Dumbbell Swing Exercise Guide — How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

dumbbell swing

Dumbbell swings increase core activation and burn ample calories.

Full-body workouts stand out for their ability to simultaneously burn calories and sculpt lean muscle (1). Among such exercises, the dumbbell swing emerges as a powerhouse for total-body conditioning, favoring muscle growth, endurance, and strength. Its popularity among athletes stems from its efficacy and the variety it introduces to workout regimens.

This article explores the dumbbell swing, detailing its primary target muscles and benefits. You’ll discover a thorough, step-by-step guide to mastering the proper technique for this exercise. Additionally, we present valuable alternatives that can diversify and enhance your training sessions.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The dumbbell swing is a compound exercise that engages multiple upper and lower body muscle groups, such as the hamstrings, glutes, and back, while activating other muscles, such as the quads, calves, and delts. Core muscles, like the abs and obliques, act as stabilizers during this routine.

It’s possible to do this exercise unilaterally to work on your strength or to target muscle imbalances. However, you can also do it bilaterally; all you require are dumbbells. Some athletes also do this routine with weight plates or kettlebells for variety. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this exercise with the proper form.

  1. Grab the dumbbell with both hands and stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, assuming a half squat position, and bend your back. Bring the dumbbells between your legs while fully extending your arms downwards. Remember to brace your core and maintain a straight back. This is your starting position.
  3. To begin, swing the dumbbell between your legs. When the weight is behind you, exhale, then swing the dumbbell upward to your shoulder level by squeezing your glutes and extending your hips.
  4. At this position, you should fully extend your arms at shoulder level.
  5. Reverse the movement, controlling the weight back to the starting position, making it one rep.
  6. Repeat for as many reps as you desire.


The dumbbell swing encourages a lot of body coordination. Muscle groups sync to execute this exercise, increasing muscle mass and strength. Below are some benefits you get when performing this exercise.

Build & Strengthen Multiple Muscle Groups

The dumbbell swing is a full-body workout that targets upper and lower body muscles. This exercise builds and strengthens these muscles suitable for total body development. It also helps with coordination, balance, and explosive power for athletes.

Burn Calories

Performing this high-intensity exercise targets all parts of the body. The constant fluid motion of the weight up and down creates quick bursts of energy, which causes the body to use more energy. Using more energy burns more calories.

Improve Cardiovascular Health

The dumbbell swing is a high-intensity exercise that can improve cardiovascular health. Regularly performing this exercise gets the heart pumping and improves oxygen flow. This can reduce your chances of heart disease. 

Activate, Strengthen, & Build Core Muscles

This exercise stresses core muscles, helping with proper coordination and equal load distribution. Dumbbell swings also help with better body posture and can strengthen core muscles, reducing your chance of injuries.

Improved Mind-Muscle Connection

Dumbbell swings place constant tension on multiple muscle groups, thus inducing muscle hypertrophy (2). However, the controlled nature of this exercise also increases focus and allows you to build a better mind-muscle connection. This can improve muscle strength, mass, endurance, and explosive power.

Increased Movement & Flexibility

The dumbbell swing is a full-body exercise that involves fast stretching and extension of multiple muscle groups and joints. The constant stretching and extension of these parts increases your range of motion. It also improves flexibility and movement, which is good for muscle growth.   

Dumbbell Swing Alternatives

Athletes can incorporate dumbbell swings into their regular workouts to strengthen and build their upper and lower body muscles. However, to avoid a plateau, experts recommend adding other routines to get the most out of your workouts. Below is a list of exercises you can adopt to build similar muscles.


The deadlift is a compound exercise that targets the posterior chain. This is an effective exercise for building muscle mass and strength. The equipment used for this exercise is a barbell.

Power Cleans

Power cleans target your upper and lower body. It’s an explosive Olympic movement athletes use to build strength and explosive power using a barbell. 

Bear Crawls

Bear crawls are a bodyweight routine that targets the delts, chest, posterior chain, arms, core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and legs. However, you could use resistance bands or a weighted vest for more resistance. This can increase your muscle and strength gains.


Is the dumbbell swing a good exercise?

The dumbbell swing builds muscle mass, strength, and explosive power. It’s a full-body exercise that works both the upper body and lower body. The muscles involved include the shoulders, traps, back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abs, and obliques.

What are the benefits of dumbbell swing squats?

The dumbbell swing has many benefits, including burning calories and building lower- and upper-body muscle strength, mass, and explosive power. Other benefits include increased mobility and flexibility. 

How do you do a dumbbell swing?

Grab a dumbbell with both hands and stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart to do a dumbbell swing. Bend your knees, assuming a half squat position, and bend your back, bringing the dumbbells between your legs while fully extending your arms downwards. Then, raise the dumbbell to shoulder level before repeating the previous steps.

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  1. Bartolomei, S., Nigro, F., Malagoli Lanzoni, I., Masina, F., Di Michele, R., & Hoffman, J. R. (2021). A Comparison Between Total Body and Split Routine Resistance Training Programs in Trained Men. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 35(6), 1520–1526. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003573
  2. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.