Cheap Kettlebell Swing Alternative

Kettlebell swings are great. There are a lot of benefits, here are a few:

  • Recruits a great deal of muscles to stabilize
  • Works in multiple planes of motion while performing an exercise
  • Often used for fat loss
  • Strength as a function of mobility

Unfortunately a big downside to KBs for a lot of people that train at home is the cost.  Additionally it is awfully hard to find used kettlebells.

Some people have stated “well kettlebells are worth it, they should just buy them!”  Listen, I understand what its like to not have a lot of money, so those people should start looking for other people’s perspective. 

Kettlebells included (and same for dumbbells, barbells, strongman, rope, sandbags)  there is NO MUST BUY peice of equipment.  Bottom line if people don’t have the money, its time to help them out with a few substitutes. 

Heck, you can get fit will no equipment at all – Guide to Bodyweight Training.

I get it.  People want to get an effective home gym together for a few hundred dollars and have it as a great place to workout.  Also, I have been seeing more and more that father’s love having a place where they can train their young sons and daughters. 

So, keeping that in, mind here is a variation off the Kettlebell Swing you can perform with standard gym equipment.  You may use hex head or pro style dumbbells.  I picked up a 15, 25, 35, 45 lb hex heads on craigslist for $20. 

Dumbbell Swings

While the dumbbell swing and kettlebell swing “look” the same, there are some important differences to keep in mind. 

While this is a variaiton, these movements are different.  The largest mechanical difference is the dumbbell swing will train the grip more, but the posterior chain less.   The grip will be different since you cannot close your hand around a handle, it is an open hand exercise.  The posterior chain will be trained less since chances are you cannot use as heavy of a dumbbell as you would a kettlebell.

Taking that into consideration this is a cost effective way to get effective strength workouts

I have a few more alternatives up my sleeve

DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE VARIATIONS?  Post them up in the comments!

- Joe Hashey, CSCS -

==>PS.  “Bull Strength has changed how my players are performing this off season both mentally and physically.  Thank you and please don’t let any other teams in my area get their hands on this!” – Todd Y.

Want the same results?  Get Bull Strength NOW!

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  • Chris Smith

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Joe I just want to say that it’s nice to hear someone look at things from another person’s point of view. All too often I hear people saying that kettlebells are ‘worth the price’ and they’re such an amazing investment and this and that. Bottom line is, if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. Especially considering some of the high-end KBs can cost huge amounts (and that’s BEFORE shipping). Anyway, before I rant on too much with my thoughts on kettlebells…

    Good article! I’ve been neglecting swings lately, and I don’t really have a reason why. You’ve inspired me to put them back into my program.

    • Chris, excellent points. I didnt want to get in to it too much in the article, but some people just dont get it.

      KB’s are awesome, yes, but for a complete set, pairs, we are talking a few thousand dollars…then ship them.

      Sure you can get a loadable or some other alternative, but many people can’t afford the fancy stuff some trainers “insist” on getting!

      Thanks for always commenting Chris!


  • Chris Smith

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Thanks for putting up awesome stuff Joe!

  • phil

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    totally agree, I have one kettlebell and I love it, but it wasn’t cheap. As the saying goes there are many ways to skin a cat. Before I got mine I used to take a 45lb plate and swing it. Only took one time catching the inside of my knee to make sure my stance was wide enough!

  • Bryan

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Joe a great alternative to a KB for swings is called a Hungarian Core Blaster. I made myself one for $20, luckily I had standard plates laying around. I wrote about it at my blog here is a link for the article. Within the article is a picture, a link on how to build one and a workout we did with it. Enjoy.

    • Bryan, Ive seen those – yet to make one though! I certainlly should though. Thanks for the link I hope people find that helpful.


  • Matt Wichlinski

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    every tool has its pros and cons, I love em all. Anyone that preaches how one tool is all you need is trying to sell you his crap. There isn’t any one tool that you cannot live without. And for some reason there are a lot of kettlebell fanatics out there who preach their product really hard. I have a few Kettlebells and I love em because there are a lot of moves that cannot be mimicked with knockoff tools, but you can supplement and substitute accordingly. If my kettlebells were taken away from me today and I never saw them again, I promise you, I would be just fine. But you would be missed, my precious K-Bell :)

  • John Cortese

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Agreed, Joe! Dumbbells work just as well as Kettlebells. I don’t have access to them but I still perform DB: clean and press, snatches, swings, double db clean/snatch/presses, get-ups, etc.

