Even with its rise in popularity over the last few years, the kettlebell is still an underutilized piece of equipment. It can strengthen your body and help you lose those pesky pounds that just won’t come off any other way.
The history of the kettlebell goes all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, where it was believed they were used for demonstrations of strength. Today, they’re not necessarily for strength as much as they are for full-body conditioning.
If you’re at a beginner’s fitness level and you’re looking for a way to shed some pounds, the kettlebell is one of the best ways to get you where you need to be.
Much like traditional free weights such as barbells and dumbbells, the kettlebell can be used to either target the entire body or used to target specific muscle groups.
It’s also entirely possible to use heavier kettlebells as a way to build up strength with lower reps, but they’re more often used as a way to build up muscular endurance. Using them in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine is something that many people opt for. This entails using lower weights with higher repetitions, leading to an aerobic workout that improves heart health and burns fat.
The kettlebell also has unique benefits, being able to do a lot for your mobility, flexibility, and range of motion.
Unlike with other free weights, the kettlebell’s weight is located at the center of the piece of equipment. This is really good when it comes to swinging movements or other ballistic moves since it allows for you to move it from one point to another in swift motions. In a way, the kettlebell mimics the way your body is naturally supposed to move—this makes it especially useful for beginners and those looking to increase their range of motion.
To add to this, the different shape and position of the weight also challenges how we’re able to keep the load stable.
Since a kettlebell is significantly less stable than a barbell or a dumbbell, it requires much more stabilizers in your body to be engaged. Your core and your arms will be emphasized slightly differently than in other exercises, and you can expect to benefit from increased core strength and also grip strength.
Since we’ll just be using the kettlebell, the equipment is relatively easy.
For beginners, we recommend you start at either a 10 or 15-pound kettlebell, depending on your fitness level. If you’ve used kettlebells in the past, it could be a good idea to ramp it up to a 20-pound kettlebell, or even heavier. Just ensure that you know what you’re doing—an injury can put your training back by a lot, and it’s best to avoid risking it with weights that are too heavy.
Next up, let’s look at some terminology so we’re all on the same page.
The heaviest part of the kettlebell, located in the middle and at the bottom of the weight, is called the bell. The loop that goes over the bell is called the handle, and it can either be grasped on the sides, or on the top. The sides of this loop are called the horns.
To “rack” a kettlebell, you’ll want to be holding it at the top of the handle with your hand at about shoulder height. The kettlebell should be resting on the outside of your forearm in this position, where it should be relatively stable.
Before getting into the thick of things, it’s good to play around with kettlebells and try out all the different movements you can do—especially if you’re just starting out. This will allow you to get more comfortable with what’s going to be required of your muscles and your joints before you start swinging it around.
Now that we know all about the kettlebell, let’s look into a workout routine that’ll get you the results you need—both in terms of aesthetics, endurance, and strength.
The exercises below should be completed in a circuit. This means that you’ll be going from one to the next with minimal breaks, which will ensure that you’re working up a sweat throughout and upping your heart rate. After you’ve completed one circuit, you can take a rest for a few minutes before jumping into things more.
You can also incorporate the routine below into your regular training routine, whether it’s aerobic or strength training. Since the kettlebell will provide a cardiovascular workout and also improve your range of motion, both cardio and strength training lifts will benefit from some kettlebell in your life.
You can also just pick and choose some of the exercises below to incorporate into your regular routine. Experiment with things how you see fit and choose what works best for you and your goals. You can’t really go wrong with the kettlebell unless you go way too heavy.
And before we jump into things, it’s important to mention that everyone should have a bit of a warm-up beforehand.
Cardio is always a good idea to get the blood pumping and your body ready to go. However, the kettlebell requires significant mobility in your shoulders and wrists, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some stretching that emphasizes the joints you’ll be using. Keep these things in mind, and you’re ready for the kettlebell.
Kettlebell Halos x 8 Repetitions
The muscles targeted with kettlebell halos are the deltoids, rhomboids, traps, forearms, and core muscles. However, it’s the shoulder joints that are the star of the show.
This movement is often used for rehabilitation purposes since it’s so helpful when it comes to increasing shoulder and spine mobility. Performing this exercise loosens up the shoulders, effectively making them stronger and more resilient against injuries.
Your core also benefits from this exercise, since you’re going to be requiring a lot of stabilizers to keep you upright throughout. This is called reflexive stability because your body will be fighting to stay upright against resistance (i.e., the kettlebell).
Begin by standing with your back straight and knees straight as well, but not locked. Stand with feet at about shoulder-width apart. Grasp the horns of the kettlebell, holding it out in front of your body.
Initiate the movement by circling the kettlebell to one side of your body. Carry the weight around the side of your head and allow it to drop behind your neck. Continue the circle, or the halo, but finishing the circle on the opposite side of your head. Once you come around, reverse the direction.
Goblet Squats x 10 Repetitions
This squat variation is one of the best out there, especially for younger athletes or people at a beginner fitness level.
For one, it effectively teaches proper squat form. If you’re keeping the weight in contact with your stomach and sternum, you can be pretty confident that you’re squatting with at least decent form. Goblet squats are also much easier on your back since the weight is shifted to the front of your body. This allows for your torso to be more upright, giving your spine some breathing room.
The shift in weight also means that your core is engaged more, giving you more development in that area.
To begin, grasp a kettlebell and hold it in front of your body, keeping it close. You want your feet to be planted anywhere from hip to shoulder-width apart. The weight should be touching your sternum.
