kettlebell exercises

The Best Kettlebell Exercises for Building Muscle

Kettlebell exercise goes a long way to improve your home gym and make your workouts better. Some even think that kettlebells make your workouts more natural, but that's not necessarily true. Kettlebells, as an all-in-one fitness tool, offers the highest variety of exercises. They’re also suitable for any athlete, no matter what skill level they’ve achieved.

Steve Cotter, the director, and president of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation says that due to their unique design, kettlebells can be used similarly as dumbbells for presses and deadlifts. You can do high-repetition exercises like snatches with the space between the weight and the handle. This exercise can help you burn calories quickly by raising your heart rate. The offset center of mass allows leverage with most lifts, making moves more grip-intensive, such as the press and the kettlebell clean.

Each kettlebell exercise will help you make fitness progress whether you're a beginner or an advanced lifter. Cycle through any of the exercises for a complete workout that will get your muscles burning. You can always change up your routine to keep your muscles guessing. So, time to start pushing, pulling, and swinging. I recommend an excellent 16kg kettlebell for men starting out.

Just look below to find the right kettlebell workout for you! Each has its own qualities and works a different set of muscles.

1. Kettlebell Swing

How to do it:

1. With your feet wider than shoulder width, stand with your knees slightly bent.

2. Grab a kettlebell between your legs, with a two-handed, overhand grip.

3. While looking straight ahead, and keeping an arch in your lower back, bend your hips back with the kettlebell between your legs.

4. Tighten your glutes to extend your hips and swing the weight.

5. Do the work with your body, not just with your arms. After, allow the weight to swing back down between your legs, while you slightly bend your knees and hips.

6. Reverse the momentum by extending your hips and knees to reverse the swing and begin the next rep.

Do these kettlebells swings for 30 seconds, then rest. Do these sets 3 times. As you continue to get better at the motion, you can increase your workout to 10 sets, and then increase the weight. 

  • Muscles worked:  lats, abs, shoulders, pecs, hips, glutes, hamstrings,
  • Difficulty level: Beginner-intermediate
  • Focus: power, strength

2. Kettlebell Clean and Press

How to do it:

1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width.

2. Hold your kettlebells with a loose grip; thump pointing back through your legs.

3. First, inhale, then clean the kettlebell by pulling the bell up, and swiveling the handle around your fingers in a locked position.

4. Be careful not let the kettlebell flip against your forearm or curl it, or you might smash your arm.

Don't take the kettlebell through an arc, make it through a vertical path, pulling it up to shoulder-height. Your shoulder should be pressed at the top of the movement, kettlebell resting between your biceps and forearm, triceps against the ribcage. Swivel or roll the kettlebell back to the starting position. Always engage your glutes and abs during the exercise.

10 reps with 3 sets per hand. Make sure to rest at least a minutes between sets.

  • Muscles worked: core, trapezius, shoulders, legs, 
  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Focus: full-body conditioning, coordination
kettlebell snatch

3. Kettlebell Snatch

How to do it:

1. Put the kettlebell between your feet and with one hand, grab the handle, bend your knees, and push your butt backward.

2. Assume the starting position, swing the kettlebell back with one hand between your legs while looking straight ahead. After, reverse direction.

3. Drive the bell with one hand through your hips and lift it in a quick movement. As the raises accelerate, rotate your palms, so they face forward and punch straight up.

4. Lock the weight in the air for a moment before lowering the kettlebell down to starting position between your legs.

Continue with 30-seconds worth of snatches. Rest for half a minute. Do a total of 3 sets, gradually working up to 10 sets as you progress. To get a harder workout, increase the weight.

When doing a double kettlebell snatch, you’ll want to place two kettlebells behind your feet. Bend your knees and pick them up, one in each hand. Swing the bells between your legs with force before reversing direction. Drive through your hips to lock them over your head in a swift motion.

kettlebell press

4. Kettlebell Press

How to do it:

1. Clean the kettlebell up over your shoulder.

2. Extend through your legs and hips, swiveling your hands with your palms facing inward.

3. Keeping your eye on the kettlebell, push it up until it’s locked overhead.

4. Then lower the kettlebell to your shoulder, controlling the movement. For added stability, make sure your abs, glutes, and lats are engaged.

You should do 5 sets of 5 reps per each single arm. Rest for a minute between sets.

