Whether you’re entertaining the idea of exercise or are a gym-going expert, kettlebell exercises are a solid workout.

Kettlebells are flexible free weights, great for use in a manner of workouts from HIIT to simple compound moves. So next time you’re at the gym, consider using one of these moves.

The moves we’re going to cover are:

  • Swing.
  • Thrusters.
  • Sumo squat.
  • Clean and press.
  • Single-arm kettlebell row.
  • Snatch.
  • Windmill.
  • Crush-curl.
  • Single-arm press.
  • Goblet squat.
  • Halos.
  • Around the leg pass.
  • Single-arm squat-to-press.
  • Russian twist.
  • Toe touch and pick up.
  • Farmer’s walk.
  • Push-up with row.
  • Angel press.
  • Full body workout.
  • HIIT workout.

What Are the Best Kettlebell Exercises?

All the exercises on this list are among the best kettlebell exercises you can do. The best type of workout with kettlebells has these elements:

  • Strength-building.
  • Stamina-increasing.
  • Engaging several large muscles simultaneously.
  • Increase your heart rate close to its maximum.

If you’re a beginner, consider starting with the following few workouts with kettlebell to see how your body reacts to the workout. They each possess the above elements, making them optimal for beginners and seasoned kettlebell experts:

  • Kettlebell/chest-loaded swing.
  • Sumo squat.
  • Kettlebell snatch.

Do Kettlebell Exercises Really Work?

Exercises with kettlebells absolutely work. They’re great for pumping yourself up for a larger workout and doing strength training.

Many kettlebell exercises involve using the whole body, meaning you’re working more muscles at once. Using more muscles will up the intensity of the workout, making the exercise more effective for strength training.

What Are Kettlebell Exercises Good For?

Kettlebell exercises have numerous benefits, including:

  • Engaging your core.
  • Developing your posterior chain.
  • Strengthening joints.
  • Building a base of strength.
  • Preventing future injuries.
  • Developing movement skills.
  • Skyrocketing your endurance.

With a few kettlebell moves each day, you’re building a base for a stronger, healthier life. Plus, the movement skills can help you in other activities you enjoy—like sports.

Kettlebell workouts are a simple alternative to many aerobic workouts, and often take up less space, time, and sometimes money.

Consider kettlebell exercises as an alternative to:

  • Stepping classes.
  • Spinning classes.
  • A gym lacking key equipment.
  • Regular HIIT training.
  • Dumbbells.

Kettlebells as an Alternative to Dumbbells

It’s easy to assume you can do most kettlebell exercises with dumbbells. While this isn’t untrue, kettlebells will give you a much harder workout.

Dumbbells carry their weight evenly, end to end, with a nice, clean bar for you to grip. Kettlebells have a handle which is often small, and very thick. This will increase your grip strength easily.

As well as their thick handles, kettlebells have an off-center weight balance. This forces you to learn balance and engage stabilizer muscles. Plus, they carry their weight low, so they’re harder to get above your head.

If you’re skeptical, try using a dumbbell and doing 20 reps of swinging it over your head. Swap arms and do the same, then repeat the reps on both arms twice. Don’t cheat—use the heaviest weight you can handle.

Take a kettlebell of the same weight and try the same exercise with the same number of reps. Guaranteed, it’s going to be miles more difficult than using a dumbbell.

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Can You Lose Weight With Kettlebells?

You can lose weight with any exercise, so yes, you can lose weight with kettlebells.

Kettlebell weight loss is particularly effective because you’re using so many muscles at once. More muscle engagement equals more calories burned in a shorter time.

They’re also a great addition to your usual weight loss workout regime, as they add weight to any move you do. The more strenuous the activity, the more calories and fat you’re going to burn.

One study showed that participants involved in a 2-minute workout using kettlebells burned 13.6 calories a minute. This equates to how much you’d burn when running a 6-minute mile.

The Top 16 Best Kettlebell Exercises

Kettlebell Swing/Chest-Loaded Swing

Benefits

The swing is the most straightforward exercise you can do. It engages your core, back, arms, hips, legs, and glutes. It works well to improve anaerobic fitness, especially if you aim for a 90-second set.

