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Kettlebell Workouts: Get Fit With These 6 Exercises

by P S | Reviewed by Advisory Board

A woman does kettlebell workouts at home

With COVID-19 still at large, it might be safer to practice your lunges and squats at home. But you may assume this means skipping overhead presses, deadlifts, and your beloved barbells.

Thankfully, the kettlebell can replace the barbell and dumbbell for a home workout that hits all the right notes (well, all the right muscle groups).

In this article, we'll show you the benefits of kettlebell workouts and the best kettlebell exercises to try.

4 Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts

Kettlebell training helps improve your strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination. It’s also great for targeting your core muscles, especially the abdominals and lower back. Here are four major benefits of kettlebell workouts:

1. Stronger Posterior Chain

The posterior chain refers to all the muscle groups on your body's backside: upper back (lats, traps, rhomboids), lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Whether it's picking groceries off the floor or nailing that 300-pound deadlift, these muscles are essential to your everyday movements and athletic performance.

Unfortunately, most of us have a weak posterior chain, no thanks to our desk-bound jobs, resulting in lower back pain and poor posture.

Fortunately, kettlebell workouts can help strengthen your posterior chain. The kettlebell swing, for instance, actively recruits muscle groups in your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. Similarly, kettlebell goblet squats target your back, core, and lower body.

Kettlebell training also helps with pain management. A 2011 study published in The Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health showed that performing full-body kettlebell exercises thrice weekly reduces neck, shoulders, and lower back pain.

2. Increased Grip Strength

If grip strength is holding you back from a deadlift personal record, try kettlebell exercises

Kettlebells are distinct from barbells and dumbbells in that the majority of the weight is distributed below the handle. In the bottoms-up carry, you'll intuitively strengthen your grip to prevent the free weight from sliding into a rack position

Single-arm kettlebell exercises like the kettlebell snatch also improve your grip strength, as well as your coordination. To compensate for the heavier weight concentrated on one side, tighten your grip on the bell and brace your core muscles throughout the movement.

3. Save Space and Portable

A kettlebell is compact and easy to transport, making it ideal for a home workout. Get in your kettlebell push-ups before storing it in your closet, which you can't really do with an unwieldy Olympic barbell and weight plates.

Being space-efficient, it's easy to keep multiple kettlebells of different weights in your balcony. Different kettlebell weights also give you the flexibility to switch up your workout routine (see next section).

4. 2-in-1 Cardio and Strength Training

Kettlebell workouts can be a great form of concurrent training. In the mood for cardio? Do multiple sets of high-rep kettlebell exercises (using a low to moderate weight) to get your heart rate pumping and lose weight. 

For muscle-building or strength training, switch the lighter kettlebells for heavier ones and go low-rep. Kettlebells are also great for a seamless workout routine — you can transition smoothly from a goblet squat to a swing to a deadlift. No more fumbling with the weights on your barbell.

6 Exercises to Use in your Kettlebell Workouts

A man does kettlebell workouts at home

Now that we’ve sung the praises of kettlebell workouts, it's time to put them into action. Here are some of the best kettlebell exercises to include in your routine:

1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

If you're having trouble with your barbell back squat, the kettlebell goblet squat can help you learn the correct movement pattern so you not only lift better but also minimize lower back injuries.

Targeted areas: Whole body

How to:

  • Lift a kettlebell off the floor by the handle and straighten up. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with the kettlebell close to your chest and your elbows tucked in. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly lower into a squat. Engage your core and drive your heels in. Ensure your upper body doesn't tilt forward.
  • Exhale, squeeze your glutes and push up through your heels to return to the starting position.

Variations:

  • Goblet squat with overhead press: Once you've returned to the starting position from your squat, straighten your arms to lift the kettlebell above your head.
  • Pistol squat with kettlebell: Perform the same movement pattern on one leg.

2. Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is an explosive exercise that accelerates your heart rate when it’s done right.

Targeted areas: Whole body

How to:

  • Place the kettlebell slightly in front of you and between your legs. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly, hinge your hips, and lean forward while keeping your butt high (don't go into a squat position). Grip the weight's handle in both hands, and pull it back between your legs.
  • Squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and straighten up to swing the kettlebell to shoulder height. Throughout the move, keep your core tight, your arms and back straight, and the bell pointing away from you.
  • As the kettlebell swings downward, drive your body weight into the heels and prepare for the next rep.

