Kettlebells are a unique type of weight, usually made of an iron or plastic ball with a handle on top. They are predominantly used for functional fitness, especially in the military due to their robustness and versatility. Kettlebell training has recently surged in popularity due to their accessibility during the recent national lockdowns.
Advantages of Kettlebells
Kettlebells are incredibly multipurpose and are great for any sort of full body training. Most kettlebell exercises focus on working more than one muscle at once. Almost all kettlebell movements will do wonders for your core strength, and core stability. The style of training which usually works by repeating a circuit of exercises, not only builds muscle and strength, but also burns calories in the process. This is what makes kettlebell training so unique, you’re effectively doing weightlifting and cardio at the same time.
If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of kettlebell training, or you’re a kettlebell veteran looking to add to your arsenal, keep reading. Here are some exercises for all levels, most require just one kettlebell.
Exercises for a Beginner Kettlebell Workout
Kettlebell Goblet Squats
A very simple movement that’ll work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Grip the sides of your kettlebell’s handle with both hands and pull it into your chest with your elbows tucked. Place your feet just wider than shoulder width, with your toes pointing slightly outwards if it’s more comfortable. Lower yourself as low as you can go, and then drive yourself up as hard and explosively as you can.
Kettlebell Upright Row
This exercise works the shoulders and traps.
With both hands, grip the top of the kettlebell handle. Stand up, and pull the kettlebell upwards, flaring your elbows out and up. Once the handle reaches chin level, lower it back down to your waist.
Deadlifts don’t have to be done with a barbell; a kettlebell gets the job done. These hit your lats, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
Grab the top of your kettlebell with both hands. Keep your feet at about shoulder width and bend your knees so that your chest is leaning slightly forward at about a 45-degree angle. Drive your hips forward and your chest upwards simultaneously until you’re locked out. Then lean forward and bend your knees to put the kettlebell back on the ground.
Arguably the most well-known kettlebell exercise, swings target your glutes, hamstrings, and front delts. They also work your core and quads in the process.
To perform the kettlebell swing, firstly grab the top of the handle with both hands. Place your feet shoulder width apart and deadlift the kettlebell off the floor. Bring it back between your legs, then drive your hips forward and bring your chest up. This should start the swing. Use your shoulders to bring the kettlbell up and outwards to about chin level and keep your arms straight. Then allow the weight to fall back to between your legs and repeat.
Kettlebell Shoulder Press/Strict Press
Like all pressing movements, the kettlebell shoulder press targets your front delts and triceps. However, it also works your core and lower back due to the instability of the kettlebell. If you want to do this exercise, here’s how.
Grab the top of your kettlebell with one hand. Twist your wrist so it’s facing inwards, and your kettlebell is ‘hanging’ over the back of your hand. Keep your elbow tucked and bring your hand up to about shoulder level. Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart. Tense and brace your core and push upwards through your arm. Try not to let the weight move forwards or backwards, it should go straight upwards. Once your arm is locked, bring the kettlebell back down in the same motion. Switch arms once you’re done on one shoulder.
Rows work on your lats, mid back, lower back, and core.
First, put your kettlebell on the floor and grab the top of the handle with one hand. Keep your feet at about shoulder width apart and lean forward at about a 45-60-degree angle. If you like, place your off hand on a stable surface for support. Pick your kettlebell up off the floor and pull it upwards whilst keeping your elbow tucked against your side. Pull until your hand is about level with your ribcage, then control the weight back down. Switch arms once you’re done to work both sides.
Are these Exercises Just for Beginners?
No. These exercises are still extremely beneficial and effective for all experience levels. You should definitely include these in your workout regardless of your ability.
Exercises for an Intermediate Kettlebell Workout
These are very similar to goblet squats, but they’re even more beneficial for developing your overall athleticism.
Hold the kettlebell to your chest with your elbows tucked, like you would for a goblet squat. Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and lower yourself as low as you can. Then, drive through your legs and explode upwards, jumping as high as possible. When you land, lower yourself down and repeat.
The only exercise on this list that needs two kettlebells, but for the results, it’s worth it. The renegade row smashes your chest, back, and core. It also works your front delts and biceps.
