When you're hoping to accomplish the best kettlebell workouts for full-body strength, try these moves.
Great Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebells are a common sight in most gyms, making them an excellent choice for a quick and efficient workout using just one piece of equipment. However, there is much more to kettlebell exercises than just the popular kettlebell swings. With a variety of exercises available, you can continuously diversify your workouts and keep things interesting. If you're looking for inspiration, Shape magazine has compiled a list of trainers' favorite kettlebell exercises. These exercises can be combined to create effective kettlebell workouts that challenge your body and help you achieve your fitness goals.
Looking for an incredible kettlebell workout? Give this full-body exercise a try. Known as the shot put, it offers a multitude of benefits by engaging your lower body with functional movements, activating your core through rotation, and developing shoulder strength through a powerful press. Certified master trainer and creator of Raise Some Bell: The Ultimate Kettlebell Workout, Amy Dixon, highly recommends this move for its effectiveness.
To perform the shot put, start in a sumo squat stance with your feet positioned wider than hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a kettlebell in front of your right shoulder, bending your right elbow in towards your side. Simultaneously, extend your left arm out to the side, aligned with your shoulder.
Straighten your legs while pivoting your right foot and lifting your right heel off the ground. As you do this, rotate your hips and core to the left. At the same time, press the kettlebell straight up, aligning it with your shoulder, while swinging your left arm down by your side. Once completed, return to the starting position. Aim to complete 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions per side.
The snatch is considered one of the best kettlebell workouts, according to Michele Olson, Ph.D., a respected professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University. She regards it as her favorite kettlebell exercise due to its ability to engage multiple muscle groups and deliver a functional, full-body movement. In addition, the snatch provides an effective cardiovascular workout.
To perform the snatch:
- Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your right hand with your palm facing your body. Extend your left arm to the side of your shoulder.
- Swing the kettlebell through your legs, hinging at your hips and pushing your glutes back. Keep your spine straight and engage your abs.
- Punch through your hips and push your feet into the floor, swinging the kettlebell up. Keep your shoulder close to your body and use your arm to control the motion rather than relying solely on power.
- Punch your palm upward to rotate the kettlebell to the backside of your wrist, which helps prevent it from flipping and hitting the backside of your wrist.
- Rotate the kettlebell back to the front of your wrist (under your palm) and lower it in a controlled motion back to the starting position. Immediately begin the next repetition.
Complete 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per side.
"The bent press, a popular exercise introduced by Arthur Saxon in the late 19th century, has experienced a resurgence among kettlebell and strength-training enthusiasts. This movement is highly efficient as it targets multiple muscle groups including the hips, core, back, shoulders, and arms," explains Pete McCall, a strength coach and science officer at the Institute of Motion in San Diego.
To perform the bent press:
- Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand.
- Bend your right elbow, resting the kettlebell on the backside of your wrist with your palm facing inward, in front of your right shoulder.
- Maintain a naturally straight spine and engage your abs. Push your hips to the right, lowering your torso to the left. Simultaneously, extend your right arm towards the ceiling and slide your left arm along the inside of your left leg. To maintain control of the load, you can rotate your head to look up at the kettlebell while in motion.
- Use your abs to slowly return to an upright position while keeping your right arm extended. Then, bend your right elbow back to the starting position just before beginning the next repetition.
Complete 3 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions per side to effectively execute the bent press.
This variation of the shoulder press is a personal favorite, according to Nick Tumminello, the owner of Performance University and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss. It provides a unique way to target the shoulders while also engaging the core muscles to maintain balance with the offset load. To perform this exercise:
- Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Hold the bell portion of a kettlebell with both hands and position it in front of your right shoulder by bending your elbows.
- Press the kettlebell overhead, and then lower it to the front of your left shoulder.
- Repeat the movement, alternating shoulders with each repetition.
Aim to complete 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 20 reps for an effective workout.
Kettlebell Side Plank
"Having a strong core is crucial for both athletic performance and achieving a toned physique," emphasizes Patricia Friberg, a certified fitness instructor. The kettlebell side plank exercise not only targets your abs but also engages your shoulders, legs, and back muscles.
To perform this exercise:
- Lie on your left side with your left elbow bent under your shoulder. Your legs should be extended in line with your hips, and your feet stacked on top of each other. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand, resting it on the back of your forearm, while extending your right arm overhead in line with your shoulder.