Variations:

  • One-arm kettlebell swing: Perform the same exercise with a single arm.
  • Kettlebell snatch: This is an extension of the one-arm kettlebell swing — as the kettlebell swings upward, straighten your arm overhead, and catch the weight on your wrist.

3. Kettlebell Halo

The kettlebell halo is an upper-body exercise perfect for resolving neck cricks and shoulder pain.

Targeted areas: Shoulders (delts, traps, rhomboids), core, and forearms

How to:

  • Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, and hips stable. Hold a kettlebell upside-down at shoulder height, and grip its handle with both hands. Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows tucked.
  • Circle the kettlebell around the left side of your head to form a "halo." Keep the weight as close to your head as possible.
  • Once the kettlebell reaches the front of your chest again, repeat the same movement pattern in the opposite direction.

4. Kettlebell Floor Press

For a modified dumbbell bench press at home, try the kettlebell floor press instead.

Targeted areas: Shoulders, triceps, chest, and core

How to:

  • Lie on the floor face-up with your knees bent and feet flat. Ensure your shoulder blades are flat against the ground and your elbows close to your sides.
  • Using an underhand grip, hold a single kettlebell in each hand (by the handle) in a rack position.
  • Exhale, straighten your arms, and press the weights upward (above your chest), and hold for one second. Engage your core and glutes throughout the range of motion.
  • Slowly lower the weights down until your elbows touch the ground. Repeat the exercise.

5. Kettlebell Deadlift

A woman doing a workout

The kettlebell deadlift is ideal if you don't have a barbell lying around.

Targeted areas: Posterior chain and core muscles

How to:

  • Stand with a kettlebell on the floor between your legs with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hinge your hips, lower into a squat, and grip the handle with both hands. Push your butt backward, and keep your back straight. This is the starting position.
  • Without bending your arms, lift the weight off the floor and straighten. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and hold for two seconds.
  • Then, repeat the same hip hinge as before to lower the kettlebell and return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise.

6. Kettlebell Push-up

If standard push-ups have become boring, the kettlebell push-up will add some new twists to your routine.

Targeted areas: Shoulders, triceps, chest, and core

How to:

  • Start in a plank position with a single kettlebell below your right shoulder. Grip the weight's handle with your right hand, and place your left hand on the ground. Ensure both hands are more than shoulder-width apart to create a stable base.
  • Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body weight to the ground. Keep your back straight and core engaged.
  • Lock both wrists, exhale, and push up into a high plank position. As you do so, your right hand should press down to prevent the weight from rolling off. This is one rep.
  • Complete all your reps on your right side, then switch to your left side.

Variations:

  • Double kettlebell push-up: Place one kettlebell below each shoulder, and grip one bell in each hand. Perform the same movement pattern.
  • Add a kettlebell row: From the high plank position in the kettlebell push-up, transfer all your body weight to your left hand. Then, pull your right elbow towards your chest to lift the kettlebell off the ground. Hold for one second and lower the kettlebell to the ground.

Try This Full-Body Kettlebell Workout

To engage your entire body, here's a sample kettlebell workout (with bodyweight exercises). Perform each circuit three times before moving on to the next circuit. Rest 15-20 seconds between exercises and 1-2 minutes between circuits.

Warm-up

  • Jumping jacks
  • Windmills
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Kettlebell halos
  • Lunges

Circuit 1

  • 8 goblet squats
  • 8 kettlebell push-ups and rows
  • 8 kettlebell swings

Circuit 2

  • 5 kettlebell deadlifts
  • Split squats (20 seconds)
  • 5 double kettlebell push-ups

Circuit 3

  • 8 kettlebell floor press
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 8 kettlebell snatches (16 total)

For a DIY full-body kettlebell workout, check out this guide.

The Best Kettlebell Workouts Do It All

Whether you're at the gym or in your living room, if you want to burn fat or build muscles, the best kettlebell workouts can do just the trick.

To get the most out of your kettlebell workouts, take a pre-workout supplement 20-30 minutes before you exercise. PreSeries BULK Pre-Workout from Transparent Labs helps build muscle and reduce soreness, so you can spend less time on the couch and more time with your kettlebells.




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