Workouts You Can Do With A Kettlebell

When I started getting into the fitness world, like most people, I started with cardio because that was what I knew and understood. Over the years, I've added other forms of exercise like yoga and strength training. There is something so empowering about learning to lift weights and watch as the weight you're able to lift increases over time, but if you've never incorporated a kettlebell into your strength training then you are surely missing out.

While I love using dumbbells and barbells in my workout, kettlebells add a new layer of complexity and if you've ever picked one up, then you have immediately felt the initial difference in the distribution of weight. The kettlebell is a great way to get a combination of cardio and strength training and it's easily varied, fun, and truly never boring, but if you find yourself unsure of how to get started, then let's dive into some great workouts that you can do with a kettlebell.

The kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing is likely one of the most widely recognized and known exercises that you can do with a kettlebell. This classic, yet complicated move requires a tight core, then hinging from the hips to move the kettlebell to shoulder height, before bringing it back between the legs.

According to personal trainer and owner of Ergogenic Health, Erick Avila, kettlebell swings are perfect for giving your body a gorgeous shape when putting on jeans.

"Kettlebell swings are excellent for targeting your posterior chain muscles, these are the muscles like the glutes and hamstrings," said Avila. To make it even better, Avila adds, "swings are one of the most effective exercises for burning calories."

The goblet squat

One of my favorite exercises using a kettlebell is the goblet squat. NASM certified personal trainer and RRCA/USATF run coach, Meghan Kennihan, told me the goblet squat is a perfect exercise for beginners. "The position of the load forces 90 percent of people to tighten up their cores and a few simple cues later, almost anyone can squat safely and completely pain free," she said.

To perform a goblet squat, a person would pick up the kettlebell in the front load position with feet flat on the ground, core tight and chest and head up; then sit back and squat down with elbows facing forward and pushing the knees out; push back up to standing and repeat.

Kennihan went on to add that goblet squats are "a convenient and portable exercise" since all you need to complete the work is a single kettlebell and a little space.

One-arm press

The one-arm kettlebell press is a great exercise to use in developing the shoulder and triceps muscles. Trainer Avila said, "this variation of the single arm press allows you to work these muscles over a larger range of motion."

To complete this exercise, you begin by cleaning the weight up to the racked position at your shoulder, then with a firm stance, exhale and activate your lats and biceps while pushing the weight overhead to a straight elbow; carefully work the weight back down to the starting position at your shoulder before repeating.

Turkish getups

Turkish getups fall under the umbrella of exercises I love to hate. They are super effective when done properly, but they are not easy and require a lot of concentration and safety to complete. Certified strength and conditioning specialist, Greg Ux, calls turkish getups a "wonderful exercise for improving joint stability and even strength in the hip and shoulder." He goes on to add, "this move requires lots of mobility so as far as I'm concerned, you won't find much better."

The general idea of the turkish getup is to quite literally get yourself from the floor to a standing position while holding the kettlebell in one hand over your body. This exercise is completed on one side of the body and then on the other.

Technique and form are very important, especially keeping a long spine while looking up toward the weight. It is often recommended to practice this movement without weight while you get used to the movement and form, only adding the kettlebell when you're ready and understand the exercise.

Kettlebell deadlift

One of Personal Trainer Ux's favorite moves is the deadlift, calling it a "wonderful mobility and strength exercise for the posterior chain muscles," particularly the hips and hamstrings. More often than not, you may see people complete the deadlift using dumbbells or a barbell, but this exercise can also be done using a kettlebell.

To complete this movement, you'll begin with the kettlebell on the floor, feet hip width apart, sinking the booty as your grab the handle with both hands, chest stays high as you hinge at the hips to a standing position.

Kettlebell snatch

The kettlebell snatch is a one-handed, full body movement with the goal of bringing the bell from the floor or swing to the over head position in one single motion. Personal trainer and CrossFit coach, Ethan Schmidt, points out the more advanced version of this move is the full snatch which requires "catching the bell at the bottom of the squat and then standing."

The snatch is an amazing movement and according to Girls Gone Strong trainer, Karen Smith, "it can be done light and quick for mVO2 (maximum volume of oxygen) benefits, or heavier and slower to build strength." While this exercise looks cool and can be really fun to do, if you aren't doing it correctly, you're setting yourself up for injury and bruised wrists.

Kettlebell clean and press

Just like the snatch, the idea of the clean and press is to get the kettlebell from the ground to overhead, but unlike the snatch, the exercise is broken up into two movements. "Starting from the ground, bring the bell in one fluid motion to the shoulders, with your elbows in front of you; then press the bell up using only your arms, not rebounding your legs to drive it up," said Schmidt.

This exercise works the entire body, developing the chest, quads, and biceps in the clean, and working the muscles in your deltoids, triceps, and forearms during the overhead press. Schmidt points out that this exercise can be done one hand at a time or with one bell in each hand simultaneously.

Forward lunge with rotation

Certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor Cheryl Russo suggests a forward lunge with rotation while holding the kettlebell in both hands. This movement "works the muscles of the legs by pushing off the heel and really hits the glutes and hamstrings," she says. Russo continues to explain that by adding in the rotation, you are able to work on balance and core stability.

This is a great functional movement, but if you're just getting started, you can always begin without using a weight so you can get your form down, and then add in the kettlebell when you're ready.

​Putting it all together

As you can clearly see, these movements are all fantastic but they can be quite complicated, especially at first. Ux put it best when he said, "the only cautions I have with kettlebells is that most of the moves are fairly technical and require a good deal of focus." He continued on to suggest that when you're first getting started, you focus on technique before you even begin to think about the weight or number of reps you're going to complete.

Once your form is down, then it is time to put these moves to work. This is a great 20-minute ladder workout that combines a few of the movements we just discussed. So dust off that kettlebell and get to work! Safely, of course.