Plus, the shape of a kettle bell lets you work your muscles a little differently than a traditional dumbbell, Jessica Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer at the Hitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. When you take a class with kettle bells, or any other new type of equipment, it's normal to feel a little lost.
Oh, and a quick lesson on the lingo: The “ball” refers to the heavy sphere at the bottom, and the handle is the part attached to it. The handle is also referred to as the “horns,” and can be gripped at the top, on the sides, or near the base where it meets the ball.
Adding a kettle bell increases the resistance your body has to work against to stand back up, challenging your muscles even more. In addition, holding the kettle bell close to your chest helps you nail proper form.
“When you pick up heavy grocery bags, you should squat down like this so you don't hurt your back.” Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, gripping the sides of the kettle bell handle with both hands at chest height.
They also secretly challenge your core, since you have to keep your abs tight to avoid arching your back. Sims says to choose a heavier weight with a dead lift—since you're not bending your elbows at all, you're mostly using your glutes, which are likely the strongest muscles in your body.
Hinge at your hips and push your butt back as you lower your torso and the weight toward the ground. “Make sure that you don’t let the kettle bells swing, keep them stable by your side like actual suitcases,” Sims says.
Push through your heels, putting most of the weight on the back foot, to return to the starting position. Adding weight to a sit-up adds an extra challenge for your core, and the press at the top works your shoulders and arms, too.
For these sit-ups, Sims says you can either keep your knees bent or put them in butterfly position, depending on what feels comfortable for your hips. Start in a sit-up position, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
Kettle bell swings are great for your butt, legs, and lower back, Sims says. You can probably go heavy here, but she suggests nailing the technique with a lighter kettle bell before adding too much weight.
To perform a swing with proper form, you have to “thrust your hips aggressively to get the kettle bell up, don't use your arms,” Sims explains. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with both hands.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand back up; use the momentum from your hips to swing the weight to chest height.
Your form here should be similar to a traditional dead lift, except your legs should be wider than shoulder-width distance and your feet should be turned out a bit. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out.
Switching to one-handed swings isolates one side at a time, which makes it harder and helps improve stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to thread the kettle bell between your legs. Bring your now-empty hand to meet the weight at the top of the movement (so you don't slam it into your chest).
Grasp a kettle bell in each hand, palms facing out, arms bent so the weights are resting at each shoulder. Bend your knees just a few inches, and as you stand back up, press the weights straight up overhead.
To protect your lower back and make sure you're using your triceps, don't arch your back, Sims instructs. The key here is to straighten your arm completely at the top—that'll let you work the triceps through a full range of motion. Grip the kettle bell by the ball at the base of the handle with both hands and raise it directly overhead.
Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettle bell behind your head to neck level. The trick is to keep your core tight and hold your torso stable as you rotate your arms and the weight.
Lift the ball to eye level and slowly circle it around your head to the left. Hold the kettle bell handle in your right hand with your arm hanging straight at your side.
Holding a kettle bell above your head at the top of a crunch challenges your core and lower abs—so does the flutter motion of your legs. Start with the weight above your shoulders, and to make it more difficult, bring it a little behind your head, Sims says.
Make sure to keep your core super tight and lower back flat on the ground. If your back comes off the ground, or you feel any strain, bring your legs up a couple more inches.
Stand in front of a box or step, holding a kettle bell by the handle with both hands at your chest. Crew Performance Zip-Front Sports Bra (jcrew.com, $45), Cotton On Body Pocket Crop Tight (, $35), and Puma Fierce Evoking Women's Training Shoes (, $120).
We've all turned up to the gym, short on time and motivation, only to find every piece of equipment we need for our workout isn't free. Faced with this scenario, you have two options: ditch the workout and go home or find a piece of versatile equipment that is underused and undervalued by most of the gym-going community.
Packing the same weighty punch as dumbbells, kettle bells are likely to be found in a dusty corner of the gym. But don't let their underused fool you; this is a brilliant bit of kit, and while the bros are queuing for a bench, you can take advantage.
Kettle bell swings can help increase your heart rate, burn extra fat and tone muscle Corey Jenkins Getty Images Much like the humble rowing machine and versa climber, most gym bros steer clear of the cast-iron 'bells, helping you get an effective, time-efficient workout in, without having to worry about your kit getting pinched.
