Incorporating a series of kettlebell exercises into your workout routine once or twice a week can greatly help to improve your functional fitness (or, in other words, increase your capacity to handle everyday movements like carrying groceries, sitting down and standing up, or hauling heavy luggage). Plus, unlike the more rigid movements you might perform using a dumbbell or cable machine, many kettlebell moves integrate the use of momentum, which requires a greater amount of engagement from both your large and small muscle groups.There’s also the benefit of combining cardio and strength into one workout. Using a kettlebell you can perform fast-paced, compound movements that will challenge both your muscles and your cardiovascular system so you can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. If your aim is to build strength and muscle, focus on using a heavier weight and complete three sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. If your goal is more targeted toward fat burn, use a lighter weight that will allow you to complete 10 to 20 reps at a faster pace. Make sure to start with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up.
This exercise targets your upper back muscles, biceps and abs all at the same time. With a kettlebell in each hand, being in high plank position. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral as you lift a kettlebell off the floor and row your right arm back. Return your right arm to the floor and then repeat the movement with your left arm. (Concentrate on keeping your hips in place. Try not to twist your body. The movement should be exclusive to your arms.) You can alternate between rowing with your right and left arms or perform a single set of reps using one arm before switching to the other.
This move works to build strength in your hamstrings, glutes and core while also challenging your balance and stability. Start standing with your feet about hip-width distance apart. While holding the kettlebell in your right hand, lift your left leg off the ground slightly. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral as you hinge forward at your hips, letting the kettlebell fall towards the floor and your left leg extend up and back. Slowly return to the starting position (try not to let your left leg touch the ground) and repeat for the desired number of reps before switching to the other side.
This double-duty exercise will challenge your lower body while also very specifically targeting the triceps muscles in your arms. Hold the kettlebell with both hands over your head. As you squat down (be sure to keep your core tight and your spine neutral) flex your elbows to lower the kettlebell down behind your head, making sure to keep your elbows close to your head (don’t let them flair out). Slowly return to a standing position while simultaneously re-extending your arms over your head.
The seated twist works to strengthen your core, specifically your obliques, and adding the overhead press to this move means you’ll target your shoulders, too. Begin seated with your knees slightly bent and the kettlebell in your hands (you can rest your heels on the ground or for a bigger challenge, hold your feet in the air). Your torso should lean back slightly so that your core is engaged. Keep your core tight as you touch the kettlebell down to the floor on your left and then twist to the right as you raise it up above your head until your arms are stretched above you completely. Lower the kettlebell back to the floor on your left by reversing the twist. Repeat the desired number of reps, then switch to the other side.
This is an intricate move that beginners should first practice without using weight, but when done correctly the kettlebell swing is a great exercise for increasing your lower-body and core strength. Plus, it will increase your heart rate for improved cardiovascular fitness. Hold the kettlebell in both hands, start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Lower your body towards the floor as if about to sit back into a chair and so that the kettlebell is hovering just above the floor. (In the down position your thighs should almost be parallel to the floor and your knees directly over your ankles.) Keep your spine neutral and your core engaged as you use your quads, glutes and hamstrings to swing the kettlebell forward and return to standing position, making sure to thrust your hips forward and squeezing your glutes at the top. (At the top of the movement your arms should be extended directly in front of you with the weight in the air.) With control, follow the momentum of the weight to return back to the staring position.
You can perform this exercise, which targets the upper and middle back and the biceps, using one arm at a time while leaning on a bench (as pictured here) or in a bent-over standing position with both feet on the ground and rowing both arms simultaneously. Hold the kettlebell handle with your arm(s) extended. Keep your core muscles tight and your spine neutral as you “row” the weight up. Make sure to keep your elbow(s) tucked in close to your body and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades as you lift the kettlebell.
This compound move will target your quads, glutes and inner thighs while also working your shoulder muscles. Begin standing tall with your feet pointed slightly outward and slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and extend your arms so it hangs down between your legs. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral as you squat down. As you make your way out of the squat by returning to the starting position, bend your elbows, drawing your hands to your chin to complete the row.
Begin in high-plank position with the kettlebell in your right hand. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral as you slowly lift the weight up by rowing your arm back while simultaneously rotating your body to open up into a side plank and eventually extending your arm fully above your head. Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching to the other side. (This is another move that beginners should take extra precaution with and even first practice without using any weight.)
This two-for-one lower-body move will target your quads, glutes and inner thighs as well as your shoulders. Start standing tall with tour feet about hip-width distance apart. Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and extend your arms so it hangs down near your legs. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral as you lunge to the right while also bending your elbows and drawing your hands to your chin to “row” the kettlebell upward. Step your right leg back to the center and lower your arms to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching to the other side.
Like the single-leg deadlift, this move will target your hamstrings, glutes and core, but while working both legs with the same motion simultaneously. Start with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Keep your spine neutral, your chest out, and your head up as you bend down to grab the kettlebell. Keep your arms straight as you use your glute, hamstring and core muscles to raise your torso until you’re standing completely upright. Slowly return to the starting position.