Atlas Swings For Explosive Core Development

October 8, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

Atlas swing with a kettlebell, a dumbbell or a barbell is an explosive core exercise that will greatly work all the abdominal muscles, including the obliques. For sports and functional strength, this is one among the best.


A kettlebell is the optimal training tool for atlas swings, but only because it is the most comfortable to hold onto. 

If you don't have access to kettlebells, a dumbbell will suffice, although it will be less comfortable for the grip.

One option is to also use barbells or a cable machine to do the exact same movement.

Below is our training video illustrating the atlas swing and many other explosive core exercises.

Beginner Progression For Atlas Swings

The beginner progression of the atlas swing is to simply start with light weights. If you can lift the weight with your arms alone, then the weight is simply not enough.

The kettlebell should be heavy enough that the only way to swing it, is to use your hips and obliques to twist the weight up.

Form: Keep your back straight, take a bit wider stance than your shoulder width and then start swinging the weight up by twisting your core and hips.

atlas swings kettlebell sequence

Intermediate & Advanced Progressions For Atlas Swings

The advanced variation is just to use heavy ass kettlebells. Use the momentum of your body to get the kettlebell moving and soon, the kettlebell should be swinging like crazy.

Using heavy weights, the atlas swings turn into an exercise that will not only produce amazing core strength, but atlas swings can also break you into pieces.

Start cautiously.

Atlas Swings Programming 

If you want to start your workout with this exercise, we recommend using lighter weights. Way too heavy kettlebells may cause bad fatigue in your abdominals and ruin the rest of your workout.

As the final exercise of your workout, use as much weight as you can. Atlas swings can be a great burnout finisher for your workout.

Atlas Swings Programming

3 to 5 sets for 10 to 20 repetitions. 

Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets.

The dynamic and explosive nature of this exercise demands between 10 and 20 repetitions for the best results.

When you get the weight moving, swinging it around should be reasonably easy.

Other Similar Explosive Core Exercises

Barbell Twists

barbell twist for obliques 3
barbell twist for obliques 2
barbell twist for obliques 1

Overhead barbell twist is a great exercise that will greatly work the obliques. Both upper and lower abdominals also need to work hard on this one.

This is a good beginner exercise for building strength that you will need for heavy atlas swings.

Kettlebell Swings

kettlebell swing for explosive core 2
kettlebell swing for explosive core

The conventional kettlebell swing is one of the best exercise you can do for your entire lower body. Kettlebell swing will also develop the muscularity in your lower back and abdominals.

When done right, the kettlebell swing is a dynamic and explosive exercise which will greatly transfer to sports.

Kettlebell swings also have a direct correlation with your deadlift performance because the same muscle groups are being worked. 

I believe this is one of the best "strength" exercises to improve your vertical jump. Right after actually jumping and doing box jumps.

Explosive Core Exercises Are Great For Sports

In many sports you need to twist your core and hips almost all the time.

When MMA fighters throw a punch or a kick, majority of the punching/kicking strength comes from the twisting motion. Boxers twist, judokas twist, almost everyone does.

By the same token, ice hockey players, football players and almost all sportsmen will greatly benefit from doing explosive core exercises with the twisting motion. When you throw or hit something, you are also twisting.

Moreover, everyone who wants to acquire a greater movement capability, and more "functional" strength, better start training the obliques.

Atlas Swings can be a great choice for training the obliques.

The gymnastics coach Sommar has mentioned that the obliques strength is almost non-existent in most adults.

As a result, if you have never done sports, and never tried these exercises, the explosive oblique and twisting work can grant amazing benefits.

Stay safe, train hard.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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