Kettlebells Workouts

Kettlebells have become a really popular addition to people’s exercise routines and there are many professionals who swear by them. Picking up a kettlebell for the first time may seem daunting, but the great thing is that they are very accessible and there are exercises designed for all levels of user, whether you are just starting out with them or are a bit of a pro. Adding kettlebell drills to your sessions will increase your fitness, strength, toning, balance and stamina and do much to enhance your time in the gym.

Below you will find 12 kettlebell exercises to try out and incorporate into your sessions, from the basic swing to get you started, through some intermediate workouts, to more advanced and higher-performance ones.

Each exercise shows the difficulty level, the muscles you will be engaging, a short description, a video and a step-by-step guide. Please read and watch carefully to familiarise yourself with each drill before starting. And remember: ensure you warm up adequately before getting going!

 


 

1. Basic Swing
2. Tricep Extensions
3. Two Arm Kettlebell Row
4. Slingshot Twist
5. Figure 8
6. Single Arm Kettlebell Swing
7. Front Squats
8. Wide Figure 8
9. Lunges
10. Burpee Deadlift
11. Alternate Swings
12. Windmill Swings

 

1. Basic Kettlebell Swing (a.k.a ‘Russian Swing’)

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Main Muscles Worked: Legs, Back, Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Deltoids (Shoulders), Core.

Here’s a great exercise that is the ‘bread and butter’ of most kettlebell routines, and when you check out the target muscle groups it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Part of the appeal has to be because it’s relatively simple for beginners to master. Plus, once you get into the ‘swing’ of it, you can increase the difficulty level by using one arm at a time or even alternating between hands during the movement (You can find these variations and more in our other Sweatband video tutorials).

Most importantly, please ensure you’re sufficiently warmed up and familiar with the following instructions before you begin. As always – start light and gradually increase the weight and number of repetitions and sets over time.

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Stand up straight, with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands, keeping palms face down and arms in front of the body.
  3. Keep your weight on your heels with both feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders, back and chest up.
  4. Now for the swing!...As we say in the video ‘It’s ALL in the hips!’ – that’s because the swing has 2 main movements. First, your hips move down and back as the ‘Bell travels between your legs. Then the hips drive up and forward sending the kettlebell into the upward arc of the swing, finishing with straight arms at upper chest or eye level. Tighten your thighs, butt and abs as you return to the standing position.
  5. Keep this swinging motion going for 12 to 15 reps.

Remember as you drive the hips back, your legs will bend but don’t go too low (this isn't a squat!). The motion and momentum comes from the hips – the arms just go along for the ride!

 

2. Tricep Extensions

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Main Muscles Worked: Triceps, Core, Shoulders

In a quest for toned arms, many people are busy ‘repping out’ bicep curls to achieve their goals, but perhaps not everyone realises that the triceps muscle makes up 2/3 of the upper arm?  So let’s get priorities in check, go back to basics…and get better results – with Kettlebell Tricep Extensions!

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart (or one foot in front of the other for extra stability). Please Note: Performing this exercise in a standing position will improve the strength and conditioning of the core, but if you are concerned about the strain on your back, then it is also possible to perform this while seated on a bench or Gym Ball.
  2. Shoulders are back and abs engaged.
  3. Grasp the kettlebell with both hands, bring it overhead, keeping elbows tight.
  4. With complete control, smoothly lower the ‘bell behind your head, feeling a slight stretch in the tricep muscle.
  5. Bring back to the top.
  6. Breath out as you lift the kettlebell, inhale as you lower.
  7. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.

 

3. Two Arm Kettlebell Row

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Main Muscles Worked: Back, Arms and Shoulders

Here’s a simple but effective exercise that should appeal to anyone looking to tone up and achieve a leaner body. We know there may be a temptation to prejudge the list of muscles worked and move on to the commonly associated ‘problem areas’ of ‘Abs…Core…or Butt’, but don’t waste (or should that be ‘waist’) this calorie burning opportunity! When you consider that muscles burn up calories JUST to exist, and that the ‘Lats’ are the second largest muscle group in the body, it should become clear why it’s so important to work them!

The Bent Over Row is a great back exercise, but to make the most of it, as well as to prevent injury, it’s crucial to keep the technique strict.

Unlike many kettlebell exercises, this movement involves NO swinging or momentum.

 

Here’s how it’s done in a 'Step-by-Step' guide to accompany the video….