This and the growing popularity of sports such as CrossFit and Strongman have helped drive kettle bell training and workouts into the mainstream. On top of this, owing to their design, kettle bells are one of the easiest weights to move around during your workout in a short timeframe and can be stored away easily, from your car boot to your garden shed or garage.
“Kettle bells give you the opportunity to move athletically with additional resistance from a variety of angles and more challenging positions,” explains Jon Lewis, a personal trainer with fitness outlet Industrial Strength. Not only that, but exercises such as kettle bell swings can help increase your heart rate, burn extra fat and tone muscle, but where they really come into their own is in building strength throughout your posterior chain.
As these are your body’s biggest muscles, you’ll also torch calories,” says Rob Blair, PT at The Commando Temple. Additionally, kettle bells are an incredibly useful tool for those looking to build their base of strength and mobility, so if you're struggling with your barbell back squat, for example, utilizing the kettle bell goblet squat is a good way of practicing proper form with a safer exercise that can then be upgraded as your strength increases.
Well-suited for swings, presses and carries, kettle bells also lend themselves to more dynamic movements, where a dumbbell or barbell may be more difficult to use. Usually, kettle bell workouts are built on a high-rep range, meaning that several muscles are worked at once and, if kept at a consistent pace, can offer similar aerobic benefits to HIIT training.
Similarly, by performing kettle bell circuits three times a week, you’ll pump up your VO2 max by 6 per cent in just under a month, according to the NSA’s Sac Report. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also found that kettle bell training contributes to a healthier lower back, owing to the loading and movement patterns.
“Kettle bells are arguably one of the most versatile bits of equipment you can find in a gym,” says Sam Wrigley, a London Bridge-based PT. “They're great tools for metabolic conditioning and can be used for resistance work too, if you can't access dumbbells or barbells.”
“Typically, it’s with the kettle bell swing, because of its dynamic nature — moving back and forth quickly at the hip joint”. “This exaggerated flexion and extension at the hip puts a lot of force through the lower back.” When it comes to getting injuries from poor form, the “arching of the back and not engaging the glutes in an overhead press or folding in a goblet position” can put you at risk of busting your lower back.
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the kettle bell with both hands. Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height.
Initiated by a powerful hip thrust from your hamstring and glutes, opting for heavier weights (once the move is mastered, of course) for up to 90 seconds a set will vastly improve your anaerobic fitness, accelerating your heart-rate and ignite a fat-burn that the bench press can only dream of. Instead, by combining a front squat with an overhead press, you're transforming a drab move into a compound, multi-joint exercise that demands full-body power.
In one swift movement, slightly jump off the ground and raise your arms to extend above your head. Land softly on your feet with your knees bent as though you're doing a squat and extend your arms straight above you shoulder-width apart.
Powerlifting moves needn't be restricted to barbells bending under crippling weight loads. Instead, the kettle bell clean and press offers the opportunity to increase grip strength, become stronger in overhead movements (your shoulder press will thank you) and will help you learn the lesson of maintaining a rigid core during all lifts.
Plus, the researchers found that participants performing the kettle bell snatch usually maintained 86 to 99 per cent of their maximum heart rate, making it an essential move for easy weightless. Drive through the heel and bring yourself back up to standing position, without letting your leg touch the floor.
Functional and an easy gym brag, the kettle bell pistol squat is the king of mobility moves. Ideal for oiling the stiff joints of desk-jockeys and gym bros, it'll also set your Instagram feed ablaze.
Helping you master the holy trinity of fitness — stability, strength and mobility — it'll challenge your core (there's more to a six-pack than crunches and planks, after all) and will build sportive-worthy quads while increasing balance. Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, clasping a kettle bell in each hand in front of your chest with palms facing each other.
Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping the kettle bells in the same position and ensuring you don't round your back by tensing your glutes throughout. Keep your arms strong and walk short, quick steps as fast as possible.
Ideal for building grip and plugging onto the end of a tough workout, farmer's walks also pack heavy-duty muscle onto your upper-back while fighting lower-back pain and being a useful conditioning tool and fat-loss. All the benefits of a traditional shoulder press — improved strength and targeting of many upper-body muscles — without the hassle of having to wait for dumbbells or a machine.
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the ketllebell with one hand. Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height.
Increase the demand you place on the shoulder stabilizing muscles by doing kettle bell swings with one arm. Sign up to the Men's Health newsletter and kick start your home body plan.
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This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. When used correctly, kettle bells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning.
