You’ve probably used a pair of dumbbells in your workouts, or even a barbell if you’ve tried more advanced exercises — but what about kettlebells? This underrated gym equipment deserves all the love because of how good it is, but it’s often overlooked for dumbbells and other free weights. Stop overlooking them! Kettlebells are extremely effective when used properly because of how they’re shaped. They’re highly versatile and allow you to have full-body workouts with just a few exercises, helping you develop your strength to the next level. You can add kettlebell exercises to any day of your workout routine, or even all of them! They work great for your upper body, lower body, and particularly your core because you need to really engage it to move the weight around efficiently.
It’s time you started using kettlebells more frequently, so let us tell you all about their benefits and the best exercises that you can do with them!
Why are kettlebell exercises so good?
Even though any kind of free weight is always a great addition to your strength training, kettlebells offer a different approach to your workout than dumbbells or barbells. The shape of the kettlebell allows you to work your muscles differently because the weight shifts depending on where the ball of the kettlebell is positioned, allowing for a full range of tension. Thanks to their handles, they’re also easier to move around and perform different explosive movements which can be done by swinging them around. These types of movements are often full-body movements that target every major muscle group and help increase your heart rate and develop your cardiovascular endurance, burning fat in the process.
Additionally, kettlebell exercises are great for mobility and flexibility because they allow you to go through different ranges of movement while keeping your muscles tight and engaged. It’s also a safer alternative to more advanced exercises, such as barbell exercises, because they help you practice proper form and posture. On top of that, many kettlebell exercises are also unilateral, which means that you’re able to correct any muscle imbalances that you may have by going one side at a time and stabilizing yourself. All in all, kettlebells can be a great addition to your workouts!
Best kettlebell exercises that you can try
Now that you know all of the benefits of the kettlebell workouts, get ready to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing with some of the best kettlebell exercises that you can try next time you train at the gym!
The kettlebell swing is probably the most popular kettlebell exercise there is — and with good reason! This exercise works and strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, lats, hips, shoulders, and pecs. It’s a calorie burner that will elevate your heart rate and help you develop your cardiovascular endurance, making it great for HIIT workouts, and it’s also great for developing flexibility.
How to do it: First, stand with both feet shoulder-width apart and grip the kettlebell handle with both hands. Begin lowering your body by hinging at the hips, driving the kettlebell down and between your legs. Keeping your back and arms straight, lift your torso and thrust your hips forward explosively to swing the kettlebell to shoulder height. Use the momentum of the hip thrust to lift the weight, don’t use your arms, and keep your core, glutes, and hamstrings tight throughout the swing movement. Reverse the movement by bringing the kettlebell back down and between your legs, and repeat.
Kettlebell goblet squat
This fat-burning compound exercise mimics the movement of a regular squat, with the added challenge of holding the kettlebell in front of your body. It’s a great lower-body exercise, working all the major muscle groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, while also engaging your core and some back and forearm muscles. This will help you develop a more powerful lower body, while also assisting you with your squat form since the weight helps you balance yourself so you can drop into your natural center of gravity.
How to do it: Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and grab the kettlebell by the handle with both hands. Keep your back straight and your shoulder blades together. With your elbows close to your body and the kettlebell in front of your chest, begin descending into a squat position. Go as deep as you can without losing your balance or curving your torso. Hold for a moment, go back up to the starting position, and repeat.
The single-arm row is great for strengthening your back muscles, including your lats, traps, and other smaller stabilizing muscles. It also activates your abs and shoulders for support throughout the movement. It requires full-body activation, and since you’re only using one arm, it’s great for identifying any muscle imbalances that you may have and correcting them.
How to do it: Place the kettlebell on the floor in front of your feet and adopt a staggered stance. Your right foot should be in front, just outside the weight. Bend your torso at a 45-degree angle approximately and grasp the kettlebell handle with your left hand, resting your right elbow on your right thigh for support. Begin by lifting the kettlebell to your hips, then lower it without letting it touch the floor with your arm fully extended, and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other arm.
This powerful and explosive exercise targets your leg muscles, specifically your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as your back muscles. The kettlebell clean movement is based on the classic deadlift, so it’s a great exercise for strengthening your posterior chain.
