Top Kettlebell Exercises for the 6 Major Muscle Groups
Want an all-inclusive workout that can hit all the major muscle groups, providing strength, flexibility, cardiovascular improvement, and ease of use? Enter kettlebell exercises for the major muscle groups.
What are Kettlebells and Why You Should Use Them?
Kettlebells are rounded balls of metal with a somewhat flat bottom surface and a handle on top. They are usually made of iron or steel and can come in all kinds of colors and weights. Although they might resemble something from the dumbbell family, they really are quite different due to their unusual structure and off-center weight distribution. Most of the exercises you do with kettlebells will involve pressing or swinging motions.
Because of their unique shape and the way you need to move your body to lift the weight, most kettlebell exercises also work multiple body parts at the same time. That said, you can focus on major muscle groups with certain exercises while also exercising the supporting muscles.
Kettlebells offer a great and relatively cost-effective way to work your entire body, while helping build strength, bolster posture, and improve flexibility and balance. Lastly, as you’ll discover, a kettlebell workout also provides a great cardiovascular challenge.
Top Kettle Exercises for Each Muscle Group
Kettlebell Exercises for the Chest
Kettlebell Double Presses—start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold a kettlebell in each hand. Bend your elbows to bring your hands directly above your elbows. Your upper arms should be on the floor at shoulder level to start (out to the sides, with the back of your arms resting on the floor to start). Feel a good stretch through your chest and shoulders. Next, push both kettlebells upward and together as you straighten your arms, squeezing your chest through the movement. Slowly return the weight to the starting position and repeat.
Single-Arm Floor Press—start by lying on the floor with your legs straight. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand with your palm facing you. Bend your arm to bring it up to be in line with your shoulder. Next, press the weight upward as you straighten your arm and rotate slightly so your wrist faces away from you at the top of the movement. Slowly return the weight to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on the right side and then switch to the left.
Kettlebell Exercises for the Back
Kneeling Single-Arm Rows—start with two kettlebells on the floor in front of you, about shoulder-width apart. Get on your knees and lean forward with your arms outstretched and place a hand on each kettlebell so you are in a stable position. Brace your back and core and lift the right kettlebell up by bending your elbow and rowing your arm back and upwards until your upper arm is parallel with the ground. Keep your elbow tucked to your side. Return the weight back down to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Alternatively, you can kneel over a bench with one knee and hand stabilizing the body on the bench, one foot flat on the floor, and rowing with that arm.
Figure 8s—start with your legs a little wider than hip-width apart. Grab a light kettlebell in your right hand and squat down, bending slightly forward. Swing the kettlebell around the outside of your right leg and then forward in between your legs. Grab it with your left hand as you continue to swing it through your legs, bringing it out and around your left leg. Bring it back to center and grab with the right hand, repeating the figure 8.
Kettlebell Exercises for the Legs
Goblet Squats—start by standing with your feet wide, toes pointed slightly outward, and hold a kettlebell in front of you at chest level. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Squat down allowing your knees to track over your toes. Push your hips back until you are in a full squat position. Push back up through your heels to standing and repeat.
Lunge Presses—start by holding the kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands. Your palms should be facing each other and the kettlebell should be touching your chest. Next, take a giant step forward with your right leg, bending until your thigh is at least parallel with the ground. While lunging forward (or you can do this immediately after the lunge if balancing is difficult), press the kettlebell up overhead until your arms are straight. Lower it back down as you move to the standing position by bringing up your rear (left) leg to meet the right. Repeat on the opposite side.
For an even greater challenge, you can press the kettlebell up with just one arm, alternating arms with each lunge.
Kettlebell Exercises for the Arm
Single-Arm Snatch—start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and place a kettlebell on the floor between them. Squat down, grabbing the kettlebell with your right hand, exploding up to standing and bringing the kettlebell up until it is chest level. Keep your elbow tucked. Continue part two of the motion by straightening your arm to bring the kettlebell overhead. Lower it back down to the ground and repeat on the left side.
Russian Two-Arm Swings—start by holding a kettlebell in front of you with both hands, palms face down) and place your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly while kicking your hips back to swing the kettlebell backwards between your legs. As the weight begins to swing forward, straighten your legs, and swing the weight up until your arms are straight and about head high. Repeat the motion.
Kettle Exercises for Shoulders
Shoulder Press—start by standing and holding the kettlebell with your right hand, elbow bent, and the kettlebell ear height. Next, push your right hand up as you straighten your elbow until your arm is completely straight. Return to the start, controlling the weight the whole way back down to start. Do 10 repetitions on one side and then repeat on the opposite side.
Windmills—start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Place a kettlebell in front of your left foot. Keeping your legs straight (or slightly bent if you’re not feeling flexible), bend at the waist, twisting to grab the kettlebell with your right hand. Swing it all the way across your body and up to the right until it is overhead. Return to the start and repeat. Place the kettlebell in front of the right foot to perform the exercise for the left side.
Kettlebell Exercises for Core & Abdominals
Half Get-Ups—start by lying on your back on the floor. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand and raise your arm straight up above you. Bend your right knee and place your left arm out straight on the ground. Next, push with your right foot to roll slightly to the left and use your abdominals to lift your torso up off the ground until you are in a seated position. Control your core as you lower your body back to the start and repeat on the opposite side.
Kettlebell Halos—hold a lightweight kettlebell with both hands in front of you at chest height, arms out straight. Your feet should be about hip-width apart. Brace your core and bend both arms to swing the weight gently to the right and around your head. Go clockwise for five full circles and then switch directions and go counter-clockwise.