Start off with your two kettlebells on the floor at just wider than shoulder width apart. Get into a push up position with your hands on the kettlebell handles. Then do a push up. Once you’re at the top, place all your weight onto one kettlebell and brace your core. Bring the other kettlebell up and back with your elbow tucked, until you feel a squeeze in your back. Then drop it back down and do the same on the other side. This counts as one rep.
The kettlebell clean mainly targets your glutes, quads, arms, and core.
To perform the kettlebell clean, start with your feet just wider than shoulder-width. Position the kettlebell on the floor in between your feet. Lean forward and grab the top of the handle. Straighten your arm and drive your hips forward whilst bringing your chest upwards. Bring your arm inwards with your elbow tucked, as if you were doing bicep curls. Your hand should come to about shoulder level as the kettlebell naturally ‘flips’ over to the back of your hand. To help with this, imagine bringing your arm around the kettlebell. Squeeze your glutes, and then lean forward and drop the kettlebell back down to the ground. Switch hands once you’ve finished to evenly work both sides.
Exercises for an Advanced Kettlebell Workout
Another compound movement. The kettlebell snatch targets your glutes, shoulders, back, and core. If you want to incorporate snatches into your workout, here’s how to do them.
Like the clean, start with your feet just wider than shoulder width, with the kettlebell between them. Hold the top of the handle, lean forward, and deadlift the kettlebell up. This is your starting position. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs, twisting your body so that the shoulder of the arm holding the kettlebell is pointed downwards. Your off hand should remain straight and behind you for balance. Drive your hips forward and bring your chest upwards. As you do this, brace your core and allow the kettlebell to naturally swing forward. Whilst it comes forward, push your arm upwards and snap at the top so that the kettlebell flips over to the back of your hand. Keep your arm and wrist straight and squeeze your glutes.
The overhead squat is an extreme measure of your core strength. It also targets your glutes, quads, and shoulders.
To start with, you need to snatch the kettlebell so it’s over your head. With your arm straight in the air, squat down as low as you can go. Then drive yourself upwards and squeeze your glutes. Drop the weight back down to the ground and repeat. Switch arms each rep or after you’ve done enough reps on one arm.
Exercises for a Kettlebell God
This exercise is seriously hard. If you can do it, then you’re officially qualified to call yourself a kettlebell master. The Turkish getup works pretty much your entire body and has also been shown to improve your mobility!
Firstly, lie on your back and grab your kettlebell. Hold the top of the handle with one hand and bring it towards your chest. Bring the knee on the same side as your kettlebell arm upwards and outwards at about a 45-degree angle. Your knee should be pointing upwards with your foot flat on the floor. Your other leg should be straight, with your heel on the ground at about a 45-degree angle. Your off arm should also be straight at 45-degrees, with the palm of your hand facing downwards.
With your kettlebell hand, twist your wrist so it’s facing towards your feet. Shift your weight onto your off arm and push the kettlebell upwards as hard as you can. Start to push yourself upwards with your bent knee at the same time as this. Your upper body weight should be on your off-arm’s forearm.
As you rise upwards, twist your off hand so it’s pointing away from your body, and push against it so that your weight is shifted onto your hand. Your arm should be straight, with your forearm no longer making contact with the floor. Keep your kettlebell arm straight and locked.
Keep your shoulders tight and bring your straight leg underneath you so that your toes are in line with your front foot. Keep the knee of this leg on the floor, with your heel in the air but keeping the ball of your foot and toes on the floor.
Then, shift your weight towards your glutes which should be positioned just over your back foot with the ball of your foot on the floor. The knee of this leg should now face directly ahead of you.
You’re now locked and loaded. Brace your core, keep everything tight and stand up. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Reverse everything to get back down to your original lying position. Roll over to switch hands, and repeat!
If you’re feeling like a change and want to incorporate some kettlebell work into your regime, you’re in luck. We stock a huge array of kettlebells. We have ergonomic kettlebells, designed to rest easier against your wrist when performing advanced movements like the snatch, as well as competition kettlebells, cast iron kettlebells, and kettlebell sets.
Jamie Grover, Fitness Journalist from Bristol.