The Best Kettlebell Exercises That Work Your Entire Body

by Evelyn Valdez

Since dumbbells and barbells take the spotlight when it comes to free weights, kettlebells are often left behind on the weight rack. Many gym-goers, particularly beginners, are not very familiar with them and therefore don’t know how to add them to their workouts. But, while they might seem intimidating at first, they will make your strength training sessions much more effective!

This highly versatile piece of equipment can be a powerful addition to your workouts when used correctly because of how they’re shaped. It allows you to exercise your full body in just a few movements, while also training your stability and flexibility due to the swinging nature of the kettlebell. And you can add them to any fitness routine, no matter what your goal is!

We’ve put together a list of the best kettlebell exercises that you can try next time you’re at the gym, or anywhere else if you have one with you! 

Best kettlebell exercises for your routine

If you’re ready to challenge yourself and add a kettlebell to your workouts so you can get the most out of your time at the gym, try some of these kettlebell exercises that will make you break a heavy sweat in no time.

Kettlebell swing

Among all kettlebell exercises, the kettlebell swing is the most popular one because of how effective it is at strengthening your muscles and burning calories in the process. It mainly targets your shoulders, pecs, lats, hips, hamstrings, and glutes, making it a great full-body exercise!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands. Lower your upper body by hinging at the hips, driving the kettlebell down and between your legs.
  2. Keeping your back and arms straight, begin the movement by lifting your torso and thrusting your hips forward explosively to swing the kettlebell upward until it reaches shoulder height. Make sure to use the momentum of the hip thrust to lift the kettlebell instead of just your arms.
  3. Keeping your glutes, hamstrings, and core engaged, go back to the starting position by bringing the kettlebell down and between your legs, and repeat. 

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

This unilateral movement challenges your stability by using just one leg to support your weight as you go down with the kettlebell. It targets all major muscles in your back as well as your legs, and your core for stability.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell in your right hand, resting on the side of your right leg.
  2. Begin the movement by hinging forward at the hips while you raise and stretch your right leg up behind you, placing all your body weight on your left leg. Keep your left hand to your side for stability, letting the right arm go down with the weight of the kettlebell acting as an anchor.
  3. When your upper body and right leg form a horizontal line parallel to the floor, pause for a moment while squeezing your muscles, then go back and repeat. 

Goblet squat

Even staple strength training exercises can be greatly improved with the addition of a kettlebell, like a goblet squat! On top of challenging your stability and helping you develop a stronger core, this exercise works your quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and even some forearm muscles, helping you improve your squat form.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart so you can squat comfortably, and grab the kettlebell by the handle with both hands.
  2. Holding the kettlebell in front of your chest and keeping your elbows close to your sides, start the movement by descending into a squat position. Make sure to keep your back straight and your shoulder blades together throughout the movement. 
  3. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, then hold the position for a moment, go back up, and repeat.

Kettlebell figure 8

Just like the name suggests, in this exercise, you’ll be moving the weight around making the shape of the number 8. It’s more complex than other kettlebell movements, but it’s worth it to give your whole body a good burn, from your arms and back to your core and legs.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bending your knees and hinging at the hips. Grab the kettlebell by the handle with your right hand in a neutral position.
  2. Begin the movement by swinging the weight, going around the front of your right leg, and then between your legs. Reach it from behind your left leg with your leg hand, and swing it around your left leg and through the middle again, making an 8 shape. The movement should be fluid but controlled, always reaching for the weight from behind your legs with the respective hand before it swings too far back.
  3. Every time the weight is back in your right hand, count one rep. Continue with the circular motion until you’ve completed your reps.

Halo

The halo is one of the best upper body kettlebell exercises because it works your shoulders, triceps, pecs, and even your core. It’s very effective, not only to build bigger and stronger upper body muscles but also to improve your shoulder joint flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your back straight and your knees slightly bent. Grab a kettlebell by the handle with both hands and point the ball up instead of down at chin level.
  2. Begin circling the kettlebell around your head by using your shoulders. Keep the movement controlled and your core tight so you don’t lose stability and hit your head with the weight. When the weight goes behind your head, the ball should be pointing down instead of up.
  3. Repeat for the desired number of reps in one direction, and then repeat the movement by going in the opposite way.