5. Kettlebell Push Press

1. Lift the kettlebell to your shoulder.

2. Always extend through your legs and hips, rotating your hand, so your palms face forward. Instead of pressing the kettlebell, drive the weight through your heels (basically jumping) reversing the motion and bringing the kettlebell overhead.

3. Extend your arm to lock the kettlebell in place, then using your body's momentum, lower the weight down to your shoulder.

kettlebells

6. Overhead Squat

How to do it

1. Do a clean and press a kettlebell using a single arm.

2. Keep your wrist facing forward, locking the kettlebell overhead.

3. Looking straight ahead, bend your knees and sink into a squat, extending your free arm to keep balanced. You can hold the kettlebell handle with both hands above your head.

4. Be sure to keep your head and chest up as you sink, pausing at the lowest level of your movement before standing back in your starting position.

Do 3 sets of 5 for each arm. Rest between each set for 1 minute.

kettlebell

7. Kettlebell Jerk

How to do it:

1. Lift the kettlebell, clean it to your shoulder.

2. Always lift through your hips and legs when you pull the kettlebell higher. Also, rotate your palms, so they're facing forward.

3. From this position, bend your knees, then drive through your feels to reverse the motion and push the kettlebell overhead.

4. Using your body's momentum, extend your arm, locking out the kettlebell. Lifting the weight over your head, squat down.

5. After, return to the starting position, lowering the weight for the next rep.

Do 5 sets, 10 reps per hand. Using double kettlebells, you can complete 5 sets, 10 reps each. Rest between sets for 1 minute.

8. Kettlebell Front Squat

How to do it:

1. Lift two kettlebells to your shoulders.

2. Drive through your hips rotating your wrists, so your palms face in.

3. Look straight ahead and squat as low as you can while you push out your knees.

4. Pause at the lowest point of the movement.

5. Keep your chest and torso straight.

6. Rise back up, pushing with your heels.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps with 1 minute of rest between sets. This is a great kettlebell mass building workout. 

  • Muscles worked: glutes, core, quadriceps 
  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Focus: muscle gain, fat burn

9. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

How to do it:

1. Hold the kettlebells by both sides of the handle, or otherwise known as the horns. Keep your feet hip width apart.

2. Keep the kettlebell close to your chest, elbows pointing down, then lower your body to squat.

3. Stick your knees out, allowing your elbows to brush the inside of your knees. Stand back up.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps of the kettlebell goblet squat. Between each set, rest for 1 minute.

  • Muscles worked: gluteals, scapular stabilizers, quadriceps, hamstrings, 
  • Difficulty level: beginner
  • Focus: power, endurance, strength 

10. Kettlebell Windmill

How to do it:

1. Lift the kettlebell to your chest with the bottom of the kettlebell resting on the outside of your forearm.

2. Push the kettlebell overhead.

3. Lock your arm, so all the major muscles in your back are supporting the weight.

4. When the kettlebell is in your right hand, keep your feet directed away from the weight on your left and keep your right leg straight.

5. Trail your empty hand down the inside of your left leg.

6. Take a breath, folding your body laterally.

7. Try to touch the fingers of your left hand to the ground.

8. Exhale, and stand straight up.

9. After you get comfortable with the range of motion, you can work on touching the floor with your palm.

Complete 5 reps in 3 sets with 1 minute between sets.

  • Muscles worked: shoulders, hamstring, abdominals 
  • Difficulty level: intermediate-advanced
  • Focus: strength

11. Turkish Getup

How to do it:

1. While lying on your back, take the kettlebell with your left hand, lift it and lock your arm in place.

2. Keep your right leg straight on the ground as you bend your left knee.

3. Push off your left foot, roll onto your hip, until you come up on your right elbow.

4. Push onto your right hand, lifting your back off the ground. 

5. Thread your right leg back into a kneeling position. Your arm should still be in place.

6. Take a deep breath and from the kneeling position, tighten your stomach, and lunge into a standing position.

7. Reverse the movement to come back down.

Do 1 minute of Turkish Getups for each arm.

  • Muscles worked: lower back, pecs, triceps, obliques, glutes
  • Difficulty level: advanced
  • Focus: balance, strength

12. Renegade Rows

How to do it:

1. Starting in a pushup position, with a kettlebell in each hand, hold the handles to support your weight.

2. Keep your feet a little wider than normal for balance.

3. Holding one kettlebell, lift the other up toward your chest.

4. Flex your shoulder, with your elbow tightening.

5. After the kettlebell comes to your top position, lower it back to your side, bringing up the opposite kettlebell.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps with 1 minute of rest between sets.

