In this post we’ll talk about kettlebells, one of my favorite free weights. Kettlebells have enjoyed a massive rise in popularity during the last few years.
And with good reason. The kettlebell is an immensely versatile tool that can help you achieve many different fitness goals.
In this post, I will give you eight kettlebell exercises that will help you build strength, burn fat, and increase anaerobic endurance. You can perform all of them with only one kettlebell, but some also have two-kettlebell variations.
Choosing The Right Kettlebell
In any resistance-training exercise, choosing the right weight is important for the safety of the lifter and his/her ability to correctly perform the necessary movements.
It’s even more important to pick the right kettlebell for two reasons.
One, kettlebells aren’t adjustable, so if you get the wrong size you’ll probably have to buy a new one. And two, many kettlebell exercises are ballistic. You don’t want to get your head smashed in by an out-of-control iron ball.
The recommended kettlebell size for beginners is 16kg(35 pounds) if you’re a gentleman and 8kg(18 pounds) if you’re a lady.
If you feel that you can’t handle these weights, there is no shame in getting a lighter kettlebell. As long as you keep training hard and eating healthy foods, you’ll be playing with the big kettlebells soon enough.
Kettlebell Exercises That Build Strength
The exercises below are slow lifts that can be used to build strength and muscle. There is no explosive movement involved and the exercises are performed at a steady pace.
Exercise 1: The Kettlebell Press (Tutorial)
At first glance, the kettlebell press may look like a shoulder isolation lift, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the arm holding the kettlebell is the only body part that appears to be moving, the legs, glutes, and core are constantly working to stabilize the weight.
The kettlebell press is a compound exercise that can help you build pushing strength. It’s very common to see this lift combined with the kettlebell clean (see further below).
Extra Tip: When combining the clean with the press, pause for a moment after cleaning the kettlebell. This will ensure that you perform the press with your own strength and not by using the momentum from the clean.
Exercise 2: The Get-up (Tutorial)
As its name implies, the get-up is an exercise in which you bring yourself from lying face-up on the ground to a standing position. You do this while holding a kettlebell above you.
This is an excellent pushing exercise that utilizes the whole body. The shoulders, core and lower body get a lot of work.
Exercise 3: The Goblet Squat (Tutorial)
Squatting moves are a fundamental part of most weight training routines. Despite primarily strengthening the lower body, they can help you build tremendous total body strength since they also work the core and back.
The goblet squat, in particular, is great for beginners. It will help you build strength and teach you not to lean forward when squatting.
However, for an experienced lifter looking to build maximal strength, the goblet squat is not the way to go. An exercise that can be performed with heavy weights, such as the barbell back squat, is a better choice.
Exercise 4: The Kettlebell Deadlift (Tutorial)
Like squats, deadlifts can be found in most weight training routines. And like squats, they will strengthen your lower body, core, and back, although you will feel them hit your muscles in a different manner.
What I’m trying to say is that deadlifts are just as awesome as squats, only they’re a pull instead of a push.
The kettlebell deadlift will help you build strength if you’re a beginner, but you will inevitably have to switch to a barbell variation after a while.
Ballistic Kettlebell Exercises
The following exercises are what we call ballistic. They are explosive movements that, when properly performed, can help you build explosive strength, increase anaerobic endurance, and burn fat.
Exercise 5: The Kettlebell Clean (Tutorial)
The kettlebell clean is rarely performed by itself after you’ve learned how to do it properly. Usually, lifters will use it in combination lifts, such as the clean and press. However, if a kettlebell is heavy enough, the clean can become a challenging exercise on its own.
When performing the clean, keep in mind that it’s the power from your hips and not your arm that moves the kettlebell. The clean is a full body pulling movement.
Exercise 6: The Kettlebell Swing (Tutorial)
When performing the kettlebell swing, the lifter brings the kettlebell from between their legs to the height of their chest. Like the clean, the swing is a full-body pulling move that trains the lower body, core, back, and grip. The hips generate the necessary power for the movement, while the arm only applies enough strength to guide the kettlebell where it needs to go.
When mastered, the swing is a great way to boost your anaerobic endurance.
Exercise 7: The Kettlebell High Pull (Tutorial)
The kettlebell high pull is a transition between the kettlebell swing and the kettlebell snatch. Like other ballistic kettlebell exercises, the high pull uses the power generated by the hips to lift the kettlebell. Then, after the kettlebell is up, the lifter pulls it toward him/herself.
The high pull is a full-body pulling exercise that strengthens the core, back, and lower body.
Exercise 8: The Kettlebell Snatch (Tutorial)
In Enter The Kettlebell, Pavel refers to the snatch as ‘the tsar of kettlebell lifts’.
The snatch is the big brother of the swing and high pull. Since it is highly technical and physically demanding, you should not attempt it until the swing and high pull have been mastered. Mistaking the timing of the snatch even slightly can put a lot of stress on your elbow and shoulder, so train carefully.
The snatch is a pull that will build explosive total body strength. When you’ve learned how to do it properly, you can add it to your conditioning workouts and bring your anaerobic endurance to new heights.
2 Sample Kettlebell Workouts
Now that you have an exercise list, let’s see what a kettlebell workout looks like:
- Kettlebell Clean & Press: 8 reps (per arm) /3 sets
- Kettlebell Swing: 10 reps (per arm) /3 sets
- Kettlebell Get-up: 3 reps (per arm) /2 sets
- Kettlebell Snatch: 10 reps (per arm) /2 sets
Of course, you can use kettlebell exercises in workouts that include other forms of resistance training as well. In fact, I recommend it. An example:
- Kettlebell Clean & Press: 5 reps (per arm) /3sets
- Chin-ups: 8 reps /3 sets
- Dips: 10 reps /3 sets
- Kettlebell Snatches: 10 reps (per arm) /3 sets
When performing either of these workouts, rest for 60 seconds between sets. And if you haven’t mastered swings and snatches yet, you can replace them with deadlifts and high pulls respectively.
Kettlebells Are Awesome
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed something all the exercises mentioned here have in common.
They’re all compound movements that utilize the whole body and burn calories like crazy. This is why the kettlebell is one of the best free weights you can use for fat loss. Trust me, I speak from experience. Additionally, kettlebell slow lifts will help you build strength and swings/snatches will boost your anaerobic endurance.
But don’t just take my word for it. Give kettlebells a try and see the results for yourself.
Until next time, stay on the grind.