- Engage your core by tightening your abdominal muscles, and press down through your left arm to lift your hips off the floor, fully extending into a side plank position. Focus on lengthening your body upwards through your right arm while keeping your left arm stable. Make sure to press your shoulders down away from your ears.
- To complete one repetition, lower your hips back down to the starting position.
Perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per side to effectively engage your muscles and see results.
Back Lunge Gunslinger
The gunslinger exercise derives its name from the unique motion of extending the weight forward, resembling a cowboy raising a gun in a classic Western film. This movement specifically targets the biceps, delivering increased force and engagement. Combining two single-joint exercises into a multi-joint, multi-muscle movement, the gunslinger requires not only strength but also coordination, timing, and directional change, making it a dynamic exercise with numerous benefits. Renowned kettlebell master instructor Paul Katami, star of the Kettlebell Drills DVD, explains the advantages of this exercise.
To perform the gunslinger exercise:
- Begin by standing with feet together, holding a kettlebell in the right hand by your side.
- Take a step back with your right leg into a lunge position while simultaneously curling the right arm in a "gunslinger" motion, raising the kettlebell to chest height.
- Return to the starting position.
Complete three sets of 10 to 12 reps per side for optimal results.
Single-Arm Swing With Clean and Press
<p>For an effective kettlebell workout, consider incorporating the single-arm swing with clean and press into your routine. This exercise not only helps you burn calories but also engages multiple muscle groups. To ensure safety and maximize results, it's important to maintain proper technique throughout the movement.</p>
<li>Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand, with your palm facing your body. Extend your left arm out in front of your shoulder.</li>
<li>Begin the movement by swinging the kettlebell through your legs. Hinge at your hips and push your glutes back, keeping your spine naturally straight and engaging your abs.</li>
<li>Next, thrust your hips forward to generate power from your lower body. Raise the kettlebell up to shoulder height, which is known as a "clean." Bend your right elbow, keeping it close to your side, and rotate your palm inward (thumb facing your body). Simultaneously, rotate the kettlebell to the back of your forearm. Extend your right arm overhead, aligning it with your shoulder and turning your palm away from your body.</li>
<li>Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement. Switch arms on the next repetition by quickly transferring the kettlebell to your left hand when raised to shoulder height.</li>
<p>Perform 3 sets of as many reps as possible (AMRAP) for 45 seconds, alternating sides with each repetition.</p>
"I absolutely love this exercise because of its incredible utility and versatility," states Vincent Metzo, the esteemed director of education for Kettlebell Concepts. "Our bodies are perfectly designed to perform these multi-joint, full-body movements that closely resemble the coordinated actions we engage in during our daily lives." The brilliance of this particular exercise lies in its adaptability, allowing for multiple variations in weight, repetitions, and sets to cater to different fitness objectives. For instance, if you aim to enhance your aerobic endurance, Metzo suggests opting for a lighter kettlebell that weighs less than 13 percent of your body weight. Here's how to execute it:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, gripping the kettlebell handle firmly with both hands in between your legs (referred to as the "high hanging position").
- Swiftly perform a half-squat, then straighten your legs while lifting your heels off the floor. Simultaneously, shrug your shoulders to initiate the upward pull of the kettlebell until it reaches mid-torso height. Ensure that your elbows are positioned higher than your wrists throughout the movement. Remember, the arms should guide the kettlebell close to your body rather than exerting force to propel the pull.
- Allow the kettlebell to descend back down, absorbing the momentum by returning to the half-squat position.
To maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, strive to complete 5 to 10 sets with as many reps as possible (AMRAP) within a 30-second time frame. Take a 30-second rest between each set to rejuvenate.
"This exercise is similar to a traditional basketball drill, but incorporating a kettlebell adds an extra level of intensity," explains Kim Truman, a certified personal trainer and athletic performance coach. She loves this compound movement because it targets the entire body and helps to improve endurance. For a more challenging workout, aim to complete as many reps as possible (AMRAP) within a 90-second interval.
Here's how to do it:
- Start by standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart, and place a kettlebell on the ground between your feet. Lower into a quarter-squat position, keeping your spine straight, chest lifted, and shoulders back. Reach down and grasp the kettlebell handle with your right hand.
- Gently swing the kettlebell back between your legs and transfer it to your left hand. Weave it around the outside of your left leg and then bring it back between your legs to switch it back to your right hand.
- Weave the kettlebell around the outside of your right leg to complete a figure-8 pattern. Maintain a consistent flow of motion throughout the exercise.
Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps initially, gradually increasing your endurance to reach 90 seconds of continuous reps.