12 repetitions without any breaks in form.

If you must go up on your toes to get the weight up, or find that you’re bending your arms too much, then the total weight is too heavy. So if you’re using a total of 50 pounds, try a 20-pounder in each hand.

Many gyms carry kettlebells up to 35 pounds (15 kg). The heavier the weight, the more muscle that gets built. Many people seem to think that “kettlebell exercises” mean only light bells.

Imagine how the deltoids will grow when one performs the double kettlebell swings for the shoulders with bells so heavy, that only 8-12 reps can be performed (always maintaining good form).

The Swinging

There are two ways to look at this. The first way is to swing the weight up and down with the classic, gravity-based momentum that’s used in the single-bell swing. The momentum is fueled by the hips and legs.

But the second way is to slow the swing down a little, so that you’re adding a lift to it going up, and a release to it going down.

This will recruit more shoulder muscle, and this technique is also more difficult when compared to the classic swinging for the same amount of weight.

You may also want to see how the double swinging goes with the arms separated. Either technique will yield benefits. And yet another variation is to alternate the arms. See what works best for you.


  • Sumo stance. This is a very wide stance with feet pointed out. Do not point feet straight ahead, as this will cause the knee joint to inadequately track over the foot. Add a slight or half squat upon lowering the kettlebells.
  • Regular stance. Assume whatever width you normally use when you do squats. If you don’t do squats, assume a width of at least shoulder or a bit more. Lower to a partial or half squat upon releasing the kettlebells. Try to keep back as erect as possible, though a forward lean is fine as long as there’s a continuous arch in the lower back; never round the lower back.
  • Any stance, lowering weights through the legs. At the bottom of the movement, drive the kettlebells (with forearms crossed, since this is at the bottom of the repetition) through the legs. Try not to round the back because you will need to lean forward to do this.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/RomarioIen