How to do it: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and the kettlebell placed on the floor in front of you. Bend your hips forward and grasp the kettlebell handle with one hand with an overhand grip, lifting it off the floor between your legs. Begin the movement by driving through your hips and pulling the kettlebell up to your shoulder, letting it slide between your fingers so that it rests on your forearm at the top of the movement, but be careful not to let it crash. Your elbow should be tucked into the side of your body with your palm facing the opposite shoulder. Hold for a second, then roll the kettlebell back down to the starting position, and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other arm.
The halo is one of the best kettlebell exercises for the shoulders, and it also works your triceps, chest, and core throughout the movement. This is great if you’re looking to develop the mobility and flexibility of your shoulders since you’re constantly rotating them to move the kettlebell around your head. During the movement, the key is to keep your core tight so that you don’t strain your lower back.
How to do it: Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the kettlebell with both hands by the handle, ball pointing up instead of down, and place it in front of your chin. Begin the movement by circling the weight around your head using your shoulders. Your core should be tight, and the movement controlled so that you don’t hit your head with the weight. When the kettlebell is at the back of your head, the ball should be down and the handle up. Keep circling until you reach the starting position and repeat alternating the direction.
The kettlebell snatch is very similar to the kettlebell swing, but you go deeper down and with just one hand. It targets your whole body, particularly your glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips, and core, making it a great exercise for developing your cardio endurance as well as your flexibility and mobility.
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding the kettlebell with one hand between your legs. Get into a semi-squat position, bending your knees and hinging forward at the hips. Begin the movement by swinging the weight back between your legs, and immediately driving it upward by thrusting your hips and knees. At the top part of the movement, your body should be standing straight with the weight up in the air and over your head, and your arm straight up. Pause for a moment, then go back to the starting position and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other arm.
This is a multi-step movement that targets almost every major muscle group, along with other smaller stabilizers. It’s particularly great for developing core strength and shoulder and hip mobility, as well as your sense of balance and coordination. The Turkish get-up is not an explosive exercise, you need to perform it slowly in order to keep proper form.
How to do it: First, lie on the floor face up with a kettlebell in your right hand and your arm pointing up without locking it, so that the weight is in the air. Your left leg should be down on the floor while the right leg is bent, and your left arm extended on the floor next to you. Begin by pushing yourself up with your left arm to a sitting position, keeping the kettlebell up in the air. Lift your hips off the floor and position your left leg behind your body until you’re kneeling on your left side. Take your left hand off the floor to come into a kneeling stance, right leg up and left leg down, both bent at a 90-degree angle. Push through your right foot to drive yourself up and stand straight with your right arm up and the weight over your head. Hold for a moment, then reverse the movement to go back to the starting position and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other side.
With the kettlebell windmill, the movement is performed to the sides of your body, which isn’t a very common range of motion. This exercise mainly targets your oblique muscles and shoulders, as well as your legs, particularly your hamstrings. This helps you strengthen your core and shoulders and develop your lateral mobility and leg flexibility.
How to do it: Start by standing straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp a kettlebell by the handle with your right hand and extend it overhead so that the weight is in up the air and the ball is resting on your forearm. Begin the movement by reaching your left foot with your left hand, bending at the hip, and rotating your torso while you descend so that the right arm is up in the air with the kettlebell overhead. At the bottom of the movement, both arms should be straight, almost forming a line with your body. Pause for a second, then go back up and repeat. Finish your reps and switch to the other side.
The kettlebell thruster is a killer move that combines a front squat with an overhead press, and you can perform it either with one or two kettlebells, depending on the level of difficulty that you choose. This full-body exercise targets your leg muscles, such as the quads, calves, and glutes, as well as your pecs, delts, traps, and biceps at the top of the movement.
How to do it: Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a kettlebell by the handle with both hands. To begin, go down into a squat position, then go back up and stand straight, extending your arms over your head to raise the kettlebell using the momentum from your squat. At the top of the movement, the weight should be over your head in the air. Squeeze the kettlebell in this position, then go back down to the squat position and repeat.
So there you have it! By adding kettlebell training to your routine and practicing proper form, you’ll be able to maximize your gains at the gym for a stronger and more sculpted body. Always remember to go for lighter weights at first so that you don’t get injured, and work your way up to heavier weights when you’ve built enough strength and endurance.
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