10 Best Kettlebell Exercises

Photo of a man doing kettlebell exercise.

Kettlebells provide some of the most versatility of any workout equipment. If you need to help improve strength, improve mobility, build up your conditioning, or change up your regular routine, they provide just about everything you need.

In this guide, I’ll show you how kettlebell training can reach all of those goals I listed, whether you’re a weightlifter, powerlifter, CrossFit athlete, endurance athlete, or someone that is all of those - or isn’t. 

If you’re ready to incorporate the kettlebell into your routine, but unsure of which kettlebell exercises to focus on, I’ve chosen 10 of what I consider to be the best, most functional, workouts that will maximize you and your kettlebells!

Turkish Get-Up

Although it’s not the easiest kettlebell exercise for beginners, it’s one that will likely cement itself as a go-to in your kettlebell routine. 

The Turkish Get-Up, or TGU for short, is a multi-stage exercise that is excellent for improving core strength, challenging your body coordination, and taxing for overhead strength and stability. 

Starting from a lying down position, you’ll transition to a one-sided hip raise, a windmill, and then a lunge,  all while keeping stability in weighted overhead strength from your shoulder - then back down again. It’s best to work on each stage or phase of this workout before attempting it with weights.

Photo of a woman holding kettlebell.

Turkish Get-Up Benefits

  • Overall Body Coordination
  • Core Strength and Stability
  • Overhead Strength and Stability
  • Focus On Multiple Steps; Translates to Complex Lifts and Movements

How to Perform a Turkish Get-Up

  1. 1
    Lie on your right side and hug the kettlebell to your chest, with the pad between your thumb and index finger hugging the side of the handle (instead of in the middle).
  2. 2
    Roll onto your back, bending your right knee with your right foot flat on the ground. Extend your left leg and arm out to your sides, about 45 degrees.
  3. 3
    Press the bell up overhead and pack your shoulder. Press your left palm into the ground. Keep your left foot down, get up onto your left elbow, and maintain eye contact with the bell.
  4. 4
    Press up from your elbow onto your left hand.
  5. 5
    Ground your right foot down and press up into a hip raise. Weave your left leg under your torso to bring yourself into a lunge position. 
  6. 6
    Windmill the bell up to straighten your body.
  7. 7
    Lunge to stand up, maintaining eye contact with the bell so that you’re in a standing position with the bell pressed over your head.
  8. 8
    Reverse each movement until you’re back in starting position.

Kettlebell Swing

Photo of a man doing kettlebell swing

An easier workout, the Kettlebell Swing is one of the classic and must-perform kettlebell exercises to help you get stronger and handle the kettlebell better.

In fact, this is one of the first workouts you should learn how to do with a kettlebell because it’s easy to learn and fun! Not only that, but your going to help build strong glutes, strong hamstrings, and grip strength.

Kettlebell Swing Benefits

  • Helps encourage safer and more technique-focused hip hinge, which improves lower body movements (deadlifts, squats) without ignoring lower back development
  • Builds core, lower body, and grip strength
  • Low impact cardiovascular workout

How to Perform a Kettlebell Swing

  1. 1
    Start with your kettlebell slightly in front of you, feet set at shoulder-width apart.
  2. 2
    Hinge hips, bend knees slightly until able to grip the kettlebell handle.
  3. 3
    Drag the kettlebell through your legs behind you, pull through your hips (keeping back from hyperextending) and raise the kettlebell to chest height. Avoid using too much of your arms, keep elbows and grip relaxed, yet firm.
  4. 4
    Let forward momentum drive through your hips. As the kettlebell comes back down, keep the bottom above your knees, instead of letting it drop closer to the ground.
  5. 5
    Once the kettlebell has moved through your legs and behind, repeat the same hip movement.

Kettlebell Thrusters

You’ll feel like you’re launching yourself like a shuttle when you start incorporating the kettlebell thruster into your kettlebell routine.

This is a an effective, easy to learn, and fun workout that is going to help build excellent quad mass, but also help improve your lower back, core, shoulders and wrist mobility. 

You can even do these in a two-handed or one-handed version.

Photo of a man doing Kettlebell thrusters

One of the bets parts about kettlebell thrusters, and most kettlebell workouts, is that they incorporate a lot of full-body, multi-phase movements which makes this one of my favorites, and soon to be yours as well! 

Kettlebell Thrusters Benefits

  • Helps teach fundamental movements for more complex lifts
  • Builds stronger core, legs, lower back, and shoulders
  • Improves wrist mobility
  • Easy to learn

How to Perform a Kettlebell Thruster

  1. 1
    Hold one or two kettlebells by the handle(s) so it’s resting on your upper back/shoulders OR hold kettlebell(s) by the handles with palms facing you
  2. 2
    Bend your knees into a squat, keeping legs parallel to shoulders and parallel with the ground
  3. 3
    Drive through your squat upwards and straighten them, extend arms to raise kettlebells above your head (if palms facing towards you, twist during extension until they are palms out at the top of your lift)
  4. 4
    Lower back down to squat, and repeat

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Group of people doing the kettlebell goblet squat.