Kettlebell snatch

The kettlebell snatch is like a unilateral advanced variation of the kettlebell swing that requires more power. This fat-burning exercise targets your lower body, including your quads, glutes, hips, and even your core for stability while you move the weight around. It’s perfect for those days when you want to try something intense without moving around too much!

How to do it:

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor, bending your knees and hinging forward at the hips to get into a semi-squat position. Hold the kettlebell with one hand between your legs.
  2. Begin by swinging the weight back between your legs, then thrust your hips and knees to swing the weight upward using the momentum until your arm is straight over your head. The ball of the kettlebell should be resting on your wrist at the top of the movement while you stand straight.
  3. Hold this position for a moment, then carefully go back and repeat. Finish your reps with one arm and switch to the other one.

Suitcase lunges

Lunges are one of the best lower body exercises for bigger legs and a stronger core, and adding a couple of kettlebells to it makes it more challenging! Suitcase lunges target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves with the help of your core for stabilization.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in each hand and your palms facing your body as if you were carrying a suitcase in both hands.
  2. Begin the movement by getting into a lunge position, driving your right leg forward, and bending both knees at the same time until your left knee touches the floor and your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and the weight down during the movement.
  3. Squeeze your muscles, then push through your right heel to go back to the starting position and lunge forward with the opposite leg. Keep alternating on each rep.

Turkish get-up

This is a tough one for those who are looking for more advanced kettlebell exercises to challenge their balance and coordination. It’s a full-body movement that starts on the floor and finishes with you standing upright, working every major muscle in your arms, shoulders, back, core, and legs.

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on the floor facing up, holding a kettlebell in your right hand and your arm pointing up so that the weight is in the air. Bend your right knee but keep both your left leg and left arm extended on the floor. 
  2. Begin the movement by getting into a sitting position, pushing yourself up with your left arm, and keeping the kettlebell up in the air with your right. With your left hand still on the floor for stability, get into a half-kneeling position by lifting your hips and placing your left knee on the floor.
  3. Take your left hand off the floor to straighten yourself during the half-kneeling stance, and then drive yourself upward through your right heel until you’re standing straight with the weight still up in the air.  
  4. Hold this position for a moment, standing straight with your arm and the weight overhead. Then, reverse the movement step by step to go back to the starting position and repeat. Finish your reps with one side and switch to the other.

Kettlebell thrusters

This is a perfect exercise for fixing muscle imbalances, particularly in your upper body because you need to lift one kettlebell in each hand. It combines the movement of a front squat with an overhead press, and it works your glutes, calves, quads, delts, traps, pecs, and biceps.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a kettlebell by the handle on each hand. Your arms should be close to your sides, but your forearms should be pointing up so that the balls of the kettlebells can rest on your wrists.
  2. Begin by lowering yourself into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then go back up and stand straight. Extend your arms to press the kettlebells overhead using the momentum from your squat. 
  3. Hold this position for a moment, squeezing your upper body muscles, then go back down to the squat position and repeat.

Kettlebell bent-over rows

This killer compound movement works like a classic bent-over row, but you use one hand at a time, challenging your stability and allowing you to fix any muscle imbalances that you may have. It targets all major back muscles, as well as your biceps, shoulders, and hips.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bring your left foot forward in a staggered position. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand with a neutral grip and hinge forward at the hips at a 45-degree angle, bending your left knee and letting the weight hang in front of you.
  2. Rest your left hand on your left knee for support, and begin the movement by pulling the kettlebell to your chest until it almost touches the left side of your ribcage.
  3. Keeping your core and your back engaged, squeeze at the top of the movement, then lower the weight and repeat.

And there you have it! These are some of the best exercises that you can add to your next kettlebell training, whether you’re looking to build strength, burn some calories, or both. Try the easier exercises first to get used to the weight and feel of the kettlebell and then move to the more complex ones once you’ve made enough progress!

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