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a Kettlebell handle with both hands. (If you have 2 kettlebells of the same weight, then even better! In which case hold one in each hand).
  3. Bend the knees and sink into a quarter Squat. Chest is out, back flat, head up and butt out (Rather like a pigeon!)
  4. With the glutes and core engaged, let the kettlebell hang down in front (remember the posture in Step 3.) Breathe in ready to begin.
  5. Exhale as you begin to pull the kettlebell up into the stomach. Pull with the elbows – the hands and ‘bell will follow!
  6. Keep elbows close to the body and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement to ensure you engage the back muscles. Then lower the weight smoothly under control, filling your lungs with air as you do.

 

4. Slingshot Twist

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Main Muscles Worked: Abs, Obliques (Side of Waist), Core, Back and Arms

Want to get in great shape? Don’t just lose weight…Lose WAIST! The kettlebell slingshot is renowned for being a good abdominal and core exercise, so we’ve incorporated an extra ‘Twist’ to intensify those results!

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Hold the Kettlebell in one hand about waist height.
  2. Swing the Kettlebell around behind you
  3. Pass it across to your other hand
  4. The other hand moves back around to the front, bending at the elbow while travelling upwards to chest level, ready to make contact with the palm of the other hand
  5. Absorb the momentum of the Kettlebell with a twist at the waist, sending the ‘bell travelling back behind your body again to repeat the movement, switching directions as you do.

Remember – When you twist, turn the shoulders, but keep the hips still! Keep those Abs and Glutes engaged.

 

5. Figure 8

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Main Muscles Worked: Arms, Back, Abs

Here’s a fun and functional exercise that takes a bit of coordination to master, but once you do, even a beginner can look like a Kettlebell pro!

Ensure you’re sufficiently warmed up and familiar with these instructions before you begin. As always – start light and gradually increase the weight and number of repetitions or duration over time.

Remember not to hold your breath during any part of the movement!  Get into a good rhythm – keep your back flat and stick that chest out to maintain a good posture.

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Begin with a single kettlebell resting on the ground between your legs and slightly in front. Position the feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Squat down with a flat back and grab the ‘bell with your left hand. Assume a quarter squat position.
  3. Swing it back between your legs towards the right leg. As the kettlebell approaches the back of the right leg reach behind that leg with your other hand and take the kettlebell.
  4. Continue the momentum to allow the kettlebell to make a circle around your leg and back between your legs, and begin step 1 again. This completes one repetition.
  5. Repeat this action, for smooth repetitions – remembering to maintain a good posture so the back doesn’t round forward.
  6. Halfway through your set, it’s time to switch! – Reverse the action so that you pass the kettlebell from behind to the front.

 

6. Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Main Muscles Worked: Legs, Back, Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Deltoids (Shoulders), Core.

Once you’ve mastered the Basic (Russian) swing, and you’re becoming more experienced with using the kettlebell (and driving your hips!), then you can further challenge your strength, conditioning and coordination by using one arm at a time.

Most importantly, please ensure you’re sufficiently warmed up and familiar with the following instructions before you begin. As always – start light and gradually increase the weight and number of repetitions and sets over time.

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Stand up straight, with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell handle in one hand, keeping the palm face down and arm in line with the groin in front of the body. The other arm will remain at your side.
  3. Keep your weight on your heels with both feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders back and chest up with a tall spine.
  4. Hopefully you should already be familiar with the fluid motion involved if you’ve mastered the double arm swing.  This movement is very similar in that the momentum used is derived from the hips NOT the arm. First, your hips move down and back as the ‘Bell travels between your legs. Then the hips drive up and forward sending the kettlebell into the upward arc of the swing, finishing with your arm straight out at upper chest or eye level. Keep your butt and abs engaged as you return to the standing position.
  5. Keep this swinging motion going for 12 to 15 reps.
  6. Then transfer the kettlebell into the other hand and repeat the exercise using the other arm.

Remember as you drive the hips back, your legs will bend but don’t go too low (this isn't a squat!). The motion and momentum comes from the hips – the arms just go along for the ride!

 

7. Front Squats

 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Main Muscles Worked: Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Thighs

Squats are widely renowned as the undisputed King of leg exercises! Combined with Kettlebell resistance, you have a safe and hugely effective way of toning the entire lower body. As well as targeting the large muscles of the glutes and legs, it will work your heart and lungs and keep your body’s metabolism elevated for hours after your session ends!

As part of the warming up process, we recommend that you perform Squat repetitions with no weight prior to using a light Kettlebell. You can gradually increase the resistance, but please ensure you use super-strict form with every repetition to avoid injury and make the most of this revolutionary exercise. Hard work WILL definitely pay off!

