It appears that more and more people do resistance training almost religiously. Now, most of those people go for the barbells, dumbbells and machines, like everyone else.
There is a small number of trainees however, that rely on other forms of equipment, such as kettlebells, ropes and TRX. Kettlebells can turn out to be one of the most effective parts of your fitness equipment arsenal, even though they are not commonly used.
We’d recommend kettlebells to anyone who has little to no time to visit a commercial gym. That is simply because they don’t really take a lot of space, meaning that they can be used in the comfort of your own home.
On top of that, this equipment is very versatile, meaning that it will give you freedom of movement like no other type of equipment.
Benefits of kettlebells
Before we dive into showing you just how versatile a kettlebell can be, let’s talk about the reasons why it is so effective.
Though it may seem like easy work, kettlebells actually target a variety of muscle groups, meaning that most exercises with it are compound movements.
More muscles engaged simply means more calories burned, and hence, a bigger energy expenditure. On top of that, kettlebells allow for prominent resistance training, which ultimately means a greater hormonal response.
If you’re a male, that means higher levels of testosterone, libido and self-esteem!
Most kettlebell workouts engage the body into a mixed anaerobic-aerobic mode of work. This means that that type of training will give your heart & lungs a good workout.
Ultimately, you will not only make your musculature look visually better, but you will also make your cardiovascular and respiratory systems more efficient!
Development of all physical properties
There are a variety of movements that you can do with kettlebells and they are vastly different from the generic pushing and pulling movements that you can do with barbells and dumbbells.
What this simply means for you is that the development of your musculature visually and your heart and lungs functionally, will just be a part of the whole thing. On top of those gains, you’ll also improve explosiveness, balance and core strength.
Now that we know how beneficial and versatile kettlebells are, we can certainly say that giving them a shot will be a good choice. Ultimately, they will become a mandatory part of your fitness arsenal.
We know for a fact that there is a vast variety of people reading this – Beginner trainees, intermediates and maybe even advanced trainees. This is why, we’ve dedicated TWO workouts for each stage, making for a total of SIX workouts – Two for beginners, two for intermediates and two for advanced trainees!
How cool is that!
Note that these workouts include kettlebell exercises, as well as bodyweight exercises!
Let’s check them out!
Beginner kettlebell workouts
#1 Swings, push-ups and crunches
This first workout consists of 3 simple movements that target the lower body, as well as the pushing muscle groups & the core.
Note that the core consists not just of your six pack, but also the glutes, obliques and lower back.
Each exercise is done separately for 40-60 seconds, with 60 seconds of rest in-between each set.
Note that rest and execution time can be manipulated according to levels of physical development.
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width
- Grab the kettlebell with both hands on both sides of the handle
- Keep your body straight and knees slightly bent
- Bend over and let the kettlebell go just past and between your legs
- Swing the kettlebell up in a controlled manner
- Contract the glutes and the shoulders
- Let the kettlebell swing down with some control and repeat
- Get into a push-up position, where your palms are on the ground, substantially wider than shoulder width
- Keep feet together and body straight like a string
- Look forward and let your body go down slowly, until the chest touches the ground slightly
- Push up explosively, without locking out your elbows
Floor Leg Raise
- Lie down on the ground with your arms by your sides
- Keep ankles in a plantar flexion (Like you are reaching for something with your toes)
- Keep head on the ground and start lifting your legs up
- When your legs are at a 90-degree angle, slightly lift your butt off of the ground to further contract the abdominal area
- Let your legs down slowly, without letting them touch the ground – Keep constant tension
#2 Kettlebell goblet squats, pull-ups, hanging knee raises
This second workout is done in a triple set, where you do 1 set of each exercise for ~20 seconds and go to the next exercise with no rest.
After completing the 3rd exercise, you take ~60 seconds of rest and repeat the circuit again. You can start off with a baseline of 3 circuits. As you progress, you can increase the number of circuits and decrease the rest time.
