10 Kettlebell Exercises For Any Fitness Level
Are you looking for a piece of equipment that is easy to use, portable, versatile, perfect for strength training exercises and isn’t a set of dumbbells? It’s time to consider adding a kettlebell to your at-home gym kit!
A kettlebell (or a few of varying weights) is a great addition to any home-gym equipment setup, a fun way to change up your routine at the gym, or an alternative option when the gym equipment you want is already in use.
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To get started, here are 10 kettlebell exercises that are perfect for any fitness level and will work your entire body.
If you don’t have access to a kettlebell, no worries! These exercises could also be performed with a dumbbell. For an extra challenge, try using a heavier kettlebell or give the advanced suggestions a go.
This movement primarily uses your glutes and upper leg muscles such as quads and hamstrings, as well as your core for stability and your arms to hold the kettlebell steady.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands directly in front of your chest. Think about drawing your belly button towards your spine and your pubic bone towards your belly button to engage your core and pelvic floor.
- Carefully take a big step backwards with your right foot. As you plant your right foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees, ensuring your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. Your front knee should be aligned above your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off the floor.
- Extend both knees and transfer your weight completely onto your left foot. Step your right foot forward to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side stepping your left foot backwards.
- Repeat, continuing to alternate between your right and left sides.
For an advanced version, hold the kettlebell in one hand above your head in a stationary position as you lunge, or add a single arm press, pushing the kettlebell into the air as you step backwards and bringing it back down to your shoulder as you step your feet together.
A goblet squat focuses on your quads, hamstrings and glutes, and just like the reverse lunges, it also uses your core and arms.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell directly in front of your chest with both hands. Think about drawing your belly button towards your spine and your pubic bone to your belly button to engage your core and pelvic floor.
- Keeping your eyes straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees as you sit into a squat position, making sure your knees point towards your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor (or as close as you can), keeping your shoulders back and spine neutral.
- Push through your heels and extend your knees to return to your standing starting position.
Variations to try:
- Change up the tempo! Take three counts to sit into the squat position, then power up quickly in one.
- Try a squat thruster. Squat low while holding your kettlebell at your chest, then push the kettlebell into the air as you stand up
- To activate slightly different muscles, try a sumo squat where you start with your feet wide apart.
These are one of the most well-known kettlebell exercises and for good reason - they're a fantastic full-body exercise that largely focuses on your glutes, hamstrings, core and back.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell directly in front of your body with both hands and your arms extended.
- While maintaining a slight bend in your knees, tilt forwards from your hips and allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs. Use the power in your glutes and hamstrings to extend your legs and hips to then swing the kettlebell forwards and upwards to shoulder height.
- Repeat, finding a fluid motion as you swing the kettlebell between your legs and up to shoulder height. Make sure your glutes and hamstrings power the movement instead of lifting the kettlebell with your arms and shoulders, and focus on hinging at the hips rather than knees. This shouldn’t feel or look like a squat!
Variations to try:
- Once you’ve mastered a kettlebell swing to shoulder height, you can try an overhead kettlebell swing (also known as an American Kettlebell Swing) where you swing the kettlebell upwards until your arms are almost beside your ears. This should be a controlled movement.
- Stand with your feet wider apart for a sumo kettlebell swing.
- Try a single-arm kettlebell swing. This is where you start by holding the kettlebell in your right hand, swing it between your legs, and then when it swings up to shoulder height, you grab it with your left hand and continue alternating sides. This one can take a bit of practice to get the timing and coordination right!
Halos are an upper-body strength exercise that targets your forearms, shoulders, deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius, as well as your core. They are also great for helping to improve shoulder mobility. Remember to perform these with control rather than using speed and momentum.
- Hold the kettlebell at chest height, but this time with the heavy base facing up. For extra stability, take a step forward with one foot to stagger your feet and keep a soft bend in your knees. If you feel stable, stand with your feet just wider than hip-width apart.
- Lift the kettlebell up towards your face, then slowly circle it to the right, moving it around your head until you have completed a full circle and are back at your starting position. The kettlebell should stay very close to your head and your torso and neck should maintain a neutral position - try to avoid arching your back or moving your head and neck.
