March 26, 2021 10 min read

Kettlebells are taking the world by storm. They’re incredibly versatile, you’re able to hold them comfortably in nearly any position you can imagine without compromising your form or unevenly distributing your weights once they’re in your hand. You can use them to weigh down a simple movement like walking or to increase the challenge of an exercise like your squats. 

Kettlebells work their way into the gyms and hearts of athletes because of all of these benefits. They’ll slot into your life well no matter what part of your full-body workout you’re trying to supplement.

If you feel like your arms are lagging behind kettlebells can increase your grip strength and challenge your biceps and triceps, if your leg days are lacking, you can use a kettlebell to push your quads to their limit, and if you’re looking to tighten up your core, then holding a kettlebell up above your head while you do something as simple as getting up from the floor will work wonders for your strength training. 

If you’re serious about building muscle, then kettlebells are a staple that will push your workout further than most other equipment can in more ways for less money. You’ll enjoy the benefits of isolating your muscles with these concentrated payloads, and you’ll be able to adapt them to nearly every single exercise you’re already doing right now.

kettel bell row

Upper Body

Single-arm kettlebell row: Single-arm kettlebell rows are great for your back, your core, and your biceps. You’re going to be keeping your upper body straight out in front of your center of gravity while you work on your arms. Keeping your upper body straight is going to engage your upper and lower traps as well as focusing on the muscles in your lower back almost like a deadlift. The simple row motion we’ll be making with our arms is great for isolating your biceps.

  • Start with your kettlebell on the floor in front of you
  • Set your legs in a lunge-like stance, with the leg opposite of your active arm in front of your body and your other leg behind you. In this case, we’ll lift with our left arm first, so extend your right foot forward
  • Bend your knees slightly and bend your upper body over at the hips
  • Rest your right hand on your right leg for stability, and grip the kettlebell with your leg hand in a comfortable neutral grip
  • Lift the kettlebell up towards your stomach. Focus on retracting your shoulder blade and flexing your arm at the elbow to engage your biceps
  • Remember to keep your back straight the entire time, you should feel your abs and your back muscles engaging to keep your back straight and steady
  • Lower the weight back to the ground and repeat your reps on one side before mirroring on the opposite side
Floor Press: Floor Presses are another excellent upper body exercise to work into your routine with kettlebells. The grip that kettlebells will allow you is easier on your wrists than a barbell will ever be. You’ll also be forced to isolate both of your arms and both sides of your pecs while floor pressing with a pair of kettlebells (or just one if that’s all you have at home). 

This is an exercise that flaunts the versatility of kettlebells. You can handle much more weight with the bells than you might be able to with a set of dumbbells because you’ll be able to alter your grip more naturally than a dumbbell may allow, and utilizing that increased range of weight will allow you to get more out an exercise like the floor press than you might initially expect.

  • Start your floor presses by lying down on the floor with your back flat, the bottoms of your feet on the floor, and your knees bent at a comfortable angle
  • Grab your kettlebells in a comfortable neutral grip and press them one at a time up towards the ceiling
  • Lower them slowly back down towards your chest, keeping tension on your muscles the entire time
  • You can either alternate one arm at a time, press two weights at the same time, or, if you only have access to one kettlebell, complete one set on one side and transfer your weight to your other side
  • You can increase the challenge by keeping your legs flat and raising your head slightly, this will increase the tension on your abs, making this more of a compound exercise than before

Exercise

Kettlebell windmill: Kettlebell windmills are a full-body workout, but the muscles seeing the most work here are going to be in your upper back and shoulders. Kettlebell windmills are going to be excellent for rounding out your upper body. If you spend all of your time working on your chest and arms, your back is going to suffer and your posture will take a nosedive.

  • Start with your right foot directly under your hip. Rest your weight here, and allow your left leg to extend outwards
  • Hold your kettlebell straight up over your head
  • Rest your left hand on your left thigh, keeping your palm facing outwards
  • Keeping your left hand against your left leg and your right arm extended upwards, twist your torso towards the ground
  • Reach your left hands towards the floor, you should feel a slight stretch, don’t overextend yourself
  • Reverse your torso twist until you

Core Kettlebell Workouts

Kettlebell Russian Twist: The Russian Twist was long touted as an exercise that targeted the fat around your waist. We know now that the claim to quick fat burn is no good. You’ll have to adjust your diet along with adding exercises like this into your routine if you’re looking to burn fat

What Russian Twists are really good for is focusing on your abs, your lower back, and your obliques. Your pecs also make a guest appearance here as you hold the bell throughout the duration of the exercise.

  • Start with the kettlebell off to one side of your torso
  • Sit on your bottom and raise your legs slightly above the ground while keeping your back upright
  • Pull the kettlebell across your body until it comes to rest on the opposite end of your torso while looking straight ahead the entire time
  • Be careful not to throw the weight around. You should be engaging your muscles the entire time and pulling the kettlebell across deliberately. You’ll also be running the risk of injury if you’re tossing the weight around indiscriminately 
Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk: Kettlebell Farmer’s Walks are like carrying groceries on hard mode. You’ll be using your arms and legs of course, but keeping the weight steady and your back straight will require you to engage your core and upper back. If you’re looking to work on your core and your forearm strength at the same time, then these Farmer’s Walks are going to slot right into your routine, no problem. 
  • Grab a pair of kettlebells right in the center of the handles with a neutral grip
  • Hold them at your sides without resting them on your thighs
  • Walk forwards about 50 feet, turn and walk back to your starting position

They may not sound like much on their face, but if you’ve ever had a particularly large grocery run and just a little bit too much pride, you’ll know that carrying a load like this over a decent distance will get your heart rate up and wear down your muscles pretty quickly. 

