What do you get when you combine the weight and momentum of kettlebells with functional, cardio movements? A full-body, fat-scorching workout, that’s what.
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Kettlebells add resistance and allow you to perform compound, weight-training movements that you otherwise you couldn’t do. The weight of a kettlebell isn’t evenly distributed, so your stabilizer muscles have to work harder to perform each exercise. That’s why kettlebells are excellent for resistance training multiple muscle groups at once — allowing you to drop fat and carve definition all over in a short amount of time.
To get a cardio workout, these kettlebell exercises are best done in a circuit back-to-back, with little rest in-between.
One thing that is important to note, however, is that very thing that makes kettlebells so effective is also what makes them tricky. Usually, we are told not to use momentum or swing weights around, but here that’s it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, so proper form is essential for avoiding injury. Most exercises will build on the basic swing, so get that move down pat before moving on to more advanced moves.
A few keys to proper kettlebell form:
- Always be sure to drive through the hips, keeping your spine straight and your chest lifted and puffed out.
- Keep your arms elongated. Never pull on the kettlebell with your arms when swinging (although some swing variations add presses). The power and movement of the kettlebell comes from your legs.
- Think of your hips as a hinge. Swings aren’t squats. A good key is you should feel a stretch ion your hamstrings. If you don’t feel it, you’re bending your knees too much.
- The swing is explosive and ballistic, not just a pendulum. You make the movement happen; you aren’t just along for the ride.
- Don’t lean back at the top of the swing. If you do, that means you’re core isn’t tight and you’re at risk for hurting your back.
- Begin with a kettlebell in both hands, knees slightly bent.
- Your arms should be tight against your body with the kettlebell hanging between your legs.
- Keeping your back straight and your arms tight to your body, move your hips as far backward as you can.
- This is where you should feel that pull in your hamstrings.
- Once you have maximum tension, snap your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to drive the kettlebell away from your hips.
- The kettlebell should swing close to chest height.
- You may be able to swing higher, but be extra careful to make sure you aren’t using your shoulders to get the extra height.
- Allow the kettlebell to swing back, returning it close to your hips and rock your hip backwards to absorb the momentum.
- Move directly into the next swing, snapping the hips.
Single-Arm Alternating Swings
- Begin with a kettlebell in one hand, knees slightly bent.
- Your arm should be tight against your body with the kettlebell hanging between your legs.
- Place the other hand on your hip, or keep it to the side out of the way.
- To begin: Keeping your back straight and your arm with the kettlebell tight to your body, move your hips as far backward as you can.
- Once you have maximum tension, snap your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to drive kettlebell away from your hips.
- The kettlebell should swing around chest height.
- At the point of weightlessness, bring your other hand in front of your body to transfer the kettlebell to the other hand, removing the first hand to your hip or out to the side.
- Allow the kettlebell to swing back, returning to your hips.
- Rock your hips backward to absorb the momentum and move directly into the next swing, snapping the hips and alternating hands at the top of each swing.
- Lay face up on the ground with a kettlebell in one hand, extended toward the ceiling, so your arm is perpendicular to the ground.
- Lock out the elbow, and pull your shoulder into the socket; don’t press it away from you toward the ceiling.
- Place your other arm 45 degrees out from your body, palm flat on the floor.
- Bend the knee on the same side of your body that’s holding the kettlebell and place your foot flat on the floor.
- Keep your gaze up to the ceiling throughout the movement.
- To begin: Drive through the foot that’s flat on the floor and press the kettlebell toward the ceiling while you roll up onto your opposite elbow.
- Once stable, roll up onto your hand.
- Squeeze your glutes and press through that hand to lift your hips off the ground and slide your outstretched leg under your body and behind you.
- Do not let the kettlebell travel in front of you (the weight of it will put tremendous pressure on your shoulder and may cause injury).
- Keep the weight directly above your shoulder joint at all times.
- At this point, you should kneeling in a lunge with 1 hand on the floor.
- Remove your support hand from the floor and shift your upper body upright, keeping the kettlebell overhead.
- At this point, shift your gaze straight ahead. Drive through the back foot and into the front foot, standing up.
- Bring your back foot inline with the front to complete the upward phase.
- To begin the downward movement, do everything in reverse: While still looking forward, step backward into the lunge, lowering your knee to the floor.
- Place your supporting hand on the ground and lift the hips to slide your back leg underneath your body and place your butt on the floor.
- Roll down until you’re facing up in your starting position and repeat.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes turned slightly out.
- Hold a moderate to heavy kettlebell by the horns close to your body at chest level, elbows splayed to the side.
- This will be your starting position.
- To begin: Keeping your chest up and your back straight, drop your hips to the ground, until your hamstrings and your calves make contact.
- Pause at the lowest point and hold.
- Drive through your heels to return to start.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell in one hand close to your body so the kettlebell hangs between your legs.
- To begin: Clean the kettlebell to your shoulder by extending through the legs as you pull the kettlebell straight upward toward your shoulder.
- Simultaneously rotate your wrist, so the palm faces forward. The kettlebell will flip over.
- Dip your body by bending the knees, keeping your torso upright, to absorb the kettlebell into your shoulder, avoiding a painful wack on the back of the wrist.
- Immediately extend again, driving through the heels, to create momentum to press the kettlebell directly overhead, arm fully extended.
- Lower the weight back to your shoulder by bending the knees to absorb the weight, then lower the kettlebell to the ground to repeat.
Kettlebell High Pull
- Stand in a wide stance with a kettlebell on the ground between your feet.
- Keeping your chest up, lower your hips toward the ground and grab it with both hands.
- This is your starting position.
- To begin: In one fluid motion, extend through the hips and knees, simultaneously pulling the kettlebell up under your chin, leading the movement with your elbows.
- Pause and hold, then lower the kettlebell and your hips to reverse the movement and repeat.
Single-Leg Kettlebell Deadlift
- Hold a kettlebell in your right hand and stand on your right leg, knee slightly bent, with your left lifted behind you.
- Catch your balance. Keeping the knee bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift by folding at the waist to lower the kettlebell toward the floor, your arm perpendicular to the ground, extending your left leg behind you for balance.
- Continue to lower the kettlebell to the ground until your entire body is parallel to the ground.
- Pause, then squeeze through the glutes and hamstring to lift your chest and extend through the hips to return to start.
Kettlebell Lunge And Press
- Start standing with your kettlebell in your right hand, cradled at your right shoulder, palm facing forward.
- To begin: Take a long step forward on your right foot.
- Keeping your weight on your front heel and back toe, lower into a lunge position, both knees at 90 degrees and hold.
- Once in a lunge, press the kettlebell toward the ceiling, fully extending the arm.
- Lower the weight back to your shoulder and drive through your front heel to return to standing.
- Step forward on your opposite foot and repeat.
- Pressing with the right hand. Halfway through your set, switch the kettlebell to the left arm and repeat.