Kettlebell Exercises

Nadia Santiago
weights in gym

Have you considered adding exercises with a kettlebell to your workout routine? Kettlebell training is a great way to maximize your workouts by recruiting more muscles and using minimal equipment.

Lower Body Exercises

The following exercises are meant to work the muscles of your lower body, your legs.

Kettlebell Squat

Kettlebell squats work multiple muscle groups including your glutes (butt), quadriceps (front of leg), deltoids (shoulders), upper traps (upper back), and the biceps (fronts of arms). The kettlebell squat is great for overall mobility and for increasing the power in your legs for activities such as jumping.

Kettlebell Squat
  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip width apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell by the sides of the handle in front of your chest.
  3. Press your hips back and sit them down into your squat. Make sure you keep your heels on the ground and your knees track along the same line as your toes. Keep your shoulder blades tucked together on your back and your abdominals engaged.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and drive up through your heels to a standing position.

Kettlebell Deadlift

The main muscles worked in this exercise are the glutes, the hamstrings, and the erector spinae (lower back muscles). The kettlebell deadlift is known to increase flexibility in the hamstrings and aid in strengthening the lower back.

Kettlebell Deadlift
  1. Place the kettlebell between your feet and hinge at the hips, bending over forward.
  2. Grip the handle with both hands.
  3. With a flat back, simultaneously squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to come to a standing position. Be careful not to round your mid or lower back while completing this motion. Doing so can easily lead to injury.

Kettlebell Side Lunge

The main muscles worked in this exercise are the glutes, the quadriceps, and the adductors (muscles of the inner hip). The kettlebell side lunge is a fantastic move for trimming and increasing flexibility in the inner thighs. It can also enhance agility in lateral (side to side) movement. As with any single sided move, make sure to repeat the exercises on the other side.

Kettlebell Side Lunge
  1. Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your hips.
  2. Step your feet apart so the distance between them is nice and wide.
  3. Bend your right knee and hinge at the hips, pressing them toward the wall behind you. The left leg should remain straight and both feet should stay flat on the floor through this movement.
  4. Drive through the center of your right foot to straighten the leg.

Kettlebell Reverse Lunge

The main muscles worked in this exercise include the glutes, the quadriceps, and the obliques (muscles along your side). If you're a runner, the kettlebell reverse lunge is a perfect move to help increase your speed. It is also a quick way to increase the size of your thighs. Make sure to repeat on the second side.

Kettlebell Reverse Lunge
  1. Stand with the kettlebell in your right hand, feet together, arm along your side.
  2. Step your right foot back and lower your back knee towards the floor. Your left heel should remain on the floor, and your torso should remain tall so your shoulders stack over your hips. Also, make sure your left knee remains at about a 90 degree angle as you lower your right knee.
  3. Drive through your left heel to rise up and step your right foot to the starting position.

Upper Body Exercises

The following kettlebell exercises are meant to work the muscles of your upper body, including your arms, your shoulders, your back, and your midsection.

Kettlebell Suitcase Carry

The main muscles worked in this exercise are the shoulders, the biceps, and the obliques. The kettlebell suitcase carry is a solid move for increasing abdominal strength and grip strength. Once you've completed this exercise on one side, switch to the other.

Kettlebell Suitcase Carry
  1. Stand tall, with your feet together and the kettlebell in one hand by your side.
  2. Draw your shoulder blades together on your back and engage your abdominals.
  3. Bend your elbow and lift the kettle bell to thigh or hip level, as if carrying a suitcase. Avoid letting the shoulder rise or tilt forward as you complete this motion.
  4. Either stand in place or walk around the room slowly for increased difficulty.

Kettlebell Curl

The main muscles worked in this classic exercise are the biceps and the obliques. Why not use a dumbbell? The benefit of using a kettlebell to curl is that, due to the size and shape of the tool, you also increase your grip strength. Don't forget to repeat on the other side.

Kettlebell Curl
  1. Stand tall, with your feet hip distance apart.
  2. Place the kettlebell in your right hand and let it rest against the front of your right thigh with your palm facing forward.
  3. Keeping your shoulders drawn together on your back and your abdominals engaged, bend your arm at the elbow and draw your hand up to shoulder level.
  4. Slowly release the kettlebell back to the starting position.

Kettlebell Overhead Press

The main muscles worked in this exercise are the deltoids, pecs (chest), the traps, and the triceps (back of your upper arms). The kettlebell overhead press is a great move for increasing stability in the spine and building muscle along the shoulder line. Once you've completed your reps, switch hands and begin again on the second side.

Kettlebell Overhead Press
  1. With one hand, lift the kettlebell to shoulder level, resting the weight against the back of your shoulder.
  2. Engage your abdominals to lengthen your spine.
  3. Press the kettle up overhead so your arm lines up alongside your ear. While performing this motion, avoid raising the shoulder or allowing it to rotate internally, which can cause excessive tightness and overuse.
  4. Lower the kettlebell back to the starting position against the back of the shoulder.

Kettlebell Three Point Row

The main muscles worked in this exercise are the lats (sides of your back), the lower traps (middle back), the rhomboids (upper back), and the biceps. This move is known to help increase mobility in the spine, flexibility in the chest, and postural alignment. It also works to tone and stabilize the muscles around your midsection. When you are done on the first side, repeat on the second side.

kettlebell three-point row
  1. Place the kettlebell alongside a bench or box.
  2. Bending over with a flat back, place one hand on the box, the other hand on the kettlebell. In this position, your body should tilt at an angle of about 45-90 degrees.
  3. Grip the kettlebell and drive your elbow back until your hand aligns with your chest. Make sure to keep your abdominals engaged throughout this motion so your back remains flat. Also, keep your shoulder blades drawn together on your back.
  4. Slowly lower the kettlebell to return to the starting position.

Exercise Demo

The video below contains a live demonstration of all the above exercises. Pay carefuly attention so you can perform the exercises with correct form to avoid injury and maximize muscle engagement.

A Full-Body Workout

Add these eight kettlebell exercises to your routine or combine with other exercises to create a full body kettlebell workout. Pay close attention to your form when you start, and study the video carefully. The more you know before you begin, the less likely you are to sustain injury and the more effective your workout will be.

Kettlebell Exercises