There’s no one type of weight that’s better than all the others, but it is fair to say that the kettlebell is the most under-appreciated member of the free-weight family. You can use kettlebells for just about anything, from high-rep HIIT workouts to low-rep heavyweight slogs, and they’re especially good for compound moves like swings and squats.
Next time you go the gym, grab a kettlebell and try some of these beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises, selected and explained by Mitch Lawrence, PT and Multipower ambassador.
Beginner Kettlebell Exercises
Muscles targeted: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, abs, quads
Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands with your palms facing towards you and arms in front of your body. Lower your body by slightly bending your knees and driving your hips back. Explosively drive your hips forwards and swing the kettlebell with straight arms towards shoulder height, keeping your glutes and core engaged. Control the swing back down.
Single-arm kettlebell row
Muscles targeted: Back, biceps, shoulders
Place the kettlebell in front of your feet. Take a big step back with your left leg and grasp the kettlebell in your left hand, resting your right arm on your right knee. Pull the kettlebell into your hip and then lower it until just before it touches the floor with your arm fully extended. Keep your back in a fixed position throughout.
Kettlebell triceps extension
Muscles targeted: Triceps, core
Grasp the kettlebell with both hands. Take a step forwards with your right leg so your feet are staggered. Raise the kettlebell directly overhead with both arms extended. Keep your elbows close to your ears as you lower the kettlebell behind your head until your hands are in line with your elbows, then return the kettlebell back overhead by extending your arms.
Intermediate Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell goblet squat
Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, glutes and core
Hold the kettlebell upside down in both hands. The movement of the goblet squat is the same as a regular squat – lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive back up through your heels. The goblet squat helps improve your squatting movement pattern because of the position the kettlebell is held in throughout the movement.
Kettlebell Russian twist
Muscles targeted: Abs, obliques
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart with legs bent, and lean back so your torso is at a 45° angle to the floor. Hold the kettlebell against your chest using both hands. Twist at the waist to rotate your torso from left to right, moving the kettlebell from side to side, but not letting it touch the floor.
Single-arm kettlebell floor press
Muscles targeted: Chest, triceps, core
Lie on your back on the ground with your legs straight. Take hold of the kettlebell with your palm facing inwards, holding the weight by the side of your chest. Press the weight straight up to the ceiling, rotating your wrist so that your palm finishes facing your feet.
Advanced Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell press-up with row
Muscles targeted: Chest, triceps, back, biceps
Start in a press-up position, hands shoulder-width apart and grasping the kettlebell handles, with your feet together. Perform a press-up and then, at the top of the press-up, perform a row by raising your right elbow and squeezing your shoulder blades together so that your elbow comes up past your body. Lower and row with your left hand, then continue into the next rep by performing another press-up.
Kettlebell clean and press
Muscles targeted: Shoulders, triceps, core, hamstrings, glutes, quads
Grasp a kettlebell resting on the floor and clean it to your shoulder by explosively extending your legs and hips as you pull the kettlebell up to your shoulder, swinging the kettlebell over your wrist so that your palm is facing forwards. Keep your torso tight and dip your body by slightly bending your knees, then drive through your heels and explosively extend your knees and hips so that you create momentum. As you do this, press the kettlebell over your head until your arm is fully extended.
Single-arm overhead kettlebell squat
Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, glutes
Clean and press the kettlebell with one arm so that you are standing upright with your arm locked out above your head. Looking straight ahead and keeping your arm locked out, bend your knees and push your hips backwards to lower your torso, keeping your chin and chest up. Once your thighs are parallel to the ground drive through your heels and extend your legs and hips so that you return to the start position.