How To:

Here’s how you perform a regular kettlebell swing:

  • Plant your feet firmly on the ground, more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees to grasp the kettlebell at your feet.
  • Clutching the kettlebell with both hands, use your hips to swing the weight as high as you can—aim for the shoulders, and keep your back flat.
  • Lower the weight back towards the floor and repeat the exercise.

However, for complete beginners, it may be smarter to start with a chest-loaded swing. It’ll help you work on your form, so you don’t obtain an injury by driving into the deep end too soon.

Here’s the lowdown on the chest-loaded swing:

  • Start with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the kettlebell by the handle, so the bottom of it presses close to your lower sternum.
  • Bring your shoulder blades closer to each other, and slightly downwards.
  • Bend your hips as if you’re about to place your butt on a wall directly behind you.
  • As soon as you feel your hamstring stretching, squeeze your glutes and extend your hips, keeping your tailbone tucked in.

Once you get used to swinging your body with this weight on your chest, you’ll be able to transition into a full swing more easily.

Kettlebell Thrusters

Benefits

Kettlebell thrusters engage your entire body and are a combination of an overhead press and front squat.

How To:

  • Holding the kettlebell, make sure most of the weight is on your back and shoulder muscles.
  • Keeping your body squared, perform a squat.
  • As you rise out of your squat, drive your arms far above your head.

Sumo Squat

Benefits

If kettlebell thrusters are too intimidating for you, a sumo squat may be a better starting point.

How To:

  • Hold the kettlebell hanging down or up towards your chest, depending on comfort/ability.
  • Squat with your feet far wider than your shoulders, and your back straight—your hips should be backward, and your toes slightly outwards.
  • Go as low as you can into the squat, then back up—do not let your knees roll in during this part.
  • Once back in your starting position, repeat the exercise.

Kettlebell Clean and Press

Benefits

The kettlebell clean and press is another one that’s great for working out your whole body. It features an element similar to an overhead press. There’s also a move that bears a slight resemblance to a squat, but with less pressure on the knees.

Because of the lesser knee pressure, this is a move that people with knee issues can do in place of kettlebell thrusters.

This is a move that can help increase your grip strength and help you keep your core rigid.

How To:

  • Hold two kettlebells near your thighs, hanging down.
  • Have your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Give a small jump while simultaneously lifting your arms over your head.
  • Land with your knees slightly bent and your arms still above your head.

Single-Arm Kettlebell Row

Benefits

This exercise will strengthen your arms individually, along with your posterior shoulder muscles, core muscles, grip, biceps, trapezius, and rhomboids. It’s excellent for building stamina, balance, and back strength too.

How To:

  • Begin with your feet behind the kettlebell.
  • Using your left leg, take a large stride backward while grasping the kettlebell with your left hand.
  • Make sure your right arm is resting upon your right knee.
  • Bring the kettlebell towards your hip.
  • Lower it until it hovers just above the floor, making sure your arm is extended fully.
  • Ensure your back remains fixed throughout this exercise.
  • Swap arms and repeat.

Kettlebell Snatch

Benefits

The kettlebell snatch is another exercise that will help with your balance and individual arm strength.

It’s also fantastic for your heart—researchers found that the kettlebell snatch keeps your heart at 86–99 percent of its maximum rate. Therefore, this is a great cardio workout.

How To:

  • With the kettlebell in one hand and between your legs, squat.
  • End the squat with your thighs and the floor parallel to each other.
  • Slowly unbend your knees and raise your arm.
  • Once the kettlebell is at a height with your shoulder, raise it above your head.
  • Lower the weight, reenter the squatting start position and repeat.

Kettlebell Windmill

Benefits

If you’re looking for an incredible exercise to increase your mobility, the kettlebell windmill could be the one you want.

Not only that, but it also strengthens your core and your shoulders, and helps with your balance.