As with any technical movement, lift, or skill, proper coaching is required to maximize the benefits. It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.
Though it looks easy to perform, the swing can take a significant amount of time, practice, and coaching to perfect. Unfortunately, this exercise is often performed incorrectly, which will limit your results as well as any further progressions that are based on this basic movement.
The kettle bell goblet squat isn't just a leg exercise; it's another total-body juggernaut that offers more mobility—the ability to move easily so you can safely train with heavier loads—and improved conditioning. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettle bell) it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement.
It's a powerful full-body exercise that requires attention to detail and a respect for human movement. For strong, resilient shoulders, improved hip and trunk strength, and enhanced mobility, the Turkish get-up is essential.
Once you can do the first three exercises—and have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability—the kettle bell press is another exceptional movement to learn. The unique shape of a kettle bell and offset handle allow you to press in the natural plane of motion relative to your shoulder joint.
You just feel like you have more power to press efficiently with a kettle bell, mostly because of the more natural plane of motion. Similar to the kettle bell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning.
The difference here is that the kettle bell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body. The kettle bell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits.
It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders. The snatch requires proper technique, explosive hip power, and athleticism.
This exercise should not be attempted until the kettle bell swing hip-hinge pattern and explosive hip drive are established. Though watching videos is helpful, the best way to learn how to correctly do these challenging movements is to work with a certified kettle bell instructor.
You will find that there is a natural progression when it comes to training with certain kettle bell exercises so it is important to start at the beginning. If you decide to jump to the more advanced KB exercises without building up your fundamental skills first than your technique and kettlebellmoves will suffer and there is a high chance of injury.
Here are a list of exercises with a kettle bell starting with the fundamental and most important at the top. Muscles used: Shoulders, Core Summary: Great warm up exercise that helps to acclimatize you to the kettle bell.
Muscles used: Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Fundamental kettle bell exercise that strengthens most muscles in the body but in particular the Glutes, Hamstrings and Quads. An excellent starter exercise to practice before moving onto the kettle bell swing.
Muscles used: Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: A tricky exercise that will help to balance out the left and right side of your body. Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: The king of all kettle bell exercises.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Slightly more challenging for your core muscles and shoulder stability than the two handed swing. Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Keep the kettle bell moving from one hand to the other as you swing.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: One of the most important kettle bell exercises. Challenge your core and mobility as you stand up and lie back down again, all while holding the kettle bell.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Rather than starting from the ground you begin standing up with this version of the Turkish Get Up. Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Holding the Kettle bell upside down you perform a regular squat.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: The same as a regular squat but holding the kettle bell with just one hand in the racked position. Muscles used: Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Fundamental exercise for your Buttocks that will also help improve your mobility too.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Biceps, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Works into the back of the upper body and is also challenging for the core muscles due to the rotational forces caused by the kettle bell. Muscles used: Shoulders, Biceps, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: A row performed at the side of the body.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: The clean takes the kettle bell from the floor to the racked position in one smooth movement. Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Improve your Clean technique and strengthen your wrists and core muscles with this exercise variation.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Fast and dynamic this kettle bell exercise will elevate your heart rate quicker than almost all other exercises. Muscles used: Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Develop strength and flexibility with this lateral movement.
Muscles used: Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Tough strength based kettle bell exercise that will also improve your hip flexibility. Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Excellent for improving your mobility and challenging your stability as you add a twist into the regular lunge.
Muscles used: Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Tough version of the lunge that really overloads the movement pattern. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core, Glutes Summary: Challenge your core and Glute activation by pressing a kettle bell overhead while in the half kneeling position.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Putting two of the big exercises together you achieve a movement that takes the kettle bell from the floor to the top of the press. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: If you struggle with the overhead press then you can make it slightly easier by adding a push into the movement to take the kettle bell out of the sticking point.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Challenging exercise that will condition the body from head to toe as well as your heart and lunges. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: During this kettle bell exercise your feet never move but you do overload the one side of your body.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: More difficult variation of the lunge that works the upper body as well as the lower body. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Tough combination of moves that uses a double hip bend making the movement very demanding.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Challenge your core muscles and shoulder stability as you perform the lunge while holding the kettle bell overhead. Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Even more difficult than the variation above.
The walking movement places even further demands on your core and shoulder stability. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Good shoulder exercise as well as developing your core and hip mobility.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Take the swing to a whole new level as your drive the kettle bell overhead using almost every muscle in your body. Requires good timing and a high level of kettle bell skill to master this exercise.
