Kettlebell Exercises

1
One-Arm Press with a Kettlebell

One-Arm Arnold Press with Kettlebells
Paige Waehner

There are a variety of ways to work the shoulders and using a kettlebell in this one-arm press is one way to incorporate the core and legs while building strength and power in the shoulders. This tough exercise involves holding a squat position while rotating and pressing the arm up and down, much like an arnold press. This exercise is very challenging on the back, so make sure you can keep the core braced and avoid arching the back as you press the weight up and down. If you have any shoulder problems, you can simply press the weight up and down (palm out) without the rotation.

  1. Hold a moderate weight or kettlebell in the left hand and lower into a squat while taking the right arm out for balance.
  2. Keep the torso upright, the abs braced and make sure the knees are behind the toes.
  3. Keeping this position, begin with the palm facing the shoulder and push the weight up as you rotate the palm out.
  4. Keep the move slow and controlled and the abs braced. At the top of the movement, make sure you're not arching the back.
  5. Take the arm back down, rotating the hand so that the palm faces in.
  6. Continue pressing the weight up and down as you stay in the squat position.
  7. Repeat for 8-16 reps and then switch sides, completing 1-3 sets.

2
Power Plank Row

Power Plank Row
Paige Waehner

This power plank row is a powerful exercise that challenges the abs and lower back as well as the arms and the lats. The idea is to hold a plank position while doing a one-arm row with a dumbbell or a kettlebell. The challenge part comes in when you have to brace your body to keep from tilting, rotating or sagging as you lift the weight up and down. This move is great before a heavy set of dumbbell rows or barbell rows or as part of your core routine. It helps to take the feet wide for a more stable base the first time you try this exercise. Focus on keeping the body straight, especially when pulling the weight up (you'll be tempted to rotate, but try to keep the hips and shoulders square to the mat). If you need a modification, try this move on the knees.

  1. Begin in a plank position, on the hands and toes. Take the feet wide for a more stable base, if needed. Keep the core braced and the body in a straight line.
  2. Grab a moderate weight with the left hand and and pull the elbow up to torso level in a rowing motion, concentrating on the lats.
  3. Lower the weight, lightly touching the floor, and continue rowing while keeping the plank position.
  4. Focus on moving only the arm while keeping the rest of the body in the same position.
  5. Repeat rows for 8-16 reps and then switch sides, completing 1-3 sets.

3
Kettlebell Low Windmill

Paige Waehner

The low windmill is an excellent whole body movement that builds a strong back as well as the abs (particularly the obliques), arms and shoulders - all with a bonus of working on balance and stability. Practice this move with a lighter weight (for example, 10 lbs for women and 20-25 lbs for men) to get your form down before going to a heavier weight. You can also use a dumbbell, if you don't have a kettlebell, although the movement may not be the same - the center of gravity lies in a different place in a kettlebell as opposed to a dumbbell.

  1. Hold a medium kettlebell or dumbbell in the right hand, turning the right toes out and the left toes forward, almost like you're standing on a surfboard.
  2. Take the left arm straight up and lean to the right, kicking the left hip out and bending the right knee as you lower the weight towards the floor.
  3. At the bottom of the movement, make sure you aren't collapsing over the leg and that the left arm is straight. Look up at your left hand for more of a challenge.
  4. Straighten back to start, keeping the left arm up.
  5. Repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides, completing 1-3 sets.

4
Kettlebell Deadlift

Paige Waehner

The deadlift is an excellent exercise for strengthening the lower back, glutes and the hamstrings. This exercise can be done with dumbbells, a barbell or with a kettlebell. The kettlebell offers a wide, thick handle that may be easier to grip, allowing you to lift a heavier weight than with dumbbells. You can also do this exercise with two kettlebells.

  1. Begin with the feet about hip-width apart and a heavy kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Bend the knees and keep the back flat as you lower down to pick up the weight.
  3. Squat as low as you can, keeping the hips back and the knees behind the toes.
  4. Make sure the abs are braced and look naturally forward to keep the neck in alignment.
  5. Pick up the weight and stand up, using the power of your legs to push back to start.
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

5
Stiff-Legged Kettlebell Deadlift

The stiff-legged deadlift is another variation on traditional deadlifts and great for building strength in the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. You can do this exercise with a variety of weights, but the kettlebell allows you to approach the exercise from different angles (for example, holding the kettlebells at your sides or in front of you) and the handle allows for easy gripping. You can do this exercise with one kettlebell, as shown, or two.

