There are a TON of great moves you can do with a kettlebell. You can easily work your body from head to toe using just that one piece of equipment.
You don’t need a full gym to get in a great workout. You just need a kettlebell or two!
Here are my 10 Favorite Kettlebell Exercises:
1. Windmill – This move is great to work the core and shoulder. It also works the glutes too. Beginners will start with no weight or even something balanced on their hand. Advanced lifters will use a kettlebell. Place your hand through the handle and let the weight rest on the back of your forearm. Your feet should be about shoulder width. Turn out the toe of the side that you aren’t going to work to about 45 degrees. Straighten the other arm up toward the ceiling. You are then going to hinge over, driving the butt cheek of the arm that is up out to the side as much as you can. Then you are going to stand back up, keeping the arm straight toward the ceiling the entire time. As you hinge over, use your leg as a guide. Slide your hand down toward the ground. Keep the arm straight up toward the ceiling. Then hinge back up until you are standing nice and tall. You will feel this in your obliques. You will also feel a nice stretch down your hamstring while you feel the glute of the arm raised working.
2. Goblet Squat – A great move to work your entire body. While it targets the legs, front-loading the kettlebell also really engages the abs. Take one kettlebell and turn it upside down, holding it on the bell. Set your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Keep the kettlebell in at your chest. Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Sit your butt back and keep your weight in your heels as you squat down. Keep your chest up and don’t let your back round forward. Sink your butt down as low as you can, keeping your heels on the ground. Then, driving through your heels, come back to standing. Do not lean or rock forward as you stand up. Come all the way up and squeeze your glutes at the top then sink back down. You may also do a double racked kettlebell front squat to make the weight heavier if you don’t have a single bell heavy enough. You can do front squat with a barbell or sandbag instead. Try to use as heavy a weight as possible, moving up or down but keeping your reps right around 20 per minute. If you do more than 22, go up in weight. If you complete fewer than 18, go down in weight.
3. Single Leg Deadlift – A great move to improve your balance and core strength. It also works your entire backside! Stand on one foot with the knee of that standing leg slightly bent. Hinge over at your hips, sweeping the other leg back toward the wall behind you. Pretend you are driving the heel of that foot straight into the wall behind you. Lean forward with your upper body as you hinge forward, keeping the back nice and flat. Make sure that as you hinge, you are sitting into the heel of your standing leg. Do not lean forward and come up onto your toes. To stand back up, drive through the heel of your standing leg and squeeze your glute at the top. Try not to tap the other foot down at all or at least not till you are fulling standing. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg. To make the move harder, do a 3-5 count lower down toward the ground. Take 3-5 seconds to hinge over and then push straight back up. If that is still easy, then add a little bit of weight.
4. Overhead Carry – A great core and shoulder stability move. You can do an overhead carry with kettlebells in each hand or a unilateral carry with a kettlebell in one hand. I love the unilateral carry because it really works your core. Take one kettlebell and place your hand through the handle. Rest the kettlebell on the back of your forearm. Press your hand up toward the ceiling, straightening your arm up by your ear. Do not arch your low back. Keep your core tight and your arm up straight toward the ceiling. Do not lean to either side. Walk 20-50ft holding the kettlebell still overhead and then switch the bell to the other hand. If you don’t have much space, hold it overhead and walk around for at least 15-20 seconds. Make sure you keep the arm straight overhead and don’t feel it in your low back. If you can’t keep the arm straight up or feel it in your low back, a bottoms up carry may be a better option to work your core and shoulder.
5. Push Up to Dip – This move really works your core and upper body. Doing the push up to dips really blasts your triceps. Set up two kettlebells. The kettlebells should be narrow enough that you can only really slide your feet through. They should be about hip-width apart. Perform two push ups with your hands on the kettlebell handles. The handles should be right outside your chest. You can do these from your knees or your toes. Then swing your legs through and perform two dips. The more you “swing” through and the less you walk back and forth through the kettlebells, the more challenging the move will become. Make sure that when you do the dip, your butt is back by the kettlebell. Also, the straighter your legs are, the harder the move will be. Bend your knees and walk your feet back toward your butt to make the move easier. This move can also be regressed by doing it on an incline. You can use a bench and do two push ups followed by two dips off the bench. One rep is 2 push ups followed by 2 dips. So you will end up doing a minimum of 6 push ups and 6 dips.
6. Kettlebell Swing – A great move to strengthen your glutes and even your back. Set the kettlebell down on the ground and slightly in front of you. Place your hands on the handle. Hinge over, bending your knees slightly and pushing your butt back as you lean forward. Keep your back flat. Then hike the kettlebell back between your legs like you would a football. Pull it back and up between your legs. Then squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward as you stand up nice and tall. Pop your hips forward and propel the kettlebell up. Do not worry how high it goes. It shouldn’t go higher than your shoulders. Keep your glutes tight and wait for your forearms to connect with your hips before you hinge back over and bring the kettlebell back. The kettlebell should drive the movement. Do not lean forward and hinge over before the kettlebell comes back down. You want to maintain the connection between your hips and forearms to protect your low back. Also, don’t allow the kettlebell to sink low between your legs. You want the kettlebell up close to your crotch. For more swing variations, click here.
