Kettlebells give you the opportunity to put your entire body to the test by simply changing your implement of choice. While they’re extremely well known for specialty exercises such as kettlebell swings or Olympic lifting variations, kettlebells may also be repurposed for almost any dumbbell exercise.
As they’ve gained popularity in both commercial gyms and home set-ups, these versatile, mobile tools have become an easy one stop shop for almost any lifter. While normally leveraged for full body or conditioning workouts, you can also use kettlebells in a pinch to provide a unique challenge for your arms.
Check out this kettlebell workout for arm growth — and learn why these oddly-shaped implements can skyrocket your gains.
The Best Kettlebell Arm Workout
Training your arms with kettlebells can adapt many of the mainstay dumbbell arm exercises, breathing new life into old favorites. Using a kettlebell may mean that you have to adjust your grip to safely execute each exercise.
When this happens, you’ll likely start to recruit many of the smaller and less often targeted muscles for some unique growth.
- Kettlebell Concentration Curl: 3×12
- Kettlebell Skull Crusher: 3×12
- Kettlebell Hammer Curl: 3×10
- Kettlebell Narrow-Grip Press: 3×10
- Kettlebell Incline Biceps Curl: 3×15
- Kettlebell Seated Overhead Triceps Extension: 3×12
Note: Hold the kettlebell with a neutral grip for your hammer curls, and squeeze the bell side (as opposed to the handles) for your skull crushers.
Modifications for Your Experience Level
This kettlebell arm workout is designed to challenge both your biceps and triceps through various ranges of motion and joint angles. In doing so, you’ll be stimulating them for growth and providing a unique spin through the uneven loading pattern of a kettlebell. With that in mind, there are several ways to modify this workout to accommodate your skill or experience level.
For beginners, learning each exercise and building up your grip strength to properly execute kettlebell-modified arm workouts is critical. You can scale each exercise down to two sets and the repetitions to 12 to 15 each. Use lighter weights until you build your skill and grip. As you gain more experience, you can progressively add load in the longer term.
For Intermediate Lifters
Intermediate lifters should prioritize increasing total volume now that you’ve got the skill and better grip endurance to match the demands of a kettlebell. For a complete arm day, scale each exercise to three to four sets and load them to hit failure between 10 to 12 repetitions. This way, you’ll be in the sweet spot for growth.
Not every exercise needs to be progressed at once. To maximize the amount of time you can use this single workout, make these modifications to one to two exercises at a time until they are all progressed.
For Advanced Lifters
Advanced lifters can customize the load and repetition goals for each exercise. Certain biceps or triceps movements are great for building muscle and strength within eight to 10 repetitions. Others are more suited to building muscular endurance, using 12 to 15 (or more) repetitions. Here is one way you can customize your kettlebell arm workout once you’ve reached an advanced skill and strength level.
- Kettlebell Concentration Curl: 3×10
- Kettlebell Skull Crusher: 3×8
- Kettlebell Hammer Curl: 3×8
- Narrow-Grip Kettlebell Press: 3×8
- Incline Kettlebell Biceps Curl: 3×20
- Seated Overhead Kettlebell Triceps Extension: 3×20
Anatomy of the Arms
You can use kettlebells to grow all aspects of your arm. In particular, kettlebells can help target portions of your biceps and forearms that might not get as much love from more conventional methods.
The biceps brachii is the main muscle group on the front of your upper arm. It is responsible for flexing your elbow, supinating your palm (turning your palm up), and somewhat extending your shoulder. When you’re performing your curls, the biceps brachii is the main muscle group at play here.
The brachialis is a muscle group that is located deeper (layered underneath) the biceps brachii on the front of your upper arm. It is also key for flexing your elbow, as it originates and inserts on the upper arm and forearm respectively. Since it doesn’t cross the shoulder joint like the biceps brachii, keeping your palm up while you curl will help emphasize the brachialis.
The brachioradialis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of your forearm. It attaches to the lower aspect of your upper arm and has a tendon that spans all the way down into your wrist. The hammer curl motion draws heavily upon your brachioradialis.
The triceps brachii is the three-headed muscle group making up the backside of your upper arm. It is responsible for extending your elbow, and each individual muscle head has a subtly different origin and insertion. To best train the triceps brachii, add various presses and extensions to cover the ranges of motion that each muscle head can work in.
Benefits of Kettlebell Arm Training
Some of the biggest benefits of kettlebell training are that they offer a diverse range of exercise options and training styles to accommodate nearly any lifter. They are also extremely effective for training the grip, core, and coordination.
Diverse Exercise Selection
Kettlebells are fantastic at adapting nearly every type of exercise. In some cases, their grip orientation can make kettlebells even more effective at building grip strength than dumbbells or barbells.
These implements can accommodate workouts calling for presses, rows, deadlifts, squats, curls, or even Olympic lifting. So wherever you find your training program, kettlebells have something to offer you.
Variety of Training Goals
With a diverse offering of exercises comes a diverse offering of goals. Kettlebells can be leveraged to build muscle, reinforce bracing and build strength, refine technique in fundamental movement patterns, or serve as a centerpiece for explosive, dynamic exercise.
Kettlebell training requires a high degree of full-body coordination and strength. So you’ll more than likely be training many goals at once.
Everything Becomes Core and Grip Training
One of the biggest benefits of kettlebells is derived from their unique shape and distribution of load. A handle attached to what can basically be considered a cast-iron cannonball requires a higher degree of core engagement, grip strength, and overall coordination to control than a more evenly-designed training implement.
When you’re using a kettlebell, this challenge serves to keep more muscle mass engaged for longer periods of time throughout your workout by simply trying to control the training tool while completing your exercises. You won’t squeeze anything as hard as you’ll squeeze a kettlebell hammer curl.
Drawbacks of Kettlebell Arm Training
Kettlebells are a double-edged sword with respect to their unique shape and loading. You can definitely use them to improve strength and muscle mass, but they aren’t the usual go-to tool for training maximal strength or hypertrophy.
Everything Becomes Core and Grip Training
Training your grip and core is hugely important for nearly everyone and every goal. But past a certain point, these can become limiting factors in your lifting that make it less possible to focus on extremely heavy moves. Your grip strength or ability to resist rotation through your core may start to limit other goals like building maximal muscle or strength.
Absolute strength training can be compromised in two major ways with kettlebells. The kettlebell’s unique shape, load distribution, and unilateral execution are all valuable for getting you stronger.
But absolute strength training is also highly specific. To lift as much weight as possible, you’ll generally want to turn to barbells or dumbbells for more uniform loading with a higher weight ceiling.
You certainly can build muscle with kettlebells. However, diminishing returns do apply after a while. Once the need for stability and coordination begin to override your ability to take a specific muscle group to failure, you may risk undercutting maximal muscle gain.
Although dumbbells, barbells, and machines may offer more stability, training muscle groups like the arms with kettlebells can awaken muscle groups that don’t get a ton of direct stimulation. Squeeze tight, control the awkward loading, and make some unique gains with this kettlebell arm workout.
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