Breaking Down Strongman Exercises: The Dumbbell Swing

strongman exercise dumbbell swing

Considered one of the foundational Strongman exercises, the dumbbell swing is a simple and effective way to build strength and power while improving performance. Let’s take a look at the benefits of the dumbbell swing, how it can improve your physique, and a step-by-step breakdown of how to perform the exercise.


Before we jump into how to perform the dumbbell swing, let’s explore the benefits of the exercise and why you should add it to your Strongman workout.

Compound Movement: The dumbbell swing is a combination movement that is a cross between a deep back squat, front lateral raise, and overhead press. As a compound movement, the dumbbell swing activates several major muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, trapezius, shoulders, and abdominals. By targeting all of these muscles and varying the weight and tempo, this makes it an effective way to boost strength, endurance, power, and speed.

Convenience: Strongman exercises don’t get much more simple than the dumbbell swing. All you need is a dumbbell and a little bit of head room. Don’t have a dumbbell? That’s okay, you can substitute a kettlebell, sandbag, and makeshift weight such as a milk jug filled with rocks, sand, or water. What’s more, the dumbbell swing can be performed in most places including commercial gyms, parks, and at home.

Lower Risk Exercise: There’s no barbell across your back or lifting belt around your waist. The dumbbell swing is a basic exercise that doesn’t put any compression on the spine or joints, making it one of the lowest risk Strongman exercises. The only thing you have to watch out for it dropping the weight once it’s above your shoulder line. Unnecessarily trying to snap the weight up can also place strain on the wrists so we recommend using a pair of wrist wraps when performing the exercise.


Read through the following breakdown of how to perform the dumbbell swing. We also recommend watching one performed on YouTube to connect the written description below with a live performance.

Step One: Be sure to warm up the body with basic cardiovascular work such as the stair climber, jogging, or jumping jacks. A combination of a few different cardiovascular exercises works best. Do this for about ten minutes and follow it up with a stretching session.

Step Two: Standing tall, place a dumbbell directly beneath you and in the center of your body. Choose a light dumbbell at first since you’ll be performing a few warm-up sets. After you’ve completed your warm-up sets, choose an appropriately heavier weight.

Step Three: Place your feet just outside of shoulder width. Straighten your back before bending at the knees to lower your hips towards the ground.

Step Four: Secure a firm grip on the dumbbell (or kettlebell, sandbag, etc.) with the left hand. Bring your chest up. Bring your shoulder blades back and down. Make sure your upper traps (shoulders) aren’t elevated.

Step Five: Contract the core and lean forward slightly. Maintain that grip on the dumbbell and allow the dumbbell to move back towards your glutes before swinging it between your legs and above your head, keeping the arm straight as you do this.

Step Six: Control the dumbbell as it comes back down towards the ground and in between your legs. Maintain a straight back throughout. Repeat the swinging motion back and forth for the prescribed repetitions. Repeat on the other side.

Bonus Step: Want to make the dumbbell swing more challenging? Consider placing an Alpha Grip around the dumbbell or kettlebell. This will place a greater challenge on your grip strength. By improving your grip strength, you’ll see improvements in all of your lifts. If you use an Alpha Grip, be sure to lower the amount of weight you’re using to avoid slippage.


If you’re just starting out with Strongman exercises, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:

Go Light (For Now): For beginners of Strongman exercises, there’s no need to go heavy right away. If you do, you risk injuring yourself and getting knocked out of Strongman training for weeks or months. Gradually increase the amount of weight you use as you master the form, posture, and execution of the exercise.

Consider Strongman Gear: If you have prior injuries or sensitive joints, you may want to consider using wrist wraps and knee sleeves as they offer for support for performance and protection.


Will you start using this Strongman exercise in your workout routine? Have a video of yourself performing the dumbbell swing? Tag us on our Instagram so we can share!

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