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Position the feet a couple of inches wider than shoulder width apart. Hold a kettlebell by the handle with both hands, supporting the weight on your upper chest.
  2. Remember - good posture! - Chest out, back straight, knees very slightly bent, head up. Get ready to squat!....
  3. Inhaling deeply as you descend, bend the legs until the upper thighs are parallel with the floor. (Remember to keep that chest up and back flat!)
  4. Keeping feet flat on the floor, push with your heels and drive upwards, breathing out as you do.
  5. Repeat the movement for the recommended amount of repetitions, keeping strict form.

 

8. Wide Figure 8

 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Main Muscles Worked: Inner Thighs, Hamstrings, Arms, Back, Abs

The inner thigh area is commonly considered a bit of a ‘problem area’, with the stimulation it needs to tone up often neglected due to the larger quadriceps and glutes muscles doing much of the work in many movements. By simply adopting a wider stance, this variation delivers all of the upper body toning, fat burning and muscular endurance benefits of conventional figure 8’s while also engaging those hard to reach inner thighs (adductors).

 

We recommend you check out our Sweatband.com video ‘Figure 8’ and master the conventional movement before you attempt to perform this variation. Aside from the feet positioning, the 'Step-by-Step' guides are very similar, but here’s a reminder of how it's done!....

  1. Begin in a wide stance with feet wider than shoulder width and toes turned out. Legs are straight to begin. Keep your head and chest up and back straight.
  2. With the Kettlebell in your right hand, it’s time to swing the ‘bell in the direction of the left leg!...
  3. As the ‘bell approaches the left leg, shift your weight over to that left leg, keeping the opposite leg straight, bend at the knee to about a quarter squat position.
  4. As the kettlebell approaches the back of the leg, reach behind that leg with your other hand and take the kettlebell.
  5. Continue the momentum to allow the kettlebell to make a circle around your leg and back between your legs, and begin again with the other hand. This completes one repetition.
  6. Repeat this action, for smooth repetitions – remembering to maintain a good posture so the back doesn’t round forward.
  7. Halfway through your set, it’s time to switch! – Reverse the action so that you pass the kettlebell from behind to the front.

 

9. Lunges

 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Main Muscles Worked: Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Thighs

Chances are you may be familiar with this movement, or at least have heard of its well-earned reputation as arguably one of the greatest leg and bum exercises EVER devised! Believe the hype – this is a ‘butt-blaster in terms of toning and fat-burning!

Now before we get overzealous, WE ALWAYS RECOMMEND YOU WARM UP THOROUGHLY BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANY KETTLEBELL EXERCISES! That recommendation is especially crucial here with Lunges as the nature of the movement puts natural stress on the knees. Please ensure your warm up consists of ‘bodyweight’ lunges (without holding a weight – hands on hips) before selecting a light kettlebell to follow the instructions below.

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Stand with your torso upright holding a kettlebell in your right hand. Feet are about 6” apart. This will be your starting position.
  2. Step forward with your left foot and lower your upper body down by flexing the hip and the knee, keeping the torso upright. Lower your back knee until it nearly touches the ground.
  3. As you lunge, pass the kettlebell under your front leg to your opposite hand.
  4. Inhale as you go down…Exhale as you push up.
  5. To avoid excessive knee strain, ensure the knee of the leading leg does not travel past the toe….keep the foot flat, press through the heel of your foot, return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement for the recommended amount of repetitions, alternating legs.
  7. Feeling advanced? To really up the intensity, reach the point where you can no longer perform reps in perfect form. Place the kettlebell down on the floor out of the way, and continue to lunge without weight (hands on hips) – Feel the burn – See the results!!

 

10. Burpee Deadlift

 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Main Muscles Worked: Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Deltoids (Shoulders), Core

*Please Note: You will require TWO Kettlebells of matching weight to perform this particular exercise.

Here we combine a fantastic fat-burner and fitness exercise in the form of Burpees (also known as 'Squat-thrusts'), with the terrific all-over muscle toner ‘Deadlifts’. This kettlebell combo is sure to get your heart rate AND metabolism soaring to new heights, so we’d recommend this one to intermediate and advanced kettlebell users.

During the first stage of the Burpee movement, you will be supporting a lot of your upper body weight on the handles of the kettlebells, so to prevent potential injury make sure your wrists and arms are straight and balanced over the handles and that the kettlebells are sitting on a flat and non-slip surface!

