Training

Kettlebell Workout | The Top 22 Kettlebell Exercises For All Levels

Kettlebells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can use and, if used correctly, can be a great addition to your workout routine. No doubt you will have seen some weird and wonderful exercises that you can’t even remember how to perform, nevermind getting your body to move in that way.

There are several fundamental exercises that you need to get right before you try these advanced movements. Perfect these exercises below and you’ll be a kettlebell pro in no time, you’ll also find that you become stronger in your usual workouts. 

 

Beginners’ Kettlebell Workout

Perform exercises 1 – 4 as a mini circuit, one exercise immediately after the other and then rest for 1 – 2 minutes before performing the second and third sets. Follow the same method for exercises 5 and 6.

 

1. Kettlebell Swing

Reps: 10 – 15

The power from this exercise comes from hinging and driving through the hip by engaging your glutes. The kettlebell should reach shoulder height but no higher and your shoulders and arms should just support this movement and not play the part of a primary mover.

 

2. Goblet Squat

Reps: 10 – 15

Hold the kettlebell against your chest just under your chin and tuck your elbows in for better stability. Like a traditional squat, keep your chest up and aim to get your hips to down to knee height.

 

3. High Pull

Reps: 10 – 15

Using the power and momentum from the squat, drive your elbows up to shoulder height or slightly higher with the kettlebell reaching chest height. It is important to drive out of the bottom of the squat hard so the shoulders do not have to take the brunt of the movement. The less work you do at the bottom, the harder it will be at the top.

 

4. Suitcase Deadlift

Reps: 10 each side

Holding a single kettlebell on one side while performing this will create a significant amount of workload for the opposing set of obliques. You should focus on keeping your shoulders level and try not to let the side holding the kettlebell drop any lower than the opposite side. Avoid rocking forward onto your toes by driving hard into the heels.

 

5. Plank Drag

Reps: 20 (count every rep)

Locking in a strong plank, we now add some movement to really fire up obliques. With your kettlebell on one side, reach under your body with your opposite arm and drag the kettlebell under to the opposite side with control and power. You are aiming to keep your hips and shoulders fixed.

 

6. Figure of 8

Reps: 20 (count every pass through the legs)

Here we start to create strength in the general core through stabilisation of the trunk. Swinging the kettlebell around the body and through the legs will create momentum and change in direction that your collective core muscles will have to fight against to maintain stability. A nice little addition to finishing this workout off.

Kettlebell Workout for Intermediates

Follow the same set up as above, but as an intermediate, you will be aiming for the similar rep ranges but with heavier weights and try challenging yourself with shorter rest times. We focus on a lot of single-handed and one-sided exercises to create a longer and more challenging workout.

 

7. Single Arm Swings

Reps: 10 – 15 each arm

This is not all that different from a double-handed swing with a lot of the same technique points. The difference here is you potentially lose some stability and you may find the need to drive harder through the glutes on the same side as the arm holding the kettlebell. Important to keep both feet equally grounded and prevent any twisting.

 

8. Racked Squat

Reps: 10 – 15

Very similar setup and focus as the goblet squat above but similar to the single-arm swing we shift the load over to one side. This will create a greater need for the obliques to fire up and maintain the upright posture. 

 

9. Clean and Press

Reps: 8 – 10 each arm

A challenging exercise where you should aim to generate power at the start of each stage of the movement. Driving the kettlebell from the legs to the shoulder and from the shoulder to overhead should happen with speed and control. It is acceptable to pause at the shoulder before the press, in fact, I would recommend a pause to prevent rushing this exercise and losing the precise technique needed.

 

10. Squat Curl

Reps: 10 – 12

With this variation of a squat curl you should start in a goblet squat position with a slightly different kettlebell grip (see video). Lower to a parallel squat or slightly lower, from this position lower and raise the kettlebell in a bicep curl movement. You should aim to keep your chest lifted and your torso fixed in position.

11. Windmill

Reps: 10 each side

Imagine a funky overhead split stance version of a stiff leg deadlift, I know, confusing right! Providing you get this right, it will get your hamstrings and glutes shaking and your obliques burning. Important to keep your back pretty straight and the kettlebell directly over your shoulder. Ideally, do this with straight legs but as many people are pretty tight in the hamstrings you may need a small bend in the front leg.