How To:

  • Your starting position is with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasping a kettlebell in your right hand.
  • Have your feet pointing 45 degrees to the left.
  • Raise the kettlebell over your head, making sure your elbow becomes locked out.
  • Look at the weight.
  • Bend slowly towards the ground until your left hand is touching your left foot—aim for your shin if you’re less flexible.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Be sure to repeat the exercise on both sides.

Kettlebell Crush Curl

Benefits

The benefit of a kettlebell crush curl is that it’s a great bicep workout, which also targets your chest and shoulders. It’s a great inclusion when training for upper body strength.

How To:

  • Hold the kettlebell in both hands at chest height.
  • Flare your elbows outwards as you push inwards.
  • Bring the kettlebell down towards your waist, pressing it.
  • Raise the kettlebell back to chest height in a curling motion.

Kettlebell Single-Arm Press

Benefits

The kettlebell single-arm press is excellent for training one arm at a time, and it also targets tons of muscles in your legs and core.

How To:

You perform this exercise the way you’d perform a kettlebell clean and press, except using one arm.

  • Hold one kettlebell, hanging by your side near your thigh.
  • Perform a semi-squat, with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Stop the squat when you’re about halfway through.
  • Jump up and raise the kettlebell above your head.
  • Aim to land with slightly bent knees, so they absorb the impact.
  • Lower the weight as you land.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Benefits

Kettlebell goblet squats are fantastic for engaging your back and core, as well as your chest. It’s more of a challenge to keep these areas in a locked position while holding a heavy weight and squatting.

Holding a kettlebell while performing this exercise also helps perfect your regular squat, making it more effective.

How To:

  • Begin by holding the kettlebell by the ball portion instead of the handle.
  • Keep the kettlebell raised, just under your chin and above your chest, close to your body.
  • Perform a regular squat, and don’t move the kettlebell.
  • Come out of the position, and repeat.

Kettlebell Halos—Shoulder/Hip

Benefits

These exercises target many upper body muscles in your chest, back, and arms. They also increase the mobility of the shoulder.

How To:

First, the hip halo:

  • Start with the kettlebell on your hip, holding the bell or very low on the handle.
  • Bring the kettlebell over your head, down over your opposite shoulder.
  • Finish with the kettlebell on the hip you started with—don’t move your torso at all during these steps.

And the shoulder:

  • Hold the kettlebell by the handle with the bell facing upwards, on your chest.
  • Circle the kettlebell behind your head and around to land back on the chest.
  • Do not move your neck or torso during this process.

Kettlebell Around the Leg Pass

Benefits

It’s easy to assume kettlebell exercise is all about the arms. Luckily, there are ways to incorporate the legs in more than just squats.

The kettlebell around the leg pass is a brutal, isometric way of training that helps you adapt to different loading parameters throughout the exercise.

How To:

  • Hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands at hip level.
  • Push your hips back until the kettlebell reaches ankle height.
  • Keeping your chin and chest up, pass it behind one leg in circular motions, hand to hand.
  • Try not to swing the weight as you complete 90 seconds of the exercise.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Single-Arm Squat-To-Presses

Benefits

This is an excellent exercise for targeting the shoulders, triceps, glutes, abs, and hamstrings. It will also aid your balance and individual arm strength.

How To:

  • Start with a kettlebell in one hand at chest height.
  • Extend your free arm straight out to the side.
  • Squat down neatly, and as you raise back up, thrust your kettlebell-holding arm in the air.
  • Lower it, then repeat.

Kettlebell Russian Twist

Benefits

For an abs workout that will burn, the Russian twist is perfect. It’ll also benefit your back, shoulders, and chest.

How To:

  • Start by sitting on the floor, with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Pick up a kettlebell, gripping it tightly near your chest.
  • Raise your legs so that only your glutes are touching the floor.
  • Twist from side to side, moving the kettlebell to each side as you do—but don’t let it touch the floor.

Kettlebell Toe Touch and Pick Up

Benefits

This is a move that’ll help with your flexibility and give your abs, shoulders, and arms a full workout.