Kettlebell goblet squats
- Grab the kettlebell with both hands and lift it up to chest level
- Step with your feet at shoulder width and knees slightly bent
- Keep torso straight and head looking forward
- Squat down, until your hamstrings are parallel to the ground
- Squat up explosively without fully extending your knees
- Keep constant tension on the quadriceps
- Grab on to the pull-up bar, with a grip wider than shoulder width
- Hang freely with feet together and body/legs straight
- Look up and pull yourself up, until the chin is at bar level
- Hold the contraction briefly and go down slowly
Hanging knee raise
- Hang on to the bar with a narrow overhand grip at shoulder width
- Look forward and lift your knees up, contracting the abdominal
- Hold the contraction briefly and let the legs down slowly
Intermediate kettlebell workouts
#1 One arm kettle swings, burpees, rope jumping
For this workout, we do the first exercise for 15 repetitions per arm, for a total of 4 sets per arm. While one of the arms is working, its opposite side is resting.
After the first exercise, we take a brief rest and then move on to burpees. The burpees are done for ~30 seconds, then a 30-60 second rest is taken. The total number of burpee sets can start off from 3 and then that number can move up as you progress.
Again, the rest can be decreased as well.
Finally, we back off the workout with rope jumping, where it gets pretty versatile. You can do low-pace, relaxed jumping to finish things off, but you can also include high intensity intervals for that explosive strength.
Do as you please!
One arm kettle swings
This is the uni-lateral version of the kettlebell swing from the beginners’ workouts
- Stand with your feet significantly wider than shoulder width
- Grab the kettlebell with one arm and keep the other hand as comfortable to maintain balance (This usually comes naturally)
- Let the kettlebell down and between your legs
- Swing the kettlebell up controllably, contracting the shoulders up top
- Let the kettle swing back down again while applying control of the speed
- Repeat on the opposite side when done with the respective repetitions
- Stand up straight, then squat down quickly and get into a push-up position
- Let your body go down like you would in a push-up
- Push yourself up, then simultaneously bring your knees in to get into a full squat position
- Squat up explosively and jump
Note The execution steps are repeated at a very quick pace, but this is just the breakdown of the exercise.
This one is the epitome of a natural movement.
- Simply grab both handles of the rope and place it behind your heels
- Keep arms out of the center of your body but not too far from it
- Spin the rope and jump over it just as it passes under your legs
#2 Push-ups, one arm kettlebell rows, hanging leg raises
For this workout, we do 3 sets of 30 push-ups, followed by 2 sets of push-ups until failure. Then we move on to the second exercise, where we do 4 sets of 12 repetitions per side.
After both sides are done, we superset that with hanging leg raises and we take a rest of ~60 seconds. Then we repeat – Left side rows, right side rows, superset with leg raises, rest.
- Place your hands on the ground wider than shoulder width
- Keep body and feet straight and let your body go down
- Once the chest touches the grind slightly, push up explosively, avoiding full elbow lockout
One arm kettlebell row
- Lift the kettlebell up, place one foot in front of the other for balance
- Bend over and place the opposing arm on that leg for balance
- Pull the kettlebell up and above the line of your torso
- Contract the back musculature and hold the contraction briefly
- Let the kettle go down slowly, stretching the back
- Repeat the motion
Hanging leg raises
- Hang on to the bar with hands at shoulder grip (overhand)
- Straighten your legs into plantar flexion
- Lift your legs up, contracting the abs
- Go down slowly, keeping the tension on the abs
Advanced kettlebell workouts
#1 Burpees, kettlebell two arm military press, kettlebell two arm row, kettlebell sumo high pull
For this advanced workout, we start off with 5 sets of 30 seconds burpees, with gradually increasing effort. After the final set, we move on to the two-arm military press with no rest, doing a set of 10 repetitions.
Rest for 50 seconds after that set and do 3 more military press sets of 10 repetitions, with 30 seconds of rest in-between each set. Repeat the same pattern for the remaining exercises – After the last set of each exercise, we move on to the next one with no rest, doing 10 repetitions.
Then, we rest 50 seconds and proceed to 3 more sets of 10 repetitions with 30-40 second rests.