  • Steve Maze

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    I disagree. Kettlebells are made and designed for a specific purpose. I used to have the same opinions as everyone else “there great, i love them, BUT dumbbells work just as well, BUT they are too expensive”. I then took Pavel’s Russian Kettlebell Challenge. There is reason, a philosophy, and a purpose behind the kettlebell swing. Especially hardstyle swings. Yes there’s a variation for every exercise in the book, but dumbbells don’t substitute for what kettlebells are designed for. You wouldn’t tell a basketball player to play with a soccer ball because it bounces the same, its cheaper, and you can do the same stuff with it.

  • Steve,

    I agree the movements are different as I mentioned in the post, I am 100% on board with that one! There is no movement that can mimic exactly the kb movements.

    My problem lies is that a lot of people just can’t buy them, and thats my only problem with it.

    So yes, if a basketball cost $150 and a soccer ball cost $10, and I didn’t have the money for a few basketballs, I would rather play with a soccer ball than nothing.

    I’m picking on KB’s since they are the hot topic but the same goes for EVERY TRAINING TOOL.

    You can get fit without ANY equipment if the bottom line is you can’t afford.

    For example: If you cannot afford a barbell set, get a few dumbbells. Sure they aren’t the same, but it beats not having anything.

    If you can’t afford dumbbells, nothing copies their functionality, but if people need another option make a sandbag.

    Now if sandbags are too expensive, nothing copies them, use a bookbag.

    If you can’t afford anything, use your bodyweight.

    This post is to point out the there is no “MUST BUYS” in the strength field and to help out people that don’t have the money for the expensive gear.

    I would like to hear more opinions on this, thanks Steve!


  • Jerry Shreck

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    You know I love kettlebells but they are expensive. I am lucky enough to have them in my school weight room but I can not afford to have a full set at my home (I’m a poor strength coach) but I did find at YORK barbell in the store they sell a handle and loading bar for $20.00 and you can load the bar for any weight. This has worked pretty well for me. I will record a you tube video showing it this weekend and post it for anyone who is looking for a very cost effective kettlebell. It is not as good as the real thing but it works and for $20 verses $1000+ I’ll take it with a smile!
    Just to add to the discussion. Kettlebells are another tool to use. You can do similar movements with dumbbells but they are not the same. It’s like comparing dumbbells to barbells-you can do similar movements but they are not the same. I have yet to understand why some people take such a “strong” stance with kettlebells one way or the other. Great post Joe!

    • Thanks Jerry – you have been putting out a lot of quality youtube videos. Here is his channel for anyone else – – he always takes the time to fully explain things!

      As for the comment – I appreciate you weighing in I look fwd to the variation video.


  • Matt Wichlinski

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    when i wanted to learn the oly lifts, I watched the best. I think we should all learn from the best as it can minimize the pain and frustration of learning something new, and keep poor habits at bay. Now all of the best “snatchers” and “clean and jerkers” were performing the lifts with bars and bumps from brands like Eleiko, Ivanko, Werksan, etc. So I said, “I gots to gets me a set a those!” However, the purchase price for one set from any of these companies about quadrupled the amount on my bank statement. (Enter loud annoying FAIL buzzer) But that didn’t stop me from learning to oly lift, I subbed with what I could get my hands on. While they were inferior products, it still got me started and I didn’t wait til things wee perfect, but i tried to perfect them along the way. I have used top notch equipment, and man, does it feel good! But if you do not have access, fret not! use what you got, get started, and make adjustments when possible. We should all know that a Hungarian core blaster can be great for swings. Its adjustable and it works for that purpose and its cheap. You can not clean it, snatch it, do get ups, etc. But you can sub another tool. If I had waited to get my Elieko set, I wouldn’t have lifted a damn thing yet. But I got started with what was available, found some passion and now snatch over 125% bodyweight, clean and jerk over 150%. Just do it, people. I did eventually get a better set(Pendlay) and my lifts increased not by surprise. So if you want to specialize in something, the best equipment will increase your performance, this should be evident whether its a kettlebell or bicycle or whatever. But if I want to ride a bike fast, do I have to buy the RKC equivalent of a bicycle that Lance Armstrong would ride that costs $!0k or more? Of course not, I could substitute with Walmart quality, but I know I would not be as fast. If you are into Kettlebell Sport, get the best kettlebell, if you are into sports, use what you got (or can get).