- Repeat, alternating the direction after each circle.
For more of a challenge, grab a heavier kettlebell or add a squat in between each halo.
This is another simple but effective lower body exercise that will work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core.
- Start with your feet hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your body with your arms extended
- Engage your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine, then keep your right foot on the floor and take a big step to the left with your left foot. Keep your right leg straight and bend your left knee, transferring your weight to the left side and lower the kettlebell until it is hovering just above the ground near your ankle.
- Extend your left knee, transfer your weight onto your right foot and bring your foot inwards to return to the starting position.
- Repeat, alternating sides.
You can make these more difficult by increasing the weight.
Single arm bent over rows
You should really feel the burn in your upper body with this exercise, as it works your back, deltoids, lats, rhomboids, traps and biceps.
- Hold the kettlebell in your right hand with your palm facing inward. Take a step backwards with your right foot so your feet are in a staggered split stance with your front leg bent and back leg straight.
- Hinge forward at the hips to rest your left forearm on your left leg, keeping your spine neutral and letting the kettlebell hang at arm’s length by your ankle. If you have a box or bench, you can also rest your left knee and hand on the top for extra stability.
- Bend your right elbow to pull the kettlebell up to your torso, keeping your elbow close to your body throughout the entire movement.
- Extend your right arm to lower the kettlebell back towards your ankle.
- Repeat with an equal number of repetitions on each side.
Fire up your glutes, hamstrings, back and core with a few kettlebell deadlifts! Kettlebell deadlifts are a great exercise on their own, and they’re also a good way to master the movement and build your strength before trying a heavier barbell deadlift.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in front of your legs with both hands in an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body). Draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly and have a slight bend in your knees.
- Bending from the hips only, allow the kettlebell to run along the length of your thighs and halfway down your shins, keeping your chest proud and your head aligned with your spine. You should feel tension in your hamstrings (back of your legs).
- Once the kettlebell is halfway down your shins, push through your heels and use your glutes and hamstrings to extend your knees and hips to return to the starting position, keeping the kettlebell very close to your legs throughout the entire movement.
To challenge yourself, grab a heavier kettlebell or change up the tempo. Try lowering the kettlebell for three counts, then powering back up for one.
Try this exercise to strengthen your shoulders, arms and deltoids.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell directly in front of your body with your arms extended and both hands in an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body).
- Using the muscles in your shoulders and arms, bend your elbows outwards and upwards to pull the kettlebell up to chest height. Think about drawing your shoulder blades back and down to avoid shrugging your shoulders up towards your ears.
- Extend your elbows to return to the starting position.
For another variation that will work your lower body at the same time, try a sumo deadlift high pull. This is where you lower the kettlebell towards the floor, then add your upright row as you stand.
Suitcase or farmer’s carry
This exercise is very simple and easy to try with a light kettlebell, but the heavier you go, the harder it gets. Next time you’re carrying a heavy suitcase or bags of groceries, you’ll thank yourself for doing these!
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in your right hand with your arm extended by the side of your body and neutral grip (palm facing towards your body).
- Engage your core by drawing your belly button towards your spine, then start walking forward with control, keeping the kettlebell by your side and maintaining a strong core and proud posture. Try to avoid leaning over sideways.
- You should feel tension in your glutes, quads, core and shoulder to maintain a balanced and stable position during the exercise.
- Repeat for time or distance, completing an equal number of repetitions with the kettlebell in each hand.
If you find yourself compromising your form and leaning over to support the kettlebell as you walk, it may be too heavy and you might need to try a lighter weight. To make this exercise more challenging, hold a kettlebell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder width apart and hold the kettlebell in front of your chest.
- Rise up onto the balls of your feet, then lower your heels to return to the starting position.
For more of a stretch, try performing calf raises on a step. Stand with both feet on a step, then carefully shuffle your feet backwards until your heels hover slightly off the edge. Before you raise up onto the balls of your feet, lower your heels slightly off the step. You should feel a stretch down the backs of your legs as you lower, and this also creates an added challenge as you rise up.
Kettlebells are extremely versatile and can make a great addition to any strength training program, no matter what your fitness level is! Which of these moves are you keen to try?
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.