Engage your core and maintain a flat back as you hinge your hips and bend the knees. Continue squatting down until your elbows come in contact with your knees. Once at the bottom, pause for a moment before driving down through your feet and standing back up into the starting position.
Kettlebell Swing x 12 Repetitions
If you’re looking to lose fat with kettlebell training, this is the crème de la crème of kettlebell exercises. If you just incorporate this one move into your routine and do it consistently enough, you should see results.
The explosive nature of this exercise lends itself well to HIIT routines, especially as a finisher at the end of a workout. They’re even great at building strength, so you’ll be killing two birds with one stone—or one kettlebell.
Begin with the kettlebell slightly in front of you and right in between your feet. Your stance should be shoulder-width apart. You’ll want to go down in a position similar to the deadlift, with your knees bent slightly but most of the lowering coming from hinging your hips.
Grab the kettlebell and bring it between and behind your legs, sharply reversing the movement by driving your hips forward while straightening your back at the same time. If done properly and with enough force, that should result in the kettlebell coming up to shoulder-height.
Windmills x 8 Repetitions
While the kettlebell windmill will work your entire body, special emphasis is placed on the obliques, the glutes, and the shoulders. The flexibility in your hips and hamstrings should improve as well, along with strengthening the core.
This exercise is particularly good if you’re looking to develop your functional fitness. That is, any movements you do in your day-to-day life. For example, tilting forward requires many of the same movement patterns as the windmill.
Begin with your feet wider than hip-width apart, gripping the kettlebell with your right hand. Extend the hand above your head with your palm facing forward. Your other hand should move down in front of your left thigh, with your palm also facing forward.
Initiate the hinge at your hips and lower your upper body downwards and to the left—ensure that your right arm is straight and above your head. At the lowest position, your left hand should be close to your left foot. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
Reverse Lunge with Overhead Hold x 6 Repetitions
Lunges by themselves are a terrific movement to add to your lower body workouts, but adding a kettlebell into the mix will spice things up even more.
You can expect your lower back, triceps, shoulders, quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings to be engaged throughout the reverse lunge. By raising the weight above your head, your forearm will have to put in some extra work while your core struggles to stabilize you throughout.
All in all, a very good movement to add to your kettlebell workout.
Begin by standing with feet together and kettlebell held overhead with an extended arm. If holding the kettlebell in your right hand, take a step back with your right foot while bending both knees to 90-degrees. This will put you into a lunge position, where you’ll need to have your core engaged to stay upright.
Reverse the movement by pushing through with your right foot to come back into the starting position.
Bent-Over Rows x 8 Repetitions
Everyone loves rows, and your back especially should love rows. The bent-over row primarily engages your abs, biceps, lats, lower back, and shoulders.
But it’s the back muscles that’ll be the focus of this exercise, and the row is one of the best movements to have in your repertoire if you’re looking to beef up your back.
Using a kettlebell instead of a barbell or dumbbell introduces further benefits as well. Due to the unique shape of a kettlebell and the placement of the weight, your grip will be challenged more than it otherwise would be with a dumbbell, which has its weight more evenly distributed.
Holding a kettlebell by the handle, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at the hips all the way until your torso is about parallel to the ground, but it’s okay if it’s slightly above that. Initiate the motion by driving the elbows back while also retracting the shoulder blades.
Get the kettlebell up to your body and then slowly reverse the motion.
Overhead Press x 8 Repetitions
The overhead press is a killer movement for developing your overhead strength and conditioning your shoulder muscles. It’s a mainstay of a lift in many peoples’ routines for good reason.
Done correctly, it can activate most of the muscles in your body. Using a kettlebell also gives you the option of racking it at the bottom of the movement, and there is better alignment at the top than with a barbell, for example.
Begin by grabbing the kettlebell with one hand, at the top of the handle. Your palm should be facing up.
Initiate the movement by pressing straight up—you want your first to be primarily driving the movement. That means, your first should be pointing in the direction you’re going the entire time. Once you get to the top, pause for a moment before bringing it back down in a controlled manner.
Like we talked about at the beginning, the kettlebell is a terrific way to make some serious progress if you’re looking to lose weight. That’s because kettlebell workouts tend to focus on high repetitions and lower weights, putting your body into cardio mode and burning a significant number of calories.
However, that’s only part of the story when it comes to weight loss. And a small part at that.
More than how you exert yourself (kettlebells, in this case), losing weight is about what you’re putting inside of your body. If you really want to lose weight or gain muscle or make any physiological change, most of the work is going to happen on the dinner plate rather than the barbell plate—or the kettlebell…plate? Bell?
Either way, you get the point.
For consistent fat loss that’ll bring you to your goals, you want to eat less than you burn in calories each day. Almost any diet is, after all, simply based around calories-in, calories-out.
But it’s not just any calories. You’ll want to either eliminate or significantly reduce the number of processed foods you eat. This means simple carbs and sugary drinks as well since they’ll easily sabotage your progress.
Instead, try filling up with vegetables. They can be filling and delicious if prepared properly at least. Healthy sources of protein are also necessary, especially if you’re working out regularly. Not only will they lead to muscle mass gains, but you’ll also feel fuller for longer. Round this off with some healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats, and you’ve got the recipe for the physique of your dreams.
If your eager to experience faster gains, consider taking supplements to help you out on the way.
A high-quality whey protein can help significantly when it comes to building muscle and keeping off fat. You obviously want to complement this with a rigorous routine, but if everything goes to plan then you’ll be seeing results faster than ever.
And if your aims are a little higher and you want to get shredded for the beach, consider a fat burner supplement. Beginner or not, you’ll be soon chiseling out a new body with the trusty ole’ kettlebell.