 

12. Sit and Press

Reps: 10

It is as the name would suggest, sitting up and pressing. Keep your feet on the floor throughout and avoid using too much momentum from the kettlebell. When you reach the top of the sit-up press the kettlebell straight up overhead, you may find when doing this you are also able to sit up a little straighter to finish the movement off.

 

Advanced Kettlebell Exercises

13. Turkish Get-Up

Reps: 5 – 8 each side

The daddy of kettlebell exercises, this will just about hit every muscle you have and challenge your coordination at the same time. Important to take your time, pause for a second between each transition to make sure your muscles are contracted fully and you have locked in the perfect position before moving on.

The biggest mistake I have seen with this movement is people rushing through it, take your time! Watch the video and break it down into 4 or 5 smaller movements if you need to to get this movement nailed.

 

14. Racked Reverse Lunge

Reps: 10 – 15 each side

Similar to the racked squat we looked at earlier, shifting the weight to one side gets your obliques firing on all cylinders and forces everything in the midsection to keep your torso locked in tight and upright. You will feel a greater challenge in your upper body but don’t forget this is still a lunge so the front thigh is parallel with the floor and a fairly equal load across the front and back leg.

 

15. Kettlebell Snatch

Reps: 8 – 10 each side

Here we hit one of the bigger power moves, for this, you will need strength and speed of movement. You will need to start with more of a swing movement rather than a squatting movement, this will mean the power comes from the glutes and hamstring in the hip hinge. Build the momentum from the bottom of the movement so the kettlebell gets to the top comfortably. Punch your hand through at the top and try not to let the kettlebell carry on over the top of your hand to avoid the impact on the forearm.

 

16. Deck Squat

Reps: 8 – 10

One of the exercises you won’t see all that often but has some great benefits. Make sure you control yourself back and hit the glute bridge fully before reversing the movement. You will need to use some momentum with the kettlebell through the crunch to return to your feet. This will get your heart rate up, your abs burning and is a great addition to any kettlebell workout.

 

17. Bottom-Up Press

Reps: 8 – 10 each side

How about we challenge your shoulders, your stabilisation, your forearms and upper back stabilisers all in one go. You will be holding the kettlebell upside down so definitely go lighter. When you have a good grip of the kettlebell in front of your shoulder, slowly press the kettlebell in a similar movement pattern as a single-arm dumbbell shoulder press but keeping your hand in a neutral grip position. The kettlebell will want to fall to one side to take your time, go light and perfect the movement before going heavier.

 

18. Lateral Swing

Reps: 10 – 15 each side

Take a normal swing and change the direction and you’ll shift the focus to different areas. The lateral swing will bias the obliques heavily due to the slight torso rotation but will keep some of the big players such as glutes and hamstrings. This is a great way to break out of the norm and mix up your movement pattern.

 

The Best Exercises for Ripped Arms

19. Single Arm Row

Reps: 8 – 12 each side

Best performed with a staggered stance taking the opposite leg to the rowing arm forward. You will get some slight rotation of the torso as you row but be sure not use this as a momentum building movement. Traditionally I would suggest on a row to aim for the hip but to get your biceps working harder aim to pull the kettlebell towards the middle of your ribs.

 

20. Overhead Press

Reps: 8 – 12 each side

This can be done single arm or double if you prefer and is foremost a shoulder exercise, either way, do this right and your triceps will take a beating as well. From a racked position and a neutral grip drive the kettlebell up overhead with a slight rotation so your palm finishes facing forward. Always return the kettlebell to a fully racked start position.

 

21. Prone Tricep Extension

Reps: 8 – 12

Taking into account that triceps make up a majority of arm size it’s important that you spend a little more time on these rather than making a beeline for the curls. With tricep extensions, you should aim to lower the kettlebell just above the head and move slowly to maintain full control. At the top of the movement, take some time to fully engage the triceps. Combine that with the right tempo and weight and you should get to about rep 5 or 6 and start feeling the burn.

 

22. Overhead Tricep Extension

Reps: 8 – 12

Maintain the exercise tempo and focus from the prone extension but this time whilst standing. Lower the kettlebell behind the head until you feel you have hit your full range of movement and just like before, spend a second at the top to really squeeze the triceps.

 

Take Home Message

Kettlebells lend themselves fantastically for full-body, fat burning, HIIT workouts but they are versatile and can be introduced into many workouts designed for a multitude of physique and fitness goals. As with any exercise, but maybe even more so for kettlebell exercise, technique comes before intensity so spend time getting the basics right before pushing hard with weight and intensity. 

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!


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