  • “If you are into Kettlebell Sport, get the best kettlebell, if you are into sports, use what you got (or can get).” This sums it up really well, thanks Matt.

    I understand what Steve is saying (and a few emails I have received) – If you are going to be competitive in KBs, or oly lifting like Matt, its going to pay off to invest in the best.

    If you are working out for general fitness, then get your hands on SOMETHING and start training!

    I think we can agree on that!


  • PS. Matt schools me on 135 one arm snatches!


  • Matt Wichlinski

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    its all about angles, Joe. I’m 5’7″, you’re what, about 8-9 feet tall?

    • haha damn that mechanical advantage! That must be the difference between my 1 rep and your 50…

  • Chris Normand

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    Right now with kids, a full-time job and a packed calendar, general functional fitness is all I can strive for. I have some higher-end equipment in my home-gym as well as some stuff I made myself. I bought three NON-Dragon Door (RKC) kettlebells and don’t regret it a bit. I did research and found ones that were well reviewed and seemed of high quality.

    I’m not a competitive KB’er nor am I going to be instructing anyone on how to use them. I don’t need an RKC workshop that costs nearly $3000 and Dragon Door KB’s that cost twice as much as good ones from another manufacturer. This logic applies to any piece of equipment.

    I love this site and the good sense that seems to be at the base of all the posts and comments. Thanks to all who make it so.

  • Brandon George

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    This is not a swing variation, but last winter I purchased 3 bags of tube sand from Lowe’s for less than $3.00 each. Each bag is 60 lbs. I also bought a used military duffel bag for about $12.00. I can do bear hug deadlifts and squats, Shoulder carries, bear hug carries, overhead lifting, zercher squats and zercher godd mornings and last but certainly not least, I can load and unload my pick-up truck. I also used to drive to an empty parking lot at night or on weekends and push my truck back and forth. All of the above combined with bodyweight training kept me in great shape for 2 years before I could pay for a gym membership again. Oh, I forgot I also used to do lots of pull-up variations on the monkey bars at the playground at my apartment. Where there is a will there is a way.

    • Brandon, great share! That sounds like some great training even without a gym membership.

      Thanks for posting,


  • MiroV

    Reply Reply January 17, 2010

    Thank you for article Joe. Yes, kbells are a great tool, no doubt, but many exercise(or similar) you can do with something else. The price is a shame(ok, I have 10 of them) if we know this is only cast iron,even not steel or gold. Do not know the situation in USA but in my country if I compare the price of the iron in kbells with iron in tubes(square or circular)what is in many dimensions more difficult to make, I see that iron in kbells are several times more expensive(price per lb). I worked in different fields of technology so nobody will justify that price to me. Of course, when I bought my kbells was not think like that, but later I had to buy some high pressure iron tubes for gas pipes, and was surprised with low price. Since than I feel like a stupid little bit:)

  • MiroV

    Reply Reply January 17, 2010

    Several minutes ago I saw an interesting article from American Council on Exercise ACE FitnessMatters Jan/Feb 2010 on kbells.There is an “Exclusive ACE research” about benefits of kbells. And there is writen “If you want proof (at least anecdotal), rent the film epic 300 and take a look at the physique of lead actor Gerard Butler who plays King Leonidas of Sparta. Butler used kettlebells to prepare for his role in the film.”
    I never heard that Butler used only kbells : ),and there are also some other interesting thoughts. But the main problem is , if “American Council on Exercise” is writing like this, what ordinary people can think? To whome they can believe? Or rush and buy it ASAP, to be Leonidas.
    Again, kbell is a great tool, but here are lot of Olympic winners, etc, who never saw kbell in their life.

  • Lavada Miller Malone

    Reply Reply September 19, 2011

    TY- I cant locate kettlebs in my area of the UK yet….so I was looking for an alternative! TY!

  • David Ambrogio

    Reply Reply May 23, 2012

    I have just started to use a book bag filled with 25 lbs in weights. IDK if this is good or not but it seems to work for swings and whatnot, plus book bags are shaped similar to kettlebells anyway.

  • Sarah Thompson

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    I too was looking for an alternative to spending a bunch of money on kettle bells and I found the KettleClamp…. check it out ….. let me know what you think.

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