10 kick-ass kettlebell exercises
posted: May 6, 2014
If you’ve swung one then you know; kettlebells are all bells, no whistles. Resembling a mini bowling ball with a handle, kettlebells are great for cardio, strength, and flexibility training. Start by picking up the weight of your choice. Women usually grab between eight and 16kg weights, while men go for 16 to 32kg, though these weights vary depending on the exercises of choice. And hey, no harm in starting low and working your way up. Reps and sets will depend on intensity and fitness levels, for most of these moves, we recommend aiming for three to five sets of 10-30 reps with good form. (We strongly suggest starting with a trainer or kettlebell aficionado to make sure everything’s kosher.) Ready to rock? Our friends at Greatist came up with 22 kick-ass kettlebell exercises. Here are 10.
Developed in Russia in the 1700s for weighing crops, kettlebells soon found their way to strength competitions, and were used in the 20th century by the Soviet army in their conditioning programs
1. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing
Targets: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, legs
How to: This exercise is all the kettlebell rage! Stand up straight, with feet a bit wider than hip-distance apart. Grab hold of the handle with both hands, keeping the palms face down and arms in front of the body. Maintain a slight bend to the knee and drive the hips back, lowering the body—but not too low, this isn’t a squat! Then, in a fluid motion, explosively drive the hips forward while swinging the kettlebell, keeping the glutes and core engaged.
Remember: The motion should come from the hips (not the arms!) as the body returns to standing. Lower the weight back down between the legs while lowering again, and keep this swinging motion going for 12-15 reps (or more, depending on your kettlebell capabilities).
2. One-Handed Kettlebell Swing
Targets: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, legs
How to: This movement is the same as the two-handed swing, except using only one hand at a time. Swing the kettlebell up with one arm, but still swing the other arm to help drive momentum. Alternate hands when the kettlebell is behind the legs; aim for 10-12 reps with each arm.
3. Two-Arm Kettlebell Row
Targets: Back, arms, shoulders
How to: Grab two kettlebells for this one. (Double the pleasure, double the fun, right?) Place them in front of the feet and bend the knees slightly. Next, bend over, grab both kettlebells, and pull them towards the stomach, keeping the elbows close to the body and the back straight. Lower the weights, repeat for 12-15 reps max, feel like a champ.
4. Kettlebell Figure-8
Targets: Arms, back, abs
How to: Looking to impress a certain someone at the gym? Then try this: Start with legs a bit wider than hip-width distance apart, and lower yourself into a quarter-squat position. (Keep that back straight and chest up!) Grab the kettlebell with the left hand and swing it around the outside of the left leg and then back between the legs. Next, pass the kettlebell to the right hand and swing it around the outside of the right leg. Keep this motion going, similar to the classic basketball drill! Can you do a minute straight? (Be sure to switch directions half-way through!)
5. Kettlebell High Pull
Targets: Shoulders, arms, glutes, legs
How to: Turn those toes out 45 degrees with feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Place the kettlebell on the ground between both legs and begin to squat while keeping the core engaged, and grip the kettlebell handle with one hand. Then, using force from the hips, push through the heels to rise to standing, pulling the kettlebell upwards while the elbow drives up. Lower back down and switch arms. Shoot for 10-12 for each arm.
6. Kettlebell Front Squat
Targets: Legs, glutes, back
How to: What’s a squat without a kettlebell in hand? Stand up straight, holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with both hands, keeping the elbows close to the body. Start squatting by driving the heels into the ground and pushing the hips back until the thighs are parallel to the ground or just below. Return to standing, and repeat for 15-20 reps (or more) Just remember: quality over quantity.
7. Kettlebell Lunge Press
Targets: Shoulders, back, arms, abs, glutes, legs
How to: Here’s a new way to spice up those lunges. Stand up straight while holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with two hands, arms bent and palms facing each other. Lunge forward with one leg while raising the kettlebell overhead (raise the roof!). Return to standing while returning the kettlebell to the chest. Try for 10-15 reps on each leg.
8. Kettlebell Sumo High-Pull
Targets: Back, legs, shoulders, arms
How to: We promise no wrestling is involved. Start with the kettlebell between the feet, set a bit wider than hip-distance apart. Grab onto the handle with both hands with the knees bent and hips back. Then, pull the kettlebell to the shoulders while the knees straighten and elbows rise.
Remember: The force is coming mostly from the hips, the arms pulling at the very end. Keeping the core engaged the whole time, move the weight back down by the ground and repeat for 12-15 reps.
9. Kettlebell Russian Twist
Targets: Abs, obliques
How to: Forget crunches. Sit down with the legs bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands at the chest, and then lean back to a 45 degree angle. Here’s the fun part: Rotate the torso from left to right by twisting at the waist and swinging the kettlebell across the body. See how many you can do—with perfect form of course.
10. Kettlebell Windmill
Targets: Shoulders, back, abs, obliques, hips
How to: Hold the kettlebell in the right hand and angle the feet 45 degrees away from the right arm. Raise the kettlebell overhead, lock the arm, and keep your eyes on the weight (which will help keep the shoulders aligned!). Shift your weight onto the right leg and begin bending forward at the waist. Keep the right arm extended overhead as the body bends forward and the left arm is pointed toward the ground. (For all you yogis out there, this should feel similar to triangle pose.) Lift back up slowly, staying in control. Repeat for 6-8 reps on each side.
Click here for 12 more great kettlebell exercises on Greatist.