If you have room for only one piece of strength equipment in your home gym, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better alternative than the oddly-shaped powerhouses known as kettlebells. Working out with kettlebells can get you stronger, more powerful, and transform you into an overall more competent athlete.
Your gym goals will help you determine which kettlebell workout is best for you — but the most significant benefit of kettlebell training is that there’s not just one thing to gain. If you’re performing a power-oriented kettlebell circuit, you will also reap cardio benefits. If you’re primarily trying to build muscle with kettlebells, you will also get stronger. And if you’re a complete kettlebell novice, well, more gains to you; you’ll likely feel the results of these workouts even faster than old pros.
This article will take you through the five best kettlebell workouts based on your training aspirations. You’ll also learn why you should work out with kettlebells and how to warm up properly before swinging the darn things around.
Best Kettlebell Workouts
- Kettlebell Workout for Strength
- Kettlebell Workout for Hypertrophy
- Kettlebell Workout for Cardio
- Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
- Kettlebell Workout for Power
When you think about building maximum strength, the first piece of equipment you think of is likely a barbell. That makes a lot of sense — barbells allow you to load the most weight and therefore help you overload your body in a very particular way. But even though you won’t be hefting the same poundage, working out with kettlebells will still get you plenty strong.
Your time under tension and manipulation of angles and momentum increase while kettlebell training. Additionally, many heavy kettlebell loads will be front-racked, which means your core — and technique — will get hammered with extra tension and challenges throughout your workout. These factors all combine to mean that kettlebells can help you lift heavier barbells.
If you’re only training with kettlebells for a microcycle, you can perform this workout three to four times per week. If you’re working out with higher frequency, feel free to adjust the intensity and volume as needed to compensate. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough to maintain strength training at this level.
When most of your program consists of barbell lifts, only slip in this workout once — maximum twice — per week, depending on the quality of your recovery. Regardless of frequency, make sure you’re resting at least two to three minutes between sets, especially if you have access to heavy kettlebells. If you don’t have access to heavy bells, add three to four-second pauses to the bottom of your squats and presses to increase the challenge.
- Double Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 4 x 5-8
- Alternating Kettlebell Floor Press: 4 x 6-8
- Front-Rack 1 ½ Rep Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 x 6-8 per side
- Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift: 3 x 8-10 per side
- One-Arm Kettlebell Row: 4 x 8-10 per side
Are you looking to build muscle? Search no further than your oddly-shaped iron friend. By using kettlebells strategically to place your muscles under an appropriate amount of strain, you can stimulate growth. Kettlebell circuits can help promote hypertrophy by adding an extra level of intensity to your regularly-scheduled sets.
If kettlebells are the only tool in your fitness box right now, you can perform this workout three or four times a week (providing you’re eating and sleeping enough). Try to rest as little as possible between sets. If you can, time yourself when you do need to rest and write it down to track your progress from workout to workout and week to week. Perform one set of each exercise: that is your first circuit. Perform three to four circuits. Rest between three and four minutes between circuits.
- Single Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 3-4 x 12
- Double Kettlebell Push Press: 3-4 x 10
- Front Rack Walking Lunge: 3-4 x 10 per side
- Alternating Kettlebell Clean: 3-4 x 6 per side
- Kettlebell Dead Bug Pullover: 3-4 x 15 per side
Endless hours on the treadmill for cardio? If you enjoy all that jogging as part of your strength program — or your mental health game — then have at it. But if you’re looking for a more low-impact, high-intensity way to get in your cardio, kettlebells have got you covered. Your feet and knees will be steady on the ground during kettlebell moves that jack up your heart rate, like swings, snatches, and cleans. In that way, kettlebell cardio is a lot less stressful on your joints than, say, running. You won’t need nearly as much time to commit to your cardiovascular health, and you’ll get a lot stronger all the while.
Folks who want to lift heavy weights might want to ease into this workout slowly. Even if you’re pretty strong, it’s important to pace yourself when trying to establish a base of cardiovascular fitness. Get after this workout between one and four times a week, depending on your experience with getting your heart rate up over a sustained period.
Use lighter weights, but treat your recovery as seriously as you do when you’re lifting heavy. Rest as needed between sets, but try to minimize it as much as you can. Rest — and breath deeply — for three to four minutes between circuits.
- Kettlebell Swing: 4 x 45 seconds AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible)
- Unilateral Overhead Kettlebell Carry: 4 x 45 seconds per side
- Single-Arm Kettlebell High Pull or Snatch: 4 x 4 reps per side
- Kettlebell Flow — Single-Arm Clean to Reverse Lunge to Overhead Press: 4 x 3 per side
It’s undeniable that kettlebell workouts look incredibly fierce. But just because you’ve heard about the infamous kettlebell forearm flop or have never executed a kettlebell snatch doesn’t mean you can’t train with kettlebells. These implements are very accessible to beginners, as long as you leave your ego at the door and remain patient with yourself.
Starting to work with kettlebells will get you stronger, help you build muscle, and improve your cardiovascular fitness. So, no matter what your goals are starting, know that learning to move with kettlebells will inch you in the right direction.
This workout comes with different movement options for a couple of exercises. That’s because you need to be able to execute a picture-perfect hip hinge — utilizing the kettlebell deadlift — before you can safely swing a kettlebell, for example. Choose with honesty about where you’re at rather than where you think you’re at. You’ll benefit regardless of which versions you’re doing.
