Full-Body Kettlebell Workouts
A kettlebell is a simple but amazing piece of workout equipment. You can work out just about every muscle in your body with just a few movements and swings. Better still, you can get a cardio workout and a strength-training workout all in one go with kettlebell exercises. Here are some of the best full-body kettlebell workouts.
1) Kettlebell Goblet Squat: Set of 10-15 reps
Kettlebell squats are easy and practical because the shape of the exercise equipment makes it possible to get a strong grip on it in several different positions. The Goblet Squat is perhaps the easiest grip of them all, even though you’re grasping the kettlebell by its sides instead of by its handle. This squat requires good posture, since leaning too far forward or too far back can hurt your back and your neck. Start by gripping the kettlebell at “10 and 2”, holding it in your palms and using your forearms to maintain your grip, with your elbows pulled in so that your arms are straight up and down. Pull your shoulder blades back and down so that your chest is pushed outwards.
Stand with your feet a shoulder-length apart, pointing your toes slightly outward. To do the squat, allow your knees to bend as far as you’re able, bringing your hips straight downwards in a line as far as is comfortable. Then, stand back up, doing your best to maintain good posture. Sometimes it can be helpful to place a bench, an inflatable ball, or even a medicine ball behind your feet so that you know exactly how far you can go down. Just be careful not to cheat yourself: you get the most benefit from stretching to your maximum on this workout.
2) Kettlebell Arm Row Pull: Set of 5-8 reps (each arm)
A kettlebell row is very similar to a dumbbell row; just about the only difference is that it is easier to maintain control of a kettlebell as you bring it up and down because your grip is usually lighter. Either stand up leaning over your knees, with your hips behind you to maintain stability, or position yourself standing on one leg with the other knee supporting you on a bench. Either way, make certain that your back muscles are engaged, since they’re the beneficiaries of this workout. When lifting up and down off the floor, check that your shoulders are square and there’s no motion throughout your torso, since you want the muscles around your shoulderblades to be doing the work and feeling the strain. You can either switch as you go, from left arm to right arm, or you can do sets of 10 on each arm, switching off after the set is completed.
3) Kettlebell Arm Press: Set of 5-10 reps (each arm)
The opposite of the arm row, at least in terms of the direction the kettlebell is going, is the arm press. Stand straight up, pushing your feet into the ground to get the most traction that you can (if it helps, think that you’re bracing yourself for a wave at the beach). Grip the kettlebell with an underhand grip, meaning that you place your palm beneath the grip and close your fingers around it, as if you’re pulling the cord to signal a bus that your stop is coming up. Using only your arm, push the kettlebell up into the air as high as you can manage, then flex your bicep to bring it down and towards your chest, using the same motion you would for a chin-up. Like an arm row, you can switch off each arm, or you can do a set of ten on a single arm and then switch.
The kettlebell arm press will not only work the shoulder, arms and upper body, but will also work the core and posterior chain as you maintain an upright position with the press and recovery movements.
4) Kettlebell Chest-Loaded Swing: Set of 15-20 reps
Much more efficient than your standard sit-up, a chest-loaded swing engages your entire core, boosting your abdominal muscles as well as your back muscles, making it a perfect workout for those who want to prevent back pain. Stand shoulder-width apart with both hands gripping the part of the kettlebell where the ball meets the handles. Pull your shoulder blades in and lean over, being careful not to move too quickly, until you are close to a 90 degree angle and looking down at the floor. You should feel your hamstrings stretching once you’re fully extended. Bring the kettlebell back up by flexing your lower back muscles and pulling yourself upwards to stand straight again.
5) Kettlebell Shoulder Halo: Set of 5-10 reps (each direction)
As the name suggests, the shoulder halo routine brings the kettlebell all the way around your head with each set, circling about to engage core, shoulders, and arms. Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the kettlebell where the handles meet the ball — only this time, the ball should be facing upwards. Carefully flex your biceps to move the kettlebell behind your head and then back around to your chest. Posture is particularly important for this workout: make certain your torso does not have any unnecessary movement as you flex and rotate, and do not bob your head forward or backward.
6) Kettlebell Hip Halo: Set of 8-10 reps (each direction)
The kettlebell hip halo is functionally the same as the shoulder halo, except that you pass off the kettlebell from one hand to the other as you workout. Stand with the same posture and stability, gripping the kettlebell by the handle with the ball facing downwards. Pull your arm behind your body to bring the kettlebell around your hips and pass it off to your opposite hand, then bring it in front of your body to complete the circular motion. Again, keep your posture! Swinging your torso or hips around will minimize the efficiency of the workout, and possibly result in a pulled muscle.
7) Kettlebell Leg Halo: Set of 8-10 reps (each direction)
Also known as the Kettlebell Figure-8, the last of the halo workouts requires a different posture but has the same circular motion. Stand with legs at shoulder-width, flexing your knees slightly to lower your hips downwards. This will lower your center of gravity and make it less likely that you lose your balance. Holding the kettlebell with the same grip, ball facing down, pass it back behind your knees and ankles to your opposite hand, then back around again to the front of your knees and ankles and the original hand. Keep your shoulders and chest square, and don’t let your torso bobble.
8) Turkish Get-up
The Turkish Get-up is the ultimate full-body kettlebell exercise and can take some time to master and execute properly.
The Turkish Get-up requires focusing on proper shoulder stability while holding the kettlebell straight up and raising up from the floor. The video by Pavel Tsatouline below breaks down the key steps needed to properly perform the Turkish Get-up.
Pavel is credited with re-introducing the kettlebell to the U.S. and has some of the most comprehensive kettlebell workout books that break down proper kettlebell techniques for both the beginner and someone with experience working out with kettlebells.