Kettlebell Training for Fitness and Strength

man working out with 2 kettlebellsKettlebells seem to be everywhere these days, and many people are naturally a little suspicious about them. People often ask if the really work. The first response to this question must be, what are you trying to achieve? Really, whether you are looking to lose weight or tone up, or both, then kettlebells do work.

Kettlebell workouts fill the gap between pure cardio workouts and weight training workouts. Exercising with kettlebells quickly raises your heart rate and allows you to work up a sweat. In addition to this, they really work the glutes and thighs, so make a great toning exercise as well as fat burner and muscle builder.

Great Workout For Powerful Legs

Many people make two false assumptions when the see kettlebells, or people working out with a kettlebell:

  • They are only suitable for strong men
  • They only work the upper body

A kettlebell workout is possibly the best form of exercise for women. Why? Well, kettlebells work the glutes (butt muscles) and thighs. These are two areas which women are often looking to tone up. They also work the core muscles and hips as well as exercising shoulders and improving grip strength.

Kettlebell Workout

Before starting the kettlebell workout it is important to warm up first. Start by doing around 50 bodyweight squats and a few gentle waist twists. This workout focuses on kettlebell swings and therefore works the lower back, glutes and thighs.

This workout is done by repeating the same set several times. Take it easy the first time to learn how to handle the kettlebell. Always focus on building the momentum when swinging with your legs and hips and not by using your back and arms.

  • 20 Double Hand Swings
  • 10 Single Hand Rows on Left
  • 10 Single Hand Rows on Right
  • 20 Single Arm Swings on Left
  • 20 Single Arm Swings on Right
  • 10 Shoulder Presses on Left
  • 10 Shoulder Presses on Right

The Basic Exercises and Progressions video below shows 2 arms swings, then single arm swings, and one arm presses (shoulder presses).

Repeat this sequence and you have a kettlebell circuit. The exercise sequence alternated working your lower body and upper body. So the two hand swings to start help to get your warmed up more, and work the thighs, glutes and hips, as well as lower back and arms. Then the rows give your legs a chance to recover. Next the single arm swings provide a much tougher workout and help to improve grip strength and coordination. The shoulder presses give your legs another rest before repeating the workout.

This is a simple routine that will get your heart rate raised and works the whole body well. Keep your feet well planted, and make sure you have a safe space to exercise in. For safety reasons wear something on your feet, just in case you manage to drop the kettlebell on your foot! If you can repeat this workout 3 times without too much difficulty then you need a heavier kettlebell. This workout will burn fat and build powerful legs. Many martial artists use kettlebells to develop a strong stance.

Kettlebells are not a fitness fad, they are a simple and effective tool for exercising at home. You can get a very good workout which will burn more fat than an exercise bike and tone muscles better than a cross trainer, and you only need enough space to stand in and swing the kettlebell between your legs. Their popularity is mostly because no equipment is required other than the kettlebells, and also because they provide a more dynamic workout than standard free weights.

Many people like the kettlebell for its simplicity, many people find the style of exercise performed with kettlebells more dynamic than standard free weights, and for many kettlebell workout programs are more explosive and develop more functional strength than traditional bodybuilding routines.

Kettlebells come in all sizes, so can be used as part if a cardio workout, or as part of a more serious strength training program.

The following videos show beginners kettlebells training, aerobic style workouts and more advanced, dynamic routines. The final videos demonstrate some specific movements as well as the dynamic and explosive nature of kettlebell training when taken to the next level.

This form of training can provide very good results for martial artists, as timing and grip strength play an important role in the training. Kettlebell workouts are one of the best ways to get toned and fit at home with limited space and equipment.

Kettlebell Basics – Introduction to the Kettlebell

This 10 minute video clip shows some introductory exercises that can be done with one kettlebell – the intro is pretty intense, the basic exercises are much easier. Well instructed by Steve Cotter.

Kettlebell Workouts – Basic Exercises and Progressions

This clip shows a series of kettlebell exercises. There is no spoken instruction, but the exercises shown are clear and easy to follow. Exercises include the one handed swing with alternate hands, one handed clean, double cleans, bottoms up squat, one handed rack squat, two handed rack squat, some press variations.

Aerobic KettleBell Workout on the Beach

To prove that kettlebell training is not just for men, here we provide a Women’s aerobic style kettlebell workout on the beach. Lighter weight kettlebells can be used to provide a more intense cardio / aerobic workout. This workout is lead by celebrity trainer Ryan Shanahan.

Kettlebell Training From Russia

This Russian kettlebell training video shows how kettlebells can provide a very dynamic and energetic workout. This form of training provides a more functional, athletic strength than is created by more modern weight training methods, which are generally designed with bodybuilding in mind, rather than active strength.

Kettlebell Two Arm Swing Workout

This is a good tutorial for one of the basic kettlebell moves, the two arm swing. This exercises the hips, thigh, glutes, hamstring, back and shoulders.

As with all kettlebell exercises, concentrate on keeping the movements fluid and aim for perfect form all the time.

The power should come from the hips and waist and not the arms, so if your shoulders are tiring too soon, then you need to concentrate on using more hip movement to generate momentum.

The 1 Arm Kettlebell Training Deadlift

As with free weight training exercises using a barbell, the deadlift is one of the foundation exercises for producing a solid core. The kettlebell exercise helps to strengthen the core and lower back.

Kettlebell Woodchop Instruction

The Woodchop is one of the first kettlebell movements to learn, but also one of the best for producing a dynamic and plyometric workout which builds athletic muscle. This movement requires a strong stance, with hip extensions and rotations with a large swinging motion.

