20 of the Best Kettlebell Exercises of All Time

20 of the Best Kettlebell Exercises of All Time
 

Kettlebells make your gym and home workouts exponentially better—we’d say easier, but that’s not really the case. An all-in-one fitness tool that offers, arguably, the most variety of any other equipment, kettlebells are perfect for every athlete, regardless of skill level. 

“Because of the unique design, traditional pushing and pulling movements can be performed by holding a kettlebell by the handle as you would with a dumbell in presses and deadlifts, says Steve Cotter, director and president of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation. “The space between the handle lets you do high-repetition exercises like snatches, which raise your heart rate and burn calories quickly; while its offset center of mass allows you to change the leverage of almost any lift, making moves like the Bottoms-Up Clean and Bottoms-Up Press harder, and more grip-intensive.”

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced-level lifter, we’ve got the 20 best kettlebell exercises to further your fitness. Choose any of the below five exercises and cycle through them for a complete workout. Make sure to change the exercise selections and/or order to constantly keep your muscles guessing. Get swinging, pushing, and pulling.

*Author’s note: A 16kg kettlebell is a good starter weight for men.

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Swing

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Grab a kettlebell and start with it between your legs, using a two-handed, overhand grip. Look straight ahead. Keeping an arch in your lower back, bend your hips back until the kettlebell is between and behind your legs. Squeeze your glutes to extend your hips and swing the weight up. Your arms shouldn’t be doing the work. Let the weight swing back down between your legs as you bend your hips and slightly bend your knees. Extend your hips and knees to reverse the momentum as you immediately begin the next rep.

Perform kettlebell swings for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat for 3 sets. As you progress, work up to 10 sets; then, increase the weight and start again with 3 sets.

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Clean

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Grab a KB with a loose grip; your thumb should be pointing behind you and through your legs. To clean the KB, inhale, then drive through your hips and pull the bell up, swiveling the handle around your fingers into the locked position. Be careful not to curl the KB or flip it so it crashes on your forearm (you shouldn’t have bruises from doing this exercise). The KB should take a vertical path, not an arc, and it should be pulled up to shoulder height. At the top of the movement, your shoulder should be pressed down (squeeze your armpit), triceps against your ribcage, and the KB resting between your forearm and bicep (nearly in the crook of your elbow). Exhale, then swivel or roll the KB back down to the starting position. Keep your abs and glutes engaged during the entire exercise. 

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps per hand. Rest 1 minute between sets.

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Press

How to do it: Using the directions from Slide 2 (Kettlebell Clean), clean the KB to your shoulder. Remember to extend through your legs and hips, and rotate (swivel) your hand so your palms are facing inward. From this position, keep your eye on the KB, and press it up and out until its locked out overhead. Lower the KB back to your shoulder, keeping the movement controlled. Make sure your glutes, abs, and lats are engaged for added stability. 

Perform 5 sets of 5 reps per arm. Rest 1 minute between each set.

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Push Press

How to do it: This is taking the directions from Slide 2 (Kettlebell Clean) and Slide 3 (Kettlebell Press), and adding an additional component. Clean the KB to your shoulder. Remember to extend through your legs and hips, and rotate (swivel) your hand so your palms are facing forward. Now, instead of immediately pressing the KB, bend your knees, then drive through your heels (in essence, jumping) to reverse the motion and press the KB overhead. Extend your arm fully to lock out the KB, using your body’s momentum, then lower the weight to your shoulder.

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps per arm. Rest 1 minute between sets.

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Jerk

How to do it: Clean the KB to your shoulder using the directions from Slide 2 (Kettlebell Clean). Remember to extend through your legs and hips as you pull the KB up, rotating your hand so your palms are facing forward. From this start position, bend your knees, then drive through your heels (essentially, jumping) to reverse the motion and press the KB overhead. Extend your arm fully to lockout the KB, using your body’s momentum. Keeping the weight overhead, assume a squat position. Return to the standing position, then lower the weight to start the next rep.

Perform 5 sets of 10 reps per hand. Or, using double kettlebells (one in each hand), complete 5 sets of 10 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets. 

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Snatch

How to do it: Place a KB between your feet. With one hand, grab the handle, then bend your knees and push your butt back. To get into the starting position, look straight ahead and swing the KB back between your legs, then immediately reverse the direction. Driving through your hips, bring the KB up (this should be a quick movement). As the KB accelerates and rises, rotate your hand (palms facing forward) and shoulder to punch straight up. Lock the weight overhead. Then bring the KB back down to the starting position between your legs. Keep the reps continuous.

Complete 30 seconds worth of snatches. Rest for 30 seconds. Perform a total of 3 sets, working up to 10 sets with that weight as you progress. Then, increase the weight.

For the Double KB Snatch, place two kettlebells behind your feet. Bend your knees and sit back to pick them up, one in each hand. Swing them between your legs forcefully, then reverse the direction, driving through your hips to lock them overhead in one swift motion.

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Front Squat

How to do it: Using the directions from Slide 2 (Kettlebell Clean), clean two kettlebells to your shoulders. Make sure to drive through your hips and rotate your hands/wrists so your palms face inward. Looking straight ahead, squat as low as you can, pushing your knees out. Pause at the bottom of the motion, keeping your chest up and torso straight. Rise back up by driving through your heels. 

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets. 

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Goblet Squat

How to do it: Hold a KB by the horns (where either part of the handle meets the base). Keeping the KB close to your chest and your elbows pointing down, lower your body into a squat. Push your knees out and allow your elbows to brush against the inside of your knees. Return to a standing position. 

Complete 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest 1 minute between each set.

