If you aren’t doing kettlebell exercises, you’re missing out on a potent workout that will get you fit, jacked and powerful.
“Doing the perfect kettlebell swing alone is superior to 99% of the sophisticated strength and conditioning programs out there,”
And multiple studies have demonstrated just how effective kettlebells can be for torching fat and improving strength and mobility. (1, 2) To maximize your workout, pick one of these top 9 kettlebell exercises for today’s workout!
#1. Basic 2-Handed Kettlebell Swing
This is the foundational movement you need to master before progressing to other kettlebell swing movements.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the kettlebell in front of you. Sit back like you’re in a chair, then swing your hips and the kettlebell forward. According to Harvard fitness expert Michele Stanten (watch her video tutorial below), this is the proper form to reduce your risks of injuries and maximize your health benefits.
The swinging movement enhances your hip mobility. The squatting targets your legs and glutes (your biggest muscle groups). And the swinging motion hits your core and your upper body. “It’s a strength, core and cardiovascular exercise, all combined into one movement,” strength coach Artemis Scantalides tells the American Council on Exercise.
#2. The Kettlebell Deadlift
The deadlift is a compound exercise. This means it requires multi-joint movements, which boosts your joint strength and improves your muscle coordination. (3) Better muscle coordination will serve you well, not just in the gym, but also in everyday life as you walk, jump or twist.
The kettlebell deadlift (video tutorial above) accomplishes all this, but without you needing to use separate pieces of equipment or a squat rack.
If you’re trying to maximize your fitness benefits, the American Council on Exercise recommends standing with your feet hip-width apart and separate kettlebells next to each foot. Brace your core and lean forward to grab the kettlebells. Holding onto the kettlebells, push down through your feet and raise yourself to a standing position. Pause, then return to the starting position.
#3. Kettlebell Jump Squats
You have two types of muscle fibers: Slow-twitch fibers, which are used for endurance, and fast-twitch fibers that you need to generate force and strength. (4) You need to do explosive movements that require a lot of force in order to train and strengthen these fast-twitch fibers, and jump squats are one of the best ways to do this. (5)
Add a kettlebell to a traditional jump squat (video tutorial below) for extra weight and to kick your squats into high gear!
Grab a kettlebell with both hands and hold it in front of your chest. Then, lower yourself down into a squat position. To maintain proper form, imagine you’re sitting your butt down into a low chair. From this low position, lean forward and jump up with your toes. Try to jump as high as you can before landing back down into a squatting position.
#4. Turkish Get-Ups
Turkish get-ups are an unusual exercise, and if they’re not on your radar, you’ll want to explore this unique workout immediately. Most people think of it as an ab, core and leg exercise. But its true benefit is that it’s one of the best kettlebell exercises to improve body control, body awareness, and shoulder stability and control. (6)
Body awareness, stability and control might not be “sexy” the way getting big biceps or a toned midsection is, but they’re critical elements if you want to properly execute any movement, maintain proper form, and protect yourself from injuries.
To do a Turkish get-up (video tutorial below), lie on your back with your right leg bent and a kettlebell next to your right shoulder.
Grab the kettlebell and, while bracing your right shoulder, press the weight upward. Once the kettlebell is overhead, tighten your core and push off the ground with your left arm to raise your torso off the ground. Pause, then repeat each movement in the opposite order to return to the starting position.
#5. Kettlebell Single-Arm Row
Rowing is a type of compound, a multi-muscle exercise that burns more calories per minute than non-compound workouts. They also improve what the American Council on Exercise calls “movement efficiency,” enhancing your coordination and movement skills to improve your overall quality of life. (7)
While you could use exercise bands or a rowing machine, kettlebell rows (video tutorial below) show once again how versatile and all-purpose the humble kettlebell can be.
Get into a push-up position or, if you are in the gym, lean forward onto a bench. Keep your leg stance wide, which keeps your body stabilized.
Hold a kettlebell in one hand. Exhale and tighten your core, then lift (in a pulling motion) the kettlebell toward your torso so that your elbow goes past your back. Pause, then return the kettlebell to the starting position with slow control.
#6. Kettlebell Walking Lunge
The lunge is one of the most effective lower-body workouts, reports the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The mobility this exercise requires can help counter the tightness and pain that comes from sitting too long (studies show that most of us sit for extended periods of time). And, because lunges works the big muscle groups in your glutes, hips and legs, it can burn more calories over time, which has big weight loss benefits. (8)
To do a walking kettlebell lunge (video tutorial below), hold a kettlebell in front of you while in a standing position. For the best results, keep the kettlebell against your chest.
Step forward into a lunge movement, where your front knee is at a 90-degree angle and your back knee is hovering just above the floor. Drive your hips forward and bring your back knee up so you’re back in a standing position, then repeat to create a lunging, walking movement forward.
#7. Kettlebell Shoulder Press
The overhead press is one of the best upper-body exercises, reports bodybuilding organization T-Nation. The organization notes that the overhead press was “the cornerstone exercise of some of the most impressive physiques [in bodybuilding’s Golden Age].” And while trendier exercises have taken its place in the gym, it remains an effective exercise for your triceps, shoulders and back.
Add a kettlebell to this versatile movement (video tutorial below). Stand straight with a kettlebell in one hand and your feet shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and pull the kettlebell up so that your forearm is facing forward, your palm is facing the ceiling, and the kettlebell is shoulder height hanging against your arm.
Exhale and press the kettlebell toward the ceiling until your arm is almost straight. Pause, then return to the starting position.
#8. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
This exercise will hit your back, legs and glutes. It’s one of the best workouts if you want to strengthen the connective tissues, stabilizer muscles and ligaments in your lower body, which is a key step in preventing injuries. It’s also one of the few exercises that effectively tone your abs and backside. (9)
To do a kettlebell goblet squat (video tutorial above), stand straight and hold the kettlebell with two hands in front of your chest. Remember to keep your elbows positioned as close to your torso as possible.
Keeping your weight in your heels, get into the squat position. Quality over quantity: Your butt needs to get as low as possible in order to focus in on the muscles in your backside. Once you are low to the ground and your thighs form a parallel line with the floor, drive into your heels and push yourself into a standing position.
#9. Kettlebell Deep Pushup
If you’re thinking that pushups are just for high school gym class, you’re mistaken. A deep pushup using a kettlebell is an intermediate- to expert-level progression of this foundational exercise, and research shows that it’s one of the best, simple exercises for biceps, triceps, abs and your chest. (10)
Because the kettlebell forces you to go deeper into the pushup than if you simply did it on a flat surface, the extended range of motion activates more muscle fibers. In other words, more calories burned and more muscle growth! Holding onto the kettlebells while doing the full range of motion also forces you to work on your stability.
Get into a traditional pushup position, but with a kettlebell near each hand (video tutorial above). Lower your entire body towards the floor. Unlike a typical pushup, you’ll go past your hands so your chest is dipping below the kettlebell handles. Pause, then press back into the starting position, all while breathing and keeping your abs tight.
Ancient Greece’s Wisdom Today
Kettlebells have been used since the times of Ancient Greece. (11) It’s no wonder we’re still using them in gyms today. As you can see from this list, I think kettlebells are some of the most important workout options out there because they’re so versatile and can be used in every workout imaginable for a minimalist, and effective, sweat session.
Have you tried any of these kettlebell exercise variations? What’s your favourite kettlebell workout? Share this article to spread the word about how incredible kettlebells can be, and leave a comment below on which kettlebell movement you love the most!