  • Muscles worked: shoulders, biceps, back, abs
  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Focus: strength

13. Kettlebell Pushups

How to do it:

1. Place two kettlebells on the floor.

2. You can reduce the possibility of sliding by placing a towel under them or a mat.

3. Keeping the bells a shoulder-width apart, the same distance you'd use for a regular pushup.

Do as many reps as you can in 1 minute.

14. Single-Leg Kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts

How to do it:

1. Hold a kettlebell by the handle while standing on one leg, the same side as the hand holding the kettlebell.

2. Bend your free leg slightly to perform a deadlift.

3. Bending at the hip, extending the elevated leg behind you.

4. Slow the motion and keep controlled for balance.

5. Lower the kettlebell until your chest is parallel to the ground before returning to the upright position.

Do 3 sets of 5 reps with 1 minute of rest between sets.

  • Muscles worked: hamstrings, core, obliques, gluteus, trapezius, forearm
  • Difficulty level: beginner
  • Focus: coordination, muscle strength, balance,  and development
kettlebell pushes

15. Jump Squats

How to do it:

1. Holding a kettlebell handle with both hands, drop down into a squat, then jump up using your toes.

2. Land lightly back into a squat. 

3. Avoid putting too much weight directly on your knees.

Do as many reps as possible in 1 minute.

Why use Kettlebells?

Most people start using kettlebells when they lack the equipment to engage in other kinds of weight training exercises. Similar to the items like the versa climber and the humble rowing machine, not everyone appreciates kettlebells. Because of the growing popularity of sports such as Strongman and CrossFit, kettlebell training and workouts have gradually made their way into mainstream consciousness.

It hasn’t always been this way. Back in the 19th-century, circus strongmen would use the weights meant for weighing crops to train. It would alter their physique, building muscle while training recreationally or for competition. Kettlebell training started to rise in popularity.

Because of their design, kettlebells are some of the easiest weights to move during a workout. They can be stored easily, kept in your garden, shed, or garage. They are adaptable to your strength and fitness levels. Different fitness brands, such as Rogue or Bulldog vary in weight and sizes, going from 4kg to as much as 68kg.

The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts

Jon Lewis, a personal trainer from fitness outlet Industrial Strength says, “Kettlebells provide an opportunity for you to move with additional resistance from a variety of angles and challenging positions.” 

Exercises such as kettlebell swings can also help increase your heart rate, tone muscle, and burn extra fat. But one of the most notable benefits of kettlebells is building strength throughout your posterior chain. 

On top of that, kettlebells are incredibly useful for building a base of strength and mobility. If you’re struggling to do a good barbell back squad, using a kettlebell to do goblet squats are an excellent way to practice proper form with a reduced chance for injury. You can add weight to your exercises as your strength increases. 

Perfect for swings, presses, and carries, kettlebells lend themselves to dynamic movements in places where a barbell or dumbbell would be impractical.

Weightloss and Kettlebell Workouts 

Kettlebell workouts are usually built at a high-rep range, working several different muscles at once. If kept at a consistent pace, it can offer benefits similar to that you get from HIIT training. In a 2010 study, participants did a kettlebell snatch workout for 20-minutes. They were found to have burned 13.6 calories a minute during the workout, the equivalent of running at a “6-minute mile pace.” 

 

According to the NSCA’s TSAC Report, by performing three kettlebell circuits a week, you’ll increase your VO2 by as much as 6% in just under a month. You can improve your cardio, stability, power, strength, endurance, and balance.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that kettlebell training can contribute to an improved lower back, because of the included movements.

Injury Risks

Experts say that the most common injury that occurs when using a kettlebell is in the lower back. Because of the dynamic nature of the kettlebell swing, you can hurt yourself at the hip joint when moving back and forth quickly. 

The tension put on the hip during extensions puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. When it comes to getting injuries from poor form, make sure not to arch the back without engaging the glutes during an overhead press. It can put you at risk of injuring your lower back.

Questions for Best Kettlebell Mass-Building Workout:

Can you build muscle with kettlebells?

Using kettlebells to add pounds to your deadlifts or squats will definitely help you build muscle.

Can you lose weight with kettlebells?

Just like anything else, losing weight also depends on making the necessary dietary changes. If you were to train for three hours, cutting 250 calories from your daily intake, you could potentially lose 1 pound per week.

Now that you've seen the best kettlebell exercise, check out the Best Kettlebells Reviews:

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