One of the easier kettlebell exercises on this list is the kettlebell goblet squat. You may not have heard the name goblet squat, but I can guarantee if you’ve ever been to a gym you’ll have seen something like it.

Usually done with a dumbbell, the kettlebell version works the exact same way. Holding the kettlebell in front of your body, you simply perform a regular squat, but the weight rests in the front adding a twist to this compound lift.

Squats are my favorite lift so this one is also one of my favorites and it’s incredibly simple so even if you’re a beginner with kettlebells, it’s easy to learn.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat Benefits

  • Core and leg compound exercise
  • Very easy to learn
  • Less strain on wrists, shoulders, than more complicated lifts
  • Simple but fun

How to Perform a Kettlebell Goblet Squat

  1. 1
    Grip handle and pull kettlebell up to collarbone
  2. 2
    Flip and hold with both hands on the ball
  3. 3
    Squat down to parallel or slightly below parallel
  4. 4
    Drive through squat back to standing position

Kettlebell Ballistic Row

Rows are a fantastic way to help build a massive back (just ask Dorian Yates!), and kettlebells help add a new dimension of fun and flexibility to this group of exercises.

The kettlebell ballistic row is a fun exercise that will help you build a stronger back, but also train you to be more conscious of your form and body mechanics. Most people want to pull tons of weight on a row, but forget that form is more important.

Photo of a man doing kettlebell ballistic row.

Kettlebell ballistic rows will teach you how to keep yourself aware of your body placement.

Kettlebell Ballistic Row Benefits

  • Helps improve fundamental form techniques
  • Targets core muscles during hand-switching phase of the lift
  • Ballistic element of lift builds strength and hypertrophy
  • Enhance strength and stability at the end range of your hip hinge, which can translate into better strength off the floor with your deadlifts and a sturdier base for your squats and presses

How to Perform a Kettlebell Ballistic Row

  1. 1
    Hold your kettlebell with one hand and stand upright
  2. 2
    Keep your core and glutes tight, hinge hips forward to make your body parallel with the ground
  3. 3
    Contract your lats, avoid turning your torso and row the kettlebell towards the center of your body (chest/stomach)
  4. 4
    Release kettlebell at the point under your chest or stomach, grab it with your other hand. Repeat this motion with your other side/hand

Kettlebell Clean and Press

Photo of a man doing kettlebell clean and press exercise

I might sound like a broken record at this point, but this is another one of my favorite lifts, but the kettlebell variation.

Kettlebell clean and press is a more technical lift just like its barbell variant, but it’s an excellent workout that will leave you feeling worn out in the best way possible.

It’s going to target the entire body, and it’s going to help you learn fundamentals for all kinds of lifts.

Even though it’s a more complex lift for beginners, it’s going to help you learn plenty of valuable lessons for lifting as a whole.

Kettlebell Clean and Press Benefits

  • Learn Olympic lifts under a lighter load
  • Focus on importance of a tight core during compound lifts
  • Explosive movement
  • Full-body exercise

How to Perform a Kettlebell Clean and Press

  1. 1
    Stand holding one or two kettlebells by your thighs, knees bent slightly, feet shoulder width apart
  2. 2
    As one, quick movement, pull kettlebells up to shoulders, turning handles to face palm out around waist/stomach level
  3. 3
    Create force by hopping slightly with both feet to push upwards
  4. 4
    Land gently on your feet with knees bent in squat motion, extend your arms straight out above your head at shoulder-width

Kettlebell Snatch

Many of the Olympic lifting exercises translate very well to kettlebells because, as you saw with the kettlebell clean and press, you can learn the technique using lighter weights and maintain stabilizers throughout.

Kettlebell snatch is another good one and is often even more of a favorite than the clean and press because it works more like a kettlebell swing mixed with a kettlebell overhead press.

This is a great lift to perform one-handed as it builds plenty of control, while being high-intensity at the same time.

Photo of a man doing kettlebell snatch

Kettlebell Snatch Benefits

  • High-intensity workout that improves cardiovascular endurance
  • Full-body power and coordination workout to enhance overall strength
  • Low-impact on lower body
  • Spine mobility and overhead stability builder

How to Perform a Kettlebell Snatch

  1. 1
    Start with a one-handed kettlebell swing
  2. 2
    Turn the kettlebell swing into a high pull, using that momentum at the top of your swing to activate your upper lats, traps, and delts, and pull the kettlebell towards your body
  3. 3
    As you raise the kettlebell, position your forearm up to slide your hand it through the handle, avoiding letting it flop onto your forearm, and using the momentum to snatch the kettlebell above your head
  4. 4
    Pause at the top of the lift, flip the kettlebell over your hand and lower back down to the swinging position, and repeat

Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk

Photo of a man holding two kettlebells

The simplest kettlebell workout on this list is the kettlebell farmer’s walk.

You’ve probably seen or heard of a farmer’s walk before and it’s one of the best workouts to build grip strength, and using kettlebells makes it a lot easier than dumbbells or other equipment.