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Overhead Squat

How to do it: Using the directions from Slide 2 (Kettlebell Clean) and Slide 3 (Kettlebell Press), clean and press a KB with one arm. Your wrist should be facing forward as you lock out the KB overhead. Now, looking straight ahead, bend your knees and start to sink down into a squat as you extend your free arm and hand out (this will keep you balanced). Make sure your head and chest stay up as you descend, then pause at the bottom of the movement before rising back to the starting position, driving through your heels. 

Perform 3 sets of 5 reps per arm. Rest up to 1 minute between each set.

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Bottoms Up Clean

How to do it: Stand, gripping the handle of a kettlebell in one hand. Using a fair amount of force (and keeping your elbow tucked in), swing the kettlebell back just past your leg, then reverse the motion, raising it up. At the top of the motion, your arm should make a 90-degree angle, and the handle of the kettlebell should be level with the top of your head. 

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per hand. Rest up to 1 minute between sets.

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Bottoms Up Press

How to do it: Grasp a kettlebell with tight grip. From a position hanging at your side, clean the KB to shoulder height (bottoms up). It should be positioned directly above your hand, so take care to keep your wrist straight and stabilized. Press the kettlebell overhead.

Complete 3 sets of 3 reps per hand. Rest 1 minute between sets.

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Windmill

How to do it: Start by cleaning the kettlebell to your chest (the bottom part of the KB should be resting outside your forearm). Now, press, push press, or jerk the KB to get it overhead. Lock out your arm so the KB is aligned with your wrist, shoulder, and hip, so the major muscles in your back are supporting the weight. If the KB is in your right hand, position your feet away from the weight (left), keep your rear leg (right leg) straight, and point the hip out. Begin trailing your empty hand down the inside of your left leg. Inhale, and fold your body laterally and slightly forward (push your rear hip out). Try to touch the fingers of your emppty, left hand to the ground. Exhale, and stand straight up—always keeping your eyes on the KB. As you get comfortable with the range of motion (touching your fingers to the floor), work on touching your palm to the floor. 

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per side. Rest 1 minute between sets. 

Watch Cotter demonstrate the move here:

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Turkish Get Up

How to do it: Lying on your back, grab the KB with your left hand, and lift and lock your arm. Bend your left knee, and keep your right leg straight out on the ground. Then, pushing off your left foot, roll onto your right hip and come up onto your right elbow. Push up onto your right hand, and bring your back off the ground. Next, thread your right leg back into a kneeling position. Your arm should still be locked out. From this kneeling position, take a deep breath, tighten your core, and lunge forward to a standing position. Reverse the process to come back down to the starting position.

Complete 1 minute of Turkish Get Ups per arm.

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Bottoms Up Pushups

How to do it: Turn two kettlebells over so the handles are flat against the ground (bottoms up). Make sure they won’t slide on the surface; place a towel underneath, or place on top of a mat. Keep them shoulder width apart; basically you want them to be the same distance as if you were performing a regular pushup.

Complete as many reps as you can in 1 minute.

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Renegade Rows

How to do it: Start in a pushup position with a KB under each hand, holding onto the handles to support your weight. Your feet should assume a wider-than-normal stance to keep balance. Push one KB into the floor while you row the other up toward your chest. You should feel your shoulder retracting and your elbow flexing as the KB comes to the top position, close to your side. Lower the KB, then begin bringing the opposite KB up into a row. 

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets.

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Juggling

How to do it: Using a light kettlebell, stand in a clear space either on a padded floor or outside on grass, sand, or dirt so when you drop the kettlebell it doesn’t cause any damage. Flip and catch the kettlebell by the handle in any possible direction—horizontally, vertically, forwards, backwards. Pass it from one end to another. You will drop it occasionally while you’re learning and getting your coordination down, so have fun with it, and remember that quick feet are happy feet.

“Freestyle” for 10 minutes.

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Jump Squats

How to do it: Hold a KB, placing either hand where the base meets the handle (a.k.a. the horns). Lower yourself into a squat, then jump off your toes. Lightly land back into a squat, making sure not to put too much force on your knees. 

Complete as many reps as you can in 1 minute.

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1-Leg Deadlifts

How to do it: Hold a KB by the handle while you stand on one leg (the same side as your KB-yielding hand). Your free leg should be slightly bent as you perform a stiff-legged deadlift, bending at the hip as you extend the elevated leg behind you. Keep the motion slow and controlled for balance (you shouldn’t use momentum). Continue lowering the KB until your chest is parallel to the ground, then return to the upright position and switch sides.  

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per leg. Rest up to 1 minute between sets.

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Arm Bars

How to do it: Lie, back flat on the ground, with a kettlebell next to your right shoulder. Roll onto your side to grab it with both hands. Roll onto your back and press the kettlebell up, keeping your right arm vertical. Release your left hand and bring that arm to the ground, extending it above your head so your bicep is adjacent to your ear. Bend your right leg and place your foot flat on the floor. Pushing through your foot, rotate your hips to roll carefully onto your left side, all the whike keeping the kettlebell overhead. Make sure you keep your arm as straight as possible. Roll over, to your left side, as far as you can. Straighten your legs to achieve more range of motion. Use your hips to re-position yourself as needed. Start out with a light-weight kettlebell so you can learn the technique.

Perform 2 sets of 5 reps per hand. Rest 1 minute between sets.

Watch Cotter demonstrate the move here:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=sKyoIWGqlyA

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Halo

How to do it: Hold a kettlebell in the bottoms-up position with both hands. Keeping it close to your body, bring the KB around your head in a circular motion (hence the name, Halo). Reverse the motion. Keep your spine still at all times. 

Complete 1 set of 10 reps each direction.

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