- Stand up straight, squat down and quickly get into a push-up position
- Do a push-up while simultaneously bringing your knees in to get into a full squat position
- From the full-squat position, explode on the way up and jump as high as possible, landing on toes and then on heels to repeat the motion pattern
Kettlebell two arm military press
- Grab both kettlebells and lift them up to chest level as illustrated
- Place feet at shoulder width, stably
- Look slightly up and push the kettlebells up and over your head
- Let the bells down slowly to the initial position
Kettlebell two arm row
- Stand up straight, holding both kettlebells by your sides
- Feet should be at shoulder width with knees slightly bent
- Bend over to almost parallel, keeping the back straight and head looking up/forward
- Row both kettlebells up and until the elbows pass the torso line
- Let the bells down in a controlled manner and stretch out the back
Kettlebell sumo high pull
- Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width and place the kettlebell between them
- Lower your body into a squat position until your knees are bent to a 90 degree and have both your hands reach the kettlebell
- Extend through your legs and raise the kettlebell to your chin with some control, till your arms bend and elbows are in line with the top of your head
- Squat down and repeat
#2 Bodyweight jump squat, pistol squat, Kettlebell thruster, Kettlebell lunge pass through
This workout starts with a relatively playful 5 sets of 15 repetitions on the jump squats, with gradually increasing effort.
We then move on to focusing more on the legs, with 3 sets of pistol squats until failure on each leg. After we are done with the pistol squats, we rest for 40 seconds and move on to the thrusters.
The thrusters are done for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest in-between sets. We then move on to lunge pass-throughs, which are done for two sets of 8-10 repetitions per side.
Bodyweight jump squat
- Get into a squat position with your feet at shoulder width and knees slightly bent (out of lockout)
- Keep back straight and head looking forward
- Squat down with a moderate pace, then explode and jump on the way up
- Land on your toes and then on your heels – You want the legs to cushion the tension from the landing
Kettlebell Pistol squat
This is one of the exercises that will engage your lower body balancing muscles to the MAX!
Let’s break it down.
- Stand on one of your legs and hold on to something for balance, if needed
- Keep body straight and go down slowly, without bouncing at the bottom, as that may hurt the knees
- Note that when you are squatting down on one leg, the opposite leg is straight forward
- Squat up to the initial position and repeat the motion
- Try and eventually do this without holding on to something
- Stand up straight, holding both kettlebells at chest level
- Place feet at shoulder width with knees slightly bent
- Keep your torso straight, head looking forward, then squat down slowly, until legs are parallel to the ground
- Squat up explosively, pushing the kettlebells up and over your head
- Get the kettlebells down to the initial position and repeat the movement pattern
Kettlebell lunge pass-through
- Grab the kettlebell with one arm and stand up straight with feet at shoulder width
- Step forward and lunge down
- At the lower portion of the lunge, pass the kettlebell through the legs and grab it with the other arm
- Move up and do the same on the opposite leg
This tends to be our first and foremost tip for every workout, as avoiding it may lead to injuries. It is important to acknowledge the fact that the body is a biological machine.
Every machine has certain moving components and in the case of exercising, those components work under the resistance of weights. Do some light cardio, mobility and also contraction and stretching of the musculature.
On the first couple of exercises, do lighter sets with less effort to work the muscles in and prepare them for bigger loads.
Focus on performance
We can’t stress this enough – People tend to just chase the end result, without thinking how they will get there. Knowing what you are doing before you start doing it is of prime importance for many things, including exercising.
Instead of focusing on what you want to achieve, focus on how you perform. Ultimately, the adaptation to your heightened performance will be the thing that you desire as an end result.
From then on, you can progress exponentially.
These workouts are fairly difficult, meaning that proper rest times in-between the separate sessions are needed for optimal performance during each bout.
Establish healthy nutrition and sleeping habits and also try to eliminate toxic habits like smoking and drinking. Ultimately, for optimal recovery, you have to consider stress management, as that is one of the bigger factors.
Go up the ladder
This article consists of workouts for ALL levels of advancement! If you are just starting, hang with the first two beginner workouts.
As you get better and better at them, try and move on to the more difficult ones, to grant that new stress, to which the body will adapt (progress).
Kettlebells are one of the most versatile types of equipment, as they are handy, compact and can be used pretty much anywhere. Whether you are someone who is busy and doesn’t have time for the gym, or you just simply don’t want to use heavy weights, kettlebells are your go-to choice.
Ultimately, you are looking to combine a variety of equipment types, in order to develop your body in different ways. Do sprints, use kettlebells, do bodyweight exercises, climb, jump, swim and etc!
Make a functional human of yourself.