This is as challenging to your heart and lungs as it is to your muscles, so it is sure to get you panting! Therefore, please remember not to hold your breath during any part of the movement!  Get into a good rhythm but aim to breathe out on the ‘hard parts’ of the movements (e.g. exhale as you drive upwards in the Deadlift etc)

Ensure you’re sufficiently warmed up and familiar with these instructions before you begin. As always – start light and gradually increase the weight and number of repetitions and sets over time.

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Stand with about a 6” gap between your feet. To ascertain the correct position of the 2 kettlebells, hold one in each hand with palms facing in towards your thighs.
  2. Squat down and place the kettlebells on the floor about shoulder width apart, feet will be between the two.
  3. Make sure you're balanced over the weights, wrists straight and strong, so that they don't twist, slip or tip over.
  4. If you’re an intermediate trainer, you can step the legs back one at a time into a plank position (Body straight) or, if you're advanced, jump the feet back into a plank position.
  5. Step or jump the feet back to the start position and get ready to deadlift!
  6. Keeping the head up, back straight and chest out, push through the heels (keeping the feet flat) and drive up to a standing position (Step 1)
  7. Repeat this for however many repetitions you can, but focus on QUALITY not quantity!

 

11. Alternate Swings

 

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Main Muscles Worked: Legs, Back, Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings, Deltoids (Shoulders), Core.

Getting good at the ‘swing’? Well this variation will certainly keep you focused AND fit! This movement is almost the same as the conventional ‘SINGLE ARM SWING’ (See instructions and video) but it will further challenge your hand-eye coordination with the transfer of the kettlebell between hands at the top of each rep.

This exercise is recommended for advanced Kettlebell users. Please only attempt this movement if you are confident and proficient at doing regular Swings. Proceed with caution folks! - To misjudge the timing or lose grip on the kettlebell could seriously damage you and your surroundings (Please don’t drop it!)

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. The first 3 steps are the same as the instructions for ‘Single Arm Swings’ so please ensure you’ve mastered that exercise before attempting the next bit….Hopefully you should already be familiar with the fluid motion involved if you’ve mastered the double arm swing.  This movement is very similar in that the momentum used is derived from the hips NOT the arm. First, your hips move down and back as the ‘Bell travels between your legs. Then the hips drive up and forward sending the kettlebell into the upward arc of the swing, finishing with your arm straight out at upper chest or eye level. Keep your butt and abs engaged as you return to the standing position.
  2. The difference with this variation is that you will grasp the kettlebell in the other hand at the top of the movement (when the arm is out straight at chest/eye level).
  3. As the weight travels upwards, the opposite arm will follow slightly behind, ready to grasp the handle just before the kettlebell begins its descent.
  4. Now that you are firmly holding the handle with the other hand (having made the transfer from one to the other), your arms swing down and the process repeats itself.

Keep this swinging motion going for 12 to 15 reps with each hand.

 

12. Windmill Swings

 

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Main Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Back, Abs, Obliques (Side of Waist), Hips, Legs, Glutes (Butt!), Hamstrings,

Here at Sweatband.com we are often asked how to get the best results in the shortest possible time. Here we have combined two great exercises in one – Double the results in half the time! The conventional kettlebell windmill is a great exercise that works loads of important muscles, as well as targeting the common problem areas of the abs and waist. By incorporating a single arm swing between each rep, you’ll also be toning the legs, glutes and hamstrings too! We are sure that advanced trainers are going to love this total body workout!

 

To accompany the video, here's a 'Step-by-Step' guide of how it's done!....

  1. Position the feet in a wide stance, legs straight with toes pointing slightly outwards
  2. Hold the Kettlebell in your left hand, perform a sort of ‘Single Arm Swing’ (The basic principles are covered in our ‘SINGLE ARM SWING’ video) but let the ‘bell travel upwards until it is vertical overhead. Lock the arm overhead.
  3. Shift your weight onto the right leg.
  4. Bend it over at the hip, lean over, letting your right arm straight down until the hand is close to the floor.
  5. Using the muscles of your side (obliques), straighten back up.
  6. Repeat the movement starting with another swing and keep the smooth repetitions going in perfect form.
  7. Once you’ve completed the reps on one side, switch hands and work the other side.

Remember the golden rule of ‘The Swing’: that it should come from the hips NOT the arm!

During the ‘Windmill’, to assist with stability, you can fix your eye line on the overhead weight. It’s important that when you lean over, you keep legs straight and stick your butt out!

 


 

Now you can feel more confident about picking up a kettlebell or two and training with these unique weights, and you can start swinging your way towards your fitness goals. Happy exercising!

 

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