7. Turkish Get Up – A full body move that everyone needs to do. It improves your coordination and works to strengthen all the stabilizing muscles of your core. Start by lying on your back on the ground with your legs out straight. Then drive your right arm up straight and have your fist pointing up toward the ceiling. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the ground. Straighten your left arm out to the side (not straight out at shoulder height, but not right by your body). Keeping your right arm straight up and pointed toward the ceiling at all times (it can even help to balance something on your knuckles to remind you of this while you are learning), roll up on to your left forearm. Prop yourself up nice and tall on your left forearm. Press through your right foot on the ground. Do not let your right knee cave in and keep your left leg out straight on the ground. Once up on your forearm, press up onto your left hand with your left arm going straight. Sit up nice and tall. Do not shrug your shoulders. And remember, your right arm is always straight and pointing straight toward the ceiling. Then from the seated position you are going to bridge up, lifting your hips up as high as you can. You will press down through your left hand as well as your left heel and right foot. Keep your right foot flat on the ground and your left leg out straight. Do not let your right heel come up. From the bridge position, slide your left leg back and under you so that you are in a kneeling position with your hand on the ground. Make sure you swing your leg back enough so you are in a strong supported kneeling position that will allow you to lift your left hand off the ground. Staying nice and tall, lift your left hand and come to a kneeling position. Do not lean forward of slouch forward as you lift your hand up off the ground. With your right arm still pointing up at the ceiling, stomp your right foot into the ground and come up to standing, bringing your left foot forward to be even with your right foot. Once standing, you will reverse the steps until you are again lying on your back. You will first go back to kneeling, stepping your left foot back. You will then place your left hand down on the ground out to the side and just a little back from your left knee. You will then bridge up and swing your left leg through so it is out straight in front of you. As you bridge, keep your right heel firmly planted on the ground. From there, you will return to a seated position supported by your left hand. Then you will relax down to your forearm and finally roll on to your back. Do not slouch as you move back down. Keep a nice tall posture throughout the entire move. Repeat 3-5 reps on this right side before switching. You can also do this move with either a sandbag over your shoulder or a kettlbell or dumbbell in the raised hand. Beginners may just want to start by balancing something on their knuckles.
8. Halos – A great move to strengthen your shoulders, improve your shoulder mobility and open up your upper back. Stand with your feet not wider than hip-width apart . Grab the kettlebell by the handle with one hand on each side close to where the handle attaches to the bell. Turn the bell upside down and hold it upside down in front of your face. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight as you begin to circle the bell around your head. Point the bottom of the kettlebell backward as you circle it around the side of your head. As you drop it down behind your head, reach the bottom of the kettlebell down between your shoulder blades. Your elbows should point up toward the ceiling. Continue the circle and bring it around the other side and back in front of your face. Then go back the way you just came. Keep alternating directions until all reps are complete. Do not tuck your chin or move your head or core as you circle. Everything should be tight and still. Only the kettlebell is moving. Beginners will do fewer reps and go lighter.
9. One Arm Row – This is a great move to strengthen your back. To do this move, you can simply hinge over or you can hinge over and place your hand on your leg or a table, chair, bench or box. Keep your knees slightly bent. You can stand with your legs together or in a staggered stance. Hinge over, pushing your butt back. Your back should stay nice and flat as you lean forward. Extend the arm with the kettlebell down by your side. Place your other hand on the bench for support. Do not let your arm with the kettlebell rotate your body. Keep your back flat and don’t reach. Then row the kettlebell up toward your chest, keeping your arm in tight to your body. Drive the elbow up to the ceiling, rowing the bell in right below your pec. Do not shrug your shoulder. Then slowly lower the bell back down. Do not let your back round or reach to try to get the bell closer to the ground as you lower. Complete all reps on one side before switching. If you don’t have a heavier weight, but need more of a challenge, slow down the tempo of your reps.
10. Racked Lunge – A great move to work your core and legs. Really targets the glutes. Stand with your feet together. Rack the kettlebell on one side of your body. To rack the kettlebell, you will put your hand through the handle, settling the handle low on your hand. You will let the bell rest on the back of your forearm. Then grip the handle and pull your arm in toward your chest. Do not let your elbow flare up too much toward your shoulder, but just enough to prevent the kettlebell from rolling forward off your arm. Then with the kettlebell in the racked position, lunge the opposite leg backward and sink down into a deep lunge. You want to almost touch your back knee to the ground. Keep your chest up nice and tall as you lunge back. To come back up to standing, drive off your front heel. Bring your back foot forward and stand up nice and tall. Complete all reps on one side and then switch to the other leg. To advance the move, rack the kettlebell on the same side as the leg that lunges backward. Make sure you do not lean forward or to the side. Keep your torso up nice and tall. Beginners may not want to lunge as low to begin and will use a lighter weight if they even use any.
BONUS: Farmer’s Carry or Farmer’s Walk – A great move to work the entire body and improve grip strength. Hold heavy kettlebells in each hand. Do not let them rest on your legs. Hold them just off your thighs. Walk around for 30 seconds, maintaining perfect posture. You want to use weights that challenge you and make you want to drop them just before the time is out. Do not let your head jut forward or your shoulders round. Do not let the weights rest on your legs. Keep your core tight and glutes engaged as you walk with your shoulders down and back and your head up. You can also do a unilateral farmer’s carry, which means you only carry a kettlebell in one hand. This is a great move to really work the core and your obliques as it forces you to stabilize while imbalanced.
Not included on this list are some of the more complex kettlebell lifts done in kettlebell competitions. While I love those lifts like the Long Cycle, Jerk and Snatch those moves are more complicated and need to be learned under supervision. All of these moves are more basic and can be use by beginner and advanced lifters a like.
What are your favorite kettlebell moves?
NOTE: For the moves above, I like to use competition kettlebells, especially for the push ups to dips because they are the same size no matter what weight and they are super stable.