How To:

  • Begin with a kettlebell at each ankle and your legs shoulder-width apart.
  • Pick up one of the kettlebells in one hand and raise it over your head.
  • Slide your free hand towards the kettlebell on the floor.
  • Grab the kettlebell and raise it to thigh-height.
  • Lower the kettlebell back to the floor.

For an alternative to this exercise:

  • When you pick up the floor-dwelling kettlebell, raise it over your head and lower the other one to the ground.
  • Return to an upright position.
  • Slide back down to pick up the kettlebell you just placed down.
  • Raise the newly re-grasped kettlebell, and lower the other one to the ground.

Farmer’s Walk

Benefits

Although it may seem simple, the farmer’s walk is a difficult journey to take. You’ll work out your arms, shoulders, and core with this one as you try to stand rigid.

How To:

  • Pick up the heaviest kettlebell you can stand, one in each hand.
  • Walk as far as you can.

Kettlebell Push-Up With Row

Benefits

This is a great exercise to perform as part of a strength training regime for your arms. You get all the benefits of a push-up, but with an extra challenge on top.

How To:

  • Begin in a push-up, except with your hands on the handles of kettlebells.
  • Perform a regular push-up.
  • Upon reaching the top, perform a row—lift your right elbow while grasping the kettlebell.
  • Lower the kettlebell and perform another push-up.
  • Repeat the row on your left side.

Angel Press

Benefits

The angel press works out your core, ensuring a workout that burns from the midriff right into the shoulders. It works wonders for strength and endurance.

How To:

  • Use the highest weight you can press overhead without too much discomfort.
  • Sit on the floor with your arms and legs extended, a kettlebell in both hands.
  • Lay back towards the floor, bringing the kettlebells towards your chest as you do.
  • Return to an upright position and press the bells above your head.
  • Lower them to return to your starting position.
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Full Body Kettlebell Workout

If you’re not sure how to utilize this abundance of moves for a full-body workout, don’t fret. Here’s one of many 20–30 minute workouts kettlebell moves can create.

This one is tailored to work out each body part, rather than being made of moves that target the entire body. It’s primarily for strength training, with a steadily growing intensity. Ideally, you’ll perform it once or twice per week.

  • 10 reps of kettlebell goblet squats.
  • 8 reps each side of kettlebell single-arm rows.
  • 5 reps each side of kettlebell one-arm presses.
  • 15 reps of kettlebell chest-loaded swings.
  • 8 reps in each direction of kettlebell shoulder halos.
  • 8 reps, again in each direction, of kettlebell hip halos.
  • 5 reps in each direction of kettlebell around the leg pass.
  • 15 reps of kettlebell chest-loaded swings.
  • 8 reps, each side, of kettlebell single-arm squat-to-presses.
  • 15 reps of kettlebell chest-loaded swings.

High-Intensity Interval Training Kettlebell Workout

If you’re really a glutton for punishment, why not try a HIIT workout involving kettlebells? It’ll be brutal, but the strength, stamina, and muscle you’ll gain will well be well worth it.

Do 10 reps of each, as quickly as you can:

  • Kettlebell halo—hip or shoulder, your choice.
  • Mountain climbers.
  • Kettlebell snatch, right side.
  • Squat jacks.
  • Kettlebell snatch, left side.
  • Burpees.
  • Kettlebell swing.
  • Push-ups.
  • Kettlebell goblet squats.
  • High-knees.
  • Kettlebell crush curls.
  • Jumping lunges.

Summary

There is an infinite number of kettlebell moves you can make, from the common to the uncommon, to ones you make up.

Kettlebells can be incorporated into almost any move, so long as you have at least one hand free to hold or pump one. But, they’re also excellent on their own and will leave you with a vicious burn you’ll love to hate.

Hopefully, one of these moves will help with your strength training, weight loss, or general fitness journey. Remember, even the moves made to target specific body parts often ricochet throughout your body for added productivity.

Meta: Kettlebells work wonders for strength training, weight loss, and general fitness. We examine their benefits and let you know the best kettlebell exercises.

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Johnny Gallagher

Johnny Gallagher is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

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