Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. And, if you want to learn more about the benefits of working out with a kettle bell, we’ve got that covered, too.
Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance. You’ve probably seen depictions of bare-chested carnival strongmen hoisting them over their heads.
Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises. Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training:
Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength. Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles.
Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight. This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs. Engage your abdominal muscles and set your shoulders back.
Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you. Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles.
Slowly bend both knees so that your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position.
Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides. Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place.
Make sure your left knee doesn’t extend over your toes. A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate.
When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap. Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor.
With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position.
When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position. Hold a kettle bell by the handle so that it rests against the outside part of your shoulder.
There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups. According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness.
Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity.
Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study. According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance.
You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells. If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises.
Stop immediately if you feel sudden or sharp pain. A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out.
Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness. The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer.
It’s a good idea to have your home equipped with a nice set of kettle bells—you never know when you’ll be stuck inside, especially during the winter. These 10 workouts were provided by Luke Elton, C.S.C.S., SCAC.P.T., a competitive powerlifting coach and weight-training instructor based in New York.
A lighter kettle bell used for a few sets of higher reps (15+) will promote muscular endurance. A heavier kettle bell used for multiple sets of a few reps (5-8) will promote more hypertrophy and strength.
In both cases, choose a kettle bell heavy enough so that you’re nearing muscle failure by the end of the set. One major advantage that kettle bells have over dumbbells is that you don’t need a wide range of weight increments to create a workout with them.
Note that, unlike what you see in most kettlebellworkouts, we’re not having you do the Turkish getup and full swing—even though we’re well aware that they’re two of the most popular kettle bell exercises. Rather, we’ve modified these exercises to more user-friendly—but still supremely challenging—versions that will allow someone of any experience level to train safely and with optimal form.
Use this routine to build strength and burn fat now, and develop the requisite stability and mobility to graduate to more advanced exercises at a later date. When you’ve completed the entire circuit, rest 1–2 minutes, and then repeat for 3 total rounds.
Take a deep breath into your belly and twist your feet into the ground (imagine screwing them down without actually moving them) and squat, keeping your torso upright. Place the kettle bell on the floor and take a staggered stance with your right foot in front.
Rest your right elbow on your right thigh for support and reach for the kettle bell with your left hand. Stand tall holding the kettle bell in one hand at shoulder level.
TIP: “Don’t get fixated on achieving a full overhead lockout right away,” says John Wolf, Innit’s Chief Fitness Officer. “Just going to where your elbow is bent 90 degrees and holding it isometrically is a ton of work for most people.” If you need to arch your back, causing your ribs to flare in order to lock out your arm overhead, you’re not training the shoulder effectively.
Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and hold the kettle bell by its horns, pulling the bottom of the bell into your lower sternum. Draw your shoulder blades together and down (“proud chest”) and cast your eyes on a spot on the floor approximately 15 feet in front of you.
When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, extend your hips and squeeze your glutes, tucking your tailbone under as you lock out. Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and hold the kettle bell by its horns upside down—the bell should face up.
Begin moving the kettle bell around your head, being careful to maintain your posture and not bend your torso in any direction. Set up as you did for the shoulder halo but hold the kettle bell by the handle at arm’s length and make circles around your hips.
They’re simple but offer more than enough ways to make challenging, creative sweat sessions. These workouts were designed by Tyler Mango, a fitness instructor at Brick New York.
Even though there are programming and exercise carryovers throughout these routines, they’re distinct enough so that you’ll keep getting results as long as you don’t stick to any one workout for too many weeks on end.