Kettlebell Toe Touch with Pick Up: The kettlebell toe touch with pick up is a lot like your kettlebell windmills. It’s going to test your flexibility as well as your upper body. The twist here is that you’re going to be lifting a second kettlebell from the ground. You’ll need a lot of stability from your core to keep your weight up above your head as well as managing the load you’ll be bringing up from the floor. 

  • Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell in one hand and another on the floor
  • Extend the kettlebell all the way up above your head
  • Place your opposite hand, palm out, on the corresponding leg and slide it down towards the floor while keeping the kettlebell up above your head and twisting your torso
  • Grab the kettlebell on the floor and pull it back up into your starting position
  • Slowly return the kettlebell to the floor
  • Stand back up into your starting position and repeat until you’re finished with your set
  • Mirror the process with your other hand
Bell swing

    Lower Body

    Kettlebell swing:

    • Start with the kettlebell on the floor in front of you and in between your feet
    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
    • Bend your knees slightly, and hinge yourself at the hips to lower your upper body enough to grab the weight from the floor
    •  Pull the kettlebell back in between your legs to generate a little momentum
    • Drive your hips forward and straighten your back to send the kettlebell up the rest of the way. It should reach your shoulder height
    • Let the bell fall back down in between your legs and repeat the motion.

    If you’re working on your kettlebell swings and you don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of it, you should focus on a few things:

    • Make absolutely sure you’re not using your arms to generate the swing needed to get the kettlebell up in front of your shoulders
    • Remember to drive your hips forward, this also means remembering to bend your knees on the downswing and hinge your hips again before driving the kettlebell back forward
    • If your form is tight and you still feel like you’re not being challenged enough by this, try using your hips to drive the weight up above your head 

    Kettlebell Pistol Squat: Pistol squats are already pretty tough for folks getting their start in the gym. They require an incredible amount of core strength to maintain your balance, and your quads and hamstrings need to be up for the challenge since you’re only using one leg at a time to manage your body weight. Adding a kettlebell to the equation is going to drive the difficulty of this exercise up even further and bring your shoulder stabilizers and deltoids into the picture. If you think you’re ready for the next step in lower body blasting, then bring on the pistol squat.

    • Start by finding your balance on one foot and bringing the other slightly out in front of you
    • Hold your kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest without scrunching up your shoulders 
    • Lower your body down as far as you can, pushing your hips back like you’re sitting straight down
    • Pause at the bottom for a moment
    • Drive your body weight back up to your starting position
    • Repeat and mirror with your opposite foot 

    Kettlebell Reverse Lunge: Kettlebell Reverse Lunges are a great way to get your heart rate up. You should work in at least a little bit of cardio to your routine. There’s really no downside to doing it. Getting your cardio up will make the most important system in your body more efficient. When your cardio is looking right you’ll be transferring nutrients around your body much easier including that all-important oxygen. Your muscles need oxygen as well as glucose to keep themselves running, and working on your heart health and the general ability of your body to store glucose locally rather than in fat cells will keep your overall fitness head and shoulders above the rest. 

    Kettlebell Reverse Lunges are also going to be a great exercise for your glutes and thighs. If you want a little extra challenge you can keep yourself on your toes, literally, and add some tension to your calves as well as working your glutes and upper legs.

    • Start with your feet together, centered directly below your body
    • Get your kettlebell racked up against your shoulder
    • Step back with one foot
    • Lower your body until your back need touches the floor
    • Stand back up into your starting position
    • Repeat with your opposite foot

    Turkish Get-up: Finally, we have the Turkish Get-up. This is the ultimate in kettlebell exercises. You’re going to be employing nearly all of your essential muscle groups to get your body up from the ground and into a fully extended standing position. If you’re looking for compound exercises that will work out as many muscles at once as possible, then look no further.

    You’re going to be engaging your core throughout the entire movement, and generating the stability you need to keep the kettlebell above you and in your grip is going to engage nearly all of the muscles in your arms. Standing in a controlled fashion during this exercise is going to call on your lower body, and erecting yourself into a full stand is going to ask your back and abs to do a little over time.

    • Start by cradling the kettlebell. This will allow you to get the weight in the air easily and start your get-up
    • Press the weight above your head with your arm fully extended and perpendicular to the floor 
    • Lie down on your back extended the leg opposite of your extended arm
    • Put your other foot flat on the ground and bend your knee
    • Roll onto your elbow and once you’re stable roll onto your hand
    • Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips into the air. You’re going to support your weight on your flat foot and the heel of your extended foot 
    • Sweep your extended foot underneath you and get your body into a lunge position 
    • Remove your supporting hand and stand up from the lunge and bring your feet together
    • Reverse your motions until you’re lying back on the floor in your starting position

    Broken down like this the Turkish Get-up sounds like an arduous one-million-step process, but in reality, it’s a pretty straightforward exercise. You’re just going to have to follow these steps to make sure you’re not compromising your balance and toppling on your way up. Once you have the steps committed to memory you’ll be getting up and lowering yourself without issue.

    It Ain’t Over ‘Til The Bell Rings

    Kettlebells are an excellent tool to add to your gym whether it’s at home or you’ve got a membership. They’re extremely versatile because of the unique shape of the handles. You can replace many of your dumbbell exercises with kettlebells, and since you can alter many barbell exercises with dumbbells, you can modify almost anything to accommodate a kettlebell. 

    Beyond being versatile, kettlebells are going to allow you to do your exercises with a large degree of comfort. Dumbbells come into a close second in this department, but you’re often contending with your wrists and the balance of your dumbbell. Kettlebells are designed to keep your weight below your grip without hanging off to one side or the other, leaving you to work on your intended muscle group without having to fuss with the balance of your wrists or worrying about unevenly targeting your arms.


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