Rest as needed to maintain excellent form throughout the workout, but keep a target rest period of 90 seconds to three minutes between sets.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 3 x 10
- Kettlebell Press: 3 x 10
- Kettlebell Deadlift or Kettlebell Swing: 3 x 12
- Kettlebell Floor Press: 3 x 10
- Kettlebell Suitcase Carry or Unilateral Kettlebell Overhead Carry: 3 x 30 seconds per side
- One-Arm Kettlebell Row: 3 x 10 per side
Kettlebells can help you learn to move a lot of weight very efficiently and very quickly — in other words, they can help you become a more powerful athlete. You’ll want to select relatively heavy weights, but the key is to remember that what constitutes “heavy” is relative. What’s light for a lower body lift may be extremely heavy for a lift with an upper-body component, like thrusters. Remember your limiting factors and maintain perfect form during your power training.
Can’t exceptionally perform kettlebell snatches yet? Kettlebell high pulls will still help you develop head-to-toe power — you’ll stop short of flipping overhead. Whichever variation you’re using, know that the seconds will go by fast. In general, you won’t be able to perform too many reps during these intervals.
And that’s a good thing because you want to focus on moving efficiently rather than through mindless reps. Rest as needed between sets, trying to aim for two to three-minute breaks.
- Single-Arm Kettlebell High Pull or Snatch: 4 x 20 seconds per side
- Alternating Kettlebell Clean: 4 x 30 seconds
- Double Kettlebell Thruster: 4 x 30 seconds
- Alternating Kettlebell Swings: 4 x 45 seconds
Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts
Because they’re such weirdly-shaped implements, kettlebells have a lot of unique advantages. So many kettlebell exercises are momentum-based, making them brilliant for low-impact cardiovascular fitness. They’re great at boosting your overall body strength, with a particular emphasis on your grip and core strength. And, they’ll help get your joints ready to conquer all kinds of lifting angles and positions by improving mobility and muscular asymmetries you might develop by working only with barbells.
If pounding the pavement isn’t your idea of a cardiovascularly good time, kettlebells can come to the rescue. You can use kettlebells for intentional cardio workouts, utilizing circuits and kettlebell flows to get your heart rate up without banging your knees around.
But even if you don’t set out to have a specific cardio session, general kettlebell workouts will often give you some cardio benefits anyway. Whether you’re swinging or clean and pressing, so many kettlebell moves require your full body. Plus, they’re often performed for time and in interval styles that lend themselves well to boosting your cardio health and overall endurance.
Total Body Strength
Even if you’re using barbells to improve your maximal strength, kettlebells can give your big lifts the boost they need to get even bigger. By lifting submaximal weights with maximum effort — and playing around with momentum, angles, and tempo — kettlebell workouts are bound to get you nice and strong. Plus, because kettlebells are designed to keep their weight off-balanced because of their shape, they’ll give an extra challenge to your stabilizer muscles and engage more muscle mass.
This is especially true about your grip strength and core strength. So many kettlebell moves need you to maintain a rigid torso throughout multiple repetitions and across various planes of motion. Plus, maneuvering kettlebells will forge you an iron grip — you’ll need it to flow from one kettlebell exercise into the next and to maintain swing after swing with excellent form.
From snatches and cleans to swings and Turkish get-ups, kettlebell exercises require developing excellent movement mechanics. Kettlebells have you cycle through various overhead positions and use momentum to hoist the bells into different configurations. Your wrists, shoulders, and hips will all benefit, becoming more mobile and better able to handle the strain of previously compromising positions.
What does this mean for your lifting? The more mobile you are, the more efficient all your lifts can become. And the more resilient against injury you’ll get. All your lifts win.
Fight Asymmetries and Imbalances
When you spend a long enough time training with barbells, you get stronger and more muscular — but chances are you might also get more imbalanced. Like dumbbells, kettlebells are unilateral by nature: you hold one in each hand, and they’re not connected. That means that your body can’t overcompensate and complete a lift unless both sides of your body can do it on their own.
In this way, kettlebells will help you combat both muscular and strength imbalances and asymmetries. You’ll become a more well-balanced lifter and a stronger overall athlete when you don’t need to compensate for a specific side’s dominance or relative weaknesses.
How to Warm Up for Kettlebell Workouts
As with any workout, you don’t want to dive right into your kettlebell training. Getting your body — and mind — prepped for the workout first will give you a much more efficient and effective session. By performing a proper dynamic warm-up, you’ll get your blood flowing, get your head in the game, activate your muscles, and help your body become more resilient against injury.
Happily, you can indeed warm-up for kettlebell training with kettlebells. Just make sure you’re using light weights to start and gradually ramp up the intensity — just like you do when training with barbells.
Kettlebell Workout Warm-Up
- Cat-Cow: 3 x 10 breaths
- Inchworm to Hip Opener: 3 x 6 per side
- Kettlebell Windmill: 3 x 10 per side
- Turkish Get-Up: 3 x 2 per side
- Band Pull-Aparts: 3 x 15-20
- Kettlebell Swings: 3 x 30 seconds
More Workout Content
Got a fitness goal? Working out with kettlebells can help get you there. Just remember to treat your kettlebell workouts with respect. Just because you’re not lifting a percentage of your barbell one-rep max every session doesn’t mean you don’t need to recover. So, recover well and swing with excellent form: you’ll be well on your way to making all the gains your program desires. That said, here are some other workouts you can add to your routine:
- The 5 Best Chest Workouts for Big Pecs and Powerful Presses
- The Best Arm Workouts for Size, Strength, Beginners, and More
- The Best Leg Workouts With Dumbbells for Strength, Fat Loss, Muscle and More
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