Before even attempting this exercise you should be able to perform a good solid plank for at least 60 seconds. Muscles used: Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Start moving your feet as you swing to add another dimension to this classic kettle bell exercise.
Requires good timing and the ability to swing well to perform this exercise safely. Muscles used: Shoulders, Triceps, Core Summary: Great core and grip strength as well as body alignment is needed to press the kettle bell overhead while in the upside down position.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Obliques and core, Latissimus Doris, Trapezium, Forearms Summary: A very practical kettle bell exercise that works hard into the core muscles as the body tries to maintain upright alignment. Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: The ultimate leg exercise that will challenge your strength, flexibility and balance.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Challenge the lunge movement pattern by passing the kettle bell between your legs during each step. You can make the exercise easier by using the weight of the kettle bell to help pull you up.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: A personal favorite of mine. Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Great for challenging your balance but more importantly your core strength as you clean the kettle bell standing on only one leg.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Funky kettle bell exercise that takes some getting used to. Muscles used: Core and Abs Summary: A core intensive kettle bell exercise that will help to mobilize the upper back and thoracic spine at the same time.
Muscles used: Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings Summary: Very advanced kettle bell exercise that takes the swing to a new rotational level. The kettle bell swing, Turkish get up, goblet squat and the clean and press are some of the most popular.
Kettle bell training can activate hundreds of muscles per movement, improve your cardio and strengthen your entire body, all without you even moving your feet. If you have an Instagram account, then we’re willing to bet the face (and abs, Delta, and quads) of Eric Lava has graced your 6.5-inch screen before.
The Innit coach, aka primal.soldier, is known for performing quick-hitting and dynamic kettle bell exercises for his 500,000 followers. He still implements the barbell and dumbbell training he picked up as a teenager from Arnold Schwarzenegger ’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, but his routines don’t require as much heavy lifting now—for good reason.
I use kettle bell movements to maintain my level of strength without putting my body under a lot of stress.” You cannot (and should not) build up to a heavy one-rep max using kettle bells, Lava says, but he likes them for two major reasons: First, you can train hard with them and still tax your muscles using submaximal weight.
Lava likes to spice up kettle bell exercises by adding movement to them, such as a twist at the top of a press or a lunge after a clean. This, he says, is a more athletic way to train and prepares your body for the type of movement you experience in real life—such as swinging a golf club or tossing your kid (safely) in the air.
To add kettle bells to your program, Lava recommends performing them either with light weight, as a warm up, or after your main compound movements as accessory work. If you’re tight on time, you can also string a few kettlebellmoves together to form a sequence or, as Lava calls it, a flow, for a complete training session.
Hinge at your hips, keeping your back neutral, to bend over and grab the kettle bell with one hand. Pro-tip: “Suck in your pelvis as far back as you can, you should feel your hamstrings light up,” Lava says.
“Even if I’m focusing on my chest and shoulders, I like to hit the legs a little just because they’re our foundation,” Lava says. Get into a bridge position with your heels and upper back planted on the ground and your hips high up in the air.
Pro-tip: “Tuck your heels in close to your butt, and instead of thinking about sticking your hips up as high as you can, think about driving your knees forward and extending the hips,” Lava explains.” “This move works your core through anti-rotation , as you’re fighting not to twist away from the elevated hand,” Lava says.
Get into a standard push up position with one of your hands on the base of a kettle bell turned onto its side. Pro-tip: “Make you go slow and controlled with every rep,” Lava explains.
You really want to strengthen the entire range of motion, retracting and protracting your shoulder blades with control.” “When you pick up any object or your kids, for example, you’re hardly ever in a perfectly straight position,” Lava explains.
Brace your core and then pull the kettle bell across and up, rotating your torso outward and pivoting inward with your left foot. You should end up in the front rack position with your elbow tucked down and i and your body facing out to the left.
Pro-tip: “Make sure you allow your shoulders to rotate but that you’re keeping your spine as straight as you can,” Lava says. Pivot on the foot opposite the arm that is loaded and rotate slightly toward the bell.
Then, pivot outward on the other foot and press the kettle bell overhead to full extension. Get into a standard push up position with your right hand on the base of a kettle bell, resting on its side.
Then, drive your hips forward, stand up, and raise your loaded arm 90 degrees, as if you’re drawing a pistol from a holster, so that the bottom of the kettle bell is facing outward.