  1. Hold a heavy kettlebell in both hands with feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Engage the abs and keep the shoulders back and the back flat as you tip from the hips, lowering the weight towards the floor.
  3. Keep the back straight or slightly arched arched to protect the lower back and keep the weight close to the legs.
  4. Only lower the weight until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, keeping the knees in a fixed position.
  5. Squeeze the glutes to stand back up without locking the joints.
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

6
Kettlebell Squat

Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening the quads, glutes and hamstrings. You can do this move with different types of resistance, such as a barbell or dumbbells. This version shows the move with a kettlebell. The wide handle of the bell offers easy gripping, allowing you to use a heavier weight to really challenge your lower body. You can also do this move with two kettlebells.

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a heavy kettlebell in both hands.
  2. Bend the knees and, keeping the torso upright and the back straight, lower into a squat, taking the weight towards the floor.
  3. At the bottom of the movement, keep your abs in and the knees behind the toes.
  4. Squeeze the glutes to push back up without locking the knees.
  5. Repeate for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

7
Kettlebell Front Squat

Paige Waehner

The front squat is a great functional exercise. By holding a kettlebell on one side of the body, you engage the core to help stabilize you as you squat down. The squat, of course, works the quads, glutes and hamstrings, making this a great, dynamic exercise.

  1. Begin with a medium-heavy kettlebell in one hand, holding it in the rack position - elbow bent, weight in front of the shoulder and the wrist in neutral.
  2. Take the other arm out for balance and squat as low as you can or until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep the knees behind the toes and use your abs and back to keep your body in a stable position.
  4. Push into the heels to stand back up and repeat.
  5. Complete 8-16 reps before switching sides.

8
Kettlebell Pushups

Paige Waehner

One way to vary traditional pushups is to elevate one hand on a raised surface. This changes the load on each arm and fires your muscle fibers a little differently, which is great for mixing up your exercises. The kettlebell can add even more challenge, particularly if you hold onto the handle. You have to engage every part of your arms and shoulders to keep the body steady as you move through your pushups. Be careful with this move - if you're not steady, it's easy for the kettlebell to tilt or flip, which can hurt your wrist. Try this move on your knees to get a feel for it and, if you're not stable, rest your hand on the bottom part of the weight (the bell portion) for more stability.

  1. Get into a pushup position, on the knees or toes, placing one hand on the handle of the kettlebell (harder) or on the bell part of the weight (easier).
  2. Keep the abs braced and the torso stiff as you bend the elbows, lowering into a pushup.
  3. Because one hand is elevated, only go down as far as you comfortably can and avoid straining the shoulder of the elevated arm.
  4. Push back to start and repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides.

9
Kettlebell Burpees

Paige Waehner

Burpees, also known as squat-thrusts, are extremely challenging to the body and the heart rate. One way to ramp up the intensity, if you're game, is to try it with a kettlebell. The idea is to do the move while holding onto the bottom part of the kettlebell below the handle, or the 'bell' rather than putting your hands on the floor.

Take care with this move - if your wrists and arms aren't balanced and straight or your kettlebell isn't flat and stable, it's easy for the kettlebell to tip over or twist, which can cause injury. Try this move, first, by stepping the legs back one at a time instead of jumping to get a feel for your stability. If you feel comfortable, add the jump once you've mastered the exercise.

  1. Stand with a heavy kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Squat down and place hands on either side of the bell under the handles.
  3. Make sure you're balanced over the weight, wrists straight and strong, so that it doesn't tip over.
  4. Step the legs back one at a time into a plank position or, if you're advanced, jump the feet back into a plank position.
  5. Step or jump the feet back to start and stand up. You can add intensity by holding the kettlebell (by the handle) while standing up.
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

10
Kettlebell Rows

Paige Waehner

One-armed rows are a great way to work the lat muscles (the large muscles on either side of the back). One way to vary traditional rows is to do them with a kettlebell. In this version, you're bent over at the waist with one arm out to the side to help you balance as the other arm rows. You'll engage your core to keep your body stable, making this a great functional exercise.

  1. Hold a heavy kettlebell in the left hand and bend over at the waist, back flat and abs engaged, until the torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. Take the right arm out for balance and keep the knees bent to protect the lower back.
  3. Squeeze the back muscles to pull the elbow up to torso level.
  4. Lower the weight and repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides.

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