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Deadlifts Versus Kettlebell Swings

author image Jody Braverman
Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta. She studied creative writing at the American University of Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland. She also received personal trainer certification from NASM and her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaWorks.
Deadlifts Versus Kettlebell Swings
A deadlift is usually performed with a barbell. Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Weightlifting equipment comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes, and the types of exercises you can perform are equally numerous. Deadlifts and kettlebell swings are two exercises performed with two very different pieces of equipment. Both will help you gain strength and build muscle and they can both be performed in a well-rounded weightlifting routine. Proper form is of utmost importance in the execution of both exercises.


A deadlift is a classic weightlifting exercise performed using a barbell, usually loaded with a heavy weight. Although it is considered a total-body exercise, it primarily recruits the erector spinae, gluteus and trapezius muscles. Secondary muscles recruited include the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles of the calves. The abdominal muscles also play a central role in stabilizing the torso during the movement to protect the lower back.

Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell, which originated in Russia, is a round, weighted ball with a single handle at the top. Kettlebells can be used for a variety of exercises, including the kettlebell swing, a movement performed with a wide stance in which the kettlebell is swung between the legs and propelled into an extension -- either shoulder height or overhead -- through a combination of momentum and strength. Kettlebell swings are dynamic movements that recruit all the muscles of the body to build strength and encourage range of motion, especially in the shoulders. The major muscle groups recruited in a kettlebell swing include the deltoids, glutes, hamstrings, quads and abdominals.

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Deadlifts and kettlebell swings serve different purposes. The main purpose of a deadlift is to build strength and mass in the lower body. Competitive bodybuilders often perform deadlifts at maximum weight for this purpose. Kettlebell swings build dynamic strength, shoulder flexibility, explosiveness and cardiovascular endurance. They should be performed at a moderate speed, linking each swing to the next in a fluid motion. Kettlebell swings are normally performed with lighter weights and at higher repetitions to build muscular endurance.


Both deadlifts and kettlebell swings are advanced weightlifting techniques that should only be performed by those with a good foundation of strength. Lower back injuries are common with deadlifts because of improper form, too much weight and failure to recruit the abdominal muscles supporting the back. Kettlebell swings risk over-extension of the shoulders and wrist strain. A doctor's approval and the guidance of a fitness professional to advise on proper form should be secured before performing either of these exercises.

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