The Turkish Get Up

No, this is not a news report about the Turks getting out of bed in the morning, it is the name of an exercise, that is often done with a kettlebell, although you can do it with any weight that you can get a good hold of with one hand.

The Turkish Get Up is a seemingly simple but in reality difficult exercise that works the core muscles. It is almost impossible to explain in words how to do a Turkish Get Up. Basically, from lying down on your back your press a kettlebell upwards, then lift yourself up off the floor into a standing position. See, this explanation really does not help, so instead, here are some videos:

5 Drills to Breakdown to Turkish Get Up

This is one of the best demonstrations. It also provides some strength moves to work on the muscles you need to perform this. This tutorial is from The Art of Strength, they specialize in kettlebell workouts.

Kettlebell Athletics Turkish Get Up

This tutorial shows Turkish get ups from a cage fighters perspective.

Jeff Martone Lifts A Women (Ana Browne) with a Turkish Get Up

Now, if you thought that you had to have a kettlebell to do a Turkish Get Up, think again. This video shows Jeff Martone lifting Ana Browne using the Turkish Get Up exercise.

Now it is your turn.

Remember though, if you are unfamiliar with this type of exercise start light, even practice many times without a weight, just keeping your arm help up straight the whole time. Then move on to kettlebells or dumbbells once you are confident with the movements.

Professional Kettlebell Instructors Explaining the Turkish Get Up

Jordan Vezina, a professional fitness instructor, talked to about the Turkish Get Up exercise in 2008. He explains how to do a Turkish Get Up with a kettlebell, a barbell and a sandbag. His main tip is: “Whether this be a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell, be prepared to ‘ditch’ it if you start to lose control.” – always have an escape route planned! Read more:

Jordan Vezina runs where he showcases various exercises and also discusses various aspects of sports performance training.

Kettlebells really are a great way to exercise. What makes them really good is that you can exercise anywhere – at home, in the gym or even in the park. People of different strength can train together  easily buy using different size kettlebells.

New kettlebell classes are springing up all the time now and we do recommend that you get some proper instruction before you start exercising on your own, just to ensure that you learn good form early on to avoid injuries and sprains. This form of exercise is very hard but also very rewarding. To learn more about kettlebells take a look at some of the kettlebell eBooks that are now available online.

More like this in the Strength Training section

  12 comments for “Kettlebell Training for Fitness and Strength

  1. MotleyHealth
    February 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I just did this workout. The first circuit was OK, on the second my thighs failed me on the right hand single arm swings. I really underestimated how hard kettlebell swings work the thighs. Made three sets in the end.

    The rows were a little too easy, but then I have been doing rows and pull ups with free weights. The shoulder presses were challenging enough, equivalent of a 32kg (70 pound) bar, but having to utilize more supporting muscles, more like dumbbell presses.

    Today was supposed to be a light weight training day (following this weight training schedule) but as my new kettlebell arrived today I made a quick change of plans.

    Cannot wait until the next one. Plan to progress on to some single arm swaps, one arm kettlebell cleans and maybe attempt the Turkish Get Up.

    Good fun learning new fitness workouts!

  2. KidK
    April 24, 2011 at 2:23 am

    I’m not sure what those moves in the videos have to do with martial arts, but yeah kettlebells are a great way to get a quick workout and keep in shape. Many martial artists could do to expand their fitness regimens and do a bit more of the general purpose fitness training that kettlbells are so good at.

  3. Toni
    September 22, 2011 at 1:59 am

    I’ve been doing kettlebells for six months now – 15 lbs. I’ve noticed my lower abs, shoulders and back get more definition. Not only that, they are just plain fun! My favorite moves are the swing and deadlift. Sometimes the dumbbells and barbells can get boring but kettlebells definitely add another element to your workout. They are not even expensive to buy, I’ve got mine on a clearance blowout sale at the mall. They are good to travel with too.

  4. MotleyHealth
    September 22, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Yeah, I enjoy my kettlebell. Only have a 16 kg one but did attend a class earlier in the year where there were many to pick from. The power cleans were fun to do. Have you tried a Turkish Get Up yet? They are a bit tricky. I do recommended finding a class or instructor to take you through the moves if possible.

  5. Toni
    September 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I actually have a few DVD’s that I use that take me through the proper form for kettlebells. I haven’t tried a Turkish Get Up yet. I understand that’s like the ‘mac daddy’ of kettlebells moves, lol. It’s something to definitely work toward.

  6. Homer Perkins
    May 1, 2013 at 8:38 am

    So, how EXACTLY do you set up your kettlebell workouts to burn maximum amounts of fat?

  7. MotleyHealth
    May 1, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Hi Homer, the key is really to plan a workout that allows you to exercise for around 60 minutes. This will include some non-kb exercises such as jogging, stretching, crunches and push ups, as well as a variety of swings. Kettlebells are great for burning extra calories as they do provide a balance between pure strength training and cardio. However, use a weight that is too heavy and you will exhaust yourself too soon. So, use a lighter weight and pump out more reps.

  8. lisa g.
    February 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Hello, I watched the Steve Cotter video. Excellent. However, the next 6 videos are not available to watch. Please help with this and thanks!

  9. MotleyHealth
    February 1, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Lisa, I shall get on to this asap. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. MotleyHealth
    February 1, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Lisa, where are you? I ask because I can view all videos OK (I am in the Uk). I am wondering if the content is blocked in some other countries.

    Do you see a message when you try to play the videos?

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