Not to mention, it’s great for the lower body and back, which is how plenty of strongmen train. You can do variations on it, like leg raises while walking, or one-handed farmer’s walks, or the single-arm front rack carry, but they’re all very similar and simple to do.

Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk Benefits

  • Improve posture
  • Build strength in legs and upper back
  • Strengthen lower back
  • Easy to do

How to Perform a Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk

  1. 1
    Placing both kettlebells at your side, lower into a squat and raise them to your side
  2. 2
    Pace forward in small to normal distance steps as fast as possible
  3. 3
    Keep arms strong, not limp or hanging
  4. 4
    Turn around and repeat

Kettlebell Alternate Shoulder Press

Kettlebell alternate shoulder press is another simple lift you’ve already done before in the barbell version.

Just like an alternating shoulder press with dumbbell, you’ll be controlling one arm, shoulder, and weight at a time which helps promote more focus on form and less effort to perform rapid reps which can lead to poor form.

I also prefer this because I tend to find I can feel the burn more when I need to focus on one side at a time.

Photo of a man holding kettlebell

Kettlebell Alternate Shoulder Press Benefits

  • Functional strength builder for most of the upper-body (chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back)
  • Identical to traditional dumbbell shoulder press
  • Easy to perform
  • Helps you focus on form for each side

How to Perform a Kettlebell Alternate Shoulder Press

  1. 1
    Standing shoulder width apart, hold both kettlebells with palms facing out, kettlebells should rest on your arms
  2. 2
    Extend one arm upwards above your head, maintain a strong core and do not push with legs
  3. 3
    Lower arm and repeat with other arm

Kettlebell Floor Press

Photo of a man holding kettlebell

I flipflopped between this or a kettlebell deadlift, but I figured many of the lifts here incorporate plenty of similar lower body and back motions, so I chose the kettlebell floor press as the last best kettlebell exercise.

This lift works just like a dumbbell chest press, except you can do it on the floor so if you don’t have a bench, no problems (if you do have a bench, you can use it for a deeper range of motion).

Kettlebell floor press will allow you to hit your pecs so you can build a bulletproof chest.

Kettlebell Floor Press Benefits

  • Engage the chest, shoulder, and arm muscles
  • Excellent chest exercise without the need for a bench
  • Simple to perform
  • Adds an upper body centric lift to your kettlebell routine

How to Perform a Kettlebell Floor Press

  1. 1
    Lie on the floor straight with hands gripping the kettlebell hands, palms facing towards your feet, or slightly angled downward
  2. 2
    Keep arms tucked close to your side and lift kettlebells upwards towards the ceiling until fully extended
  3. 3
    Bring down in slow controlled movement with elbows and arms still tucked in until just above the floor, repeat

Benefits of Kettlebells for Workouts

I’ve talked about a lot of the workouts and mentioned why kettlebells are such a good alternative or supplemental form of weights and there are plenty of answers to the question of - what are the benefits of kettlebells for workouts.

Kettlebells add more dynamic movement, like in the snatch, swing, and clean and press, which keeps your muscles and ligaments from contracting or becoming too stiff.

Naturally, you’ll want to know how to warmup for kettlebell workouts to prevent this anyways, but it’s a benefit to them as a workout.

Kettlebells are also very helpful at learning technique in controlled ways. You can start with light kettlebells to get the hang of how to perform each lift before moving up and challenging yourself.

At the same time, they help develop plenty of stabilizers, like shoulders or core, which translate into other lifts like barbell squats or Olympic lifts with barbells.

An underrated element to kettlebells is that they offer plenty of cardiovascular exercise with the strenuous mobility needed, especially on exercises like kettlebell swings.

Lastly, kettlebells are fun and help add some new movements to your routine to keep things fresh while still providing functional strength and body coordination.

How to Warm-Up for Kettlebell Training

Kettlebells, while fun, also mean a different kind of warm-up. I often stress that any workout should incorporate elements of dynamic and static warm-up, so this shouldn’t be anything new if you’re of the same thought process as me in that regard.

How to warm-up for kettlebell training is quite simple and incorporates a mix of dynamic warm-ups and static. I always start with 15 minutes on the stationary bike or rowing machine to get started and get my heartrate up.

Starting with bodyweight exercises like low rep, low set jumping jacks, push-ups, bear crawls, up-downs, etc. are also excellent.

I’d also recommend no weight/very lightweight reps of the movements you’ll be performing to get your muscles activated for these lifts.

Warm-up is crucial for a good kettlebell workout and making sure you’re not unnecessarily straining or hurting your body.

Final Thoughts

Kettlebell workouts can be incredibly rewarding when you pick the right ones to build a routine around or incorporate into an existing routine.

Some of the lifts here are very simple, and some are a little more complex, but they all offer a variety of movements to hit plenty of muscle groups so you can get the most from your workout.

Remember that working out, you can be focused and still have fun, and kettlebell exercises help add a more dynamic element to allow you to experiment and have fun with your fitness goals.

Denver Matheson
 

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