A Cardio Kettlebell Workout That Will Crush Calories

The Goal Is To Do More
This full-body workout will shape your legs, glutes, shoulders and core. (Image: SrdjanPav/iStock/GettyImages)

Kettlebells came onto the exercise scene a while ago and got really popular quickly because of their ease of movement. However, with most gyms barely stocking a full set and more people not knowing what to really do with them, we seem to have almost forgotten all about them just as quickly as we fell in love.

The good news? You only need one for full-body workout. I've always been a huge fan of unilateral training (one side at a time). This type of training creates more imbalance, which means more core activation. And when coupled with longer sets, it results in greater cardiovascular demand. If you're training at home and don't have a kettlebell, a dumbbell can just as easily take its place.

This full-body workout focuses on legs, glutes, shoulders, core and calorie burn, (thanks to cardio bursts of mountain climbers between sets). And to add more variation to your mountain climber intervals, check out my earlier post for a few different versions.


Do each exercise in the circuit with little to no rest between movements. Finish with one minute of mountain climbers. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat three times.

single-leg lunge with arm extension
This move targets your core, legs, glutes and shoulders. (Image: Jason Wimberly/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Exercise 1: Single-Leg Lunge With Arm Extension
Targets: Core, Legs, Glutes, Shoulders

Holding your kettlebell in your right hand, fully extend your arm high to the ceiling. Place your opposite hand on your hip. Step back into a wide and deep lunge on the right leg (which should be the same side as your extended arm), and then return to standing. As with all lunges, make sure both legs are at 90 degrees and the front knee is directly over the heel. As you lunge, make sure to keep reaching high throughout the movement. Aim for 12 to 15 reps on each side.

squat with crossover kick
This move targets your glutes, core and inner thighs. (Image: Jason Wimberly/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Exercise 2: Squat With Crossover Kick
Targets: Glutes, Core, Inner Thigh**

Take the kettlebell to shoulder level, letting the bell fall behind your grip. As you squat slowly and deeply, ensure your weight is distributed evenly through both feet, sitting deep into your heels. From the bottom of the squat, explode into a kick across your body keeping the leg straight. While a high kick is great, don't worry about hitting Rockette level. Instead, focus on the dynamic movement from the bottom of your squat. From the top of the kick, return evenly to both feet and repeat the movement. Aim for 10 to 12 reps on each side.

side lunge
This move targets your glutes, core and innner thighs. (Image: Jason Wimberly/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Exercise 3: Side Lunge
Targets: Glutes, Core, Inner Thigh**

The side lunge will always be a favorite of mine. By moving laterally from the midsection of your body, you'll use hip abduction, which in turn will activate your gluteus medius. This is a particularly helpful move for athletes who need to change direction quickly.

Holding the kettlebell in one hand, step far and wide with the opposite leg. Hinging at the hips, keep your back straight and core engaged as you sit back as you would in your squat, keeping the opposite leg straight. Here strength is developed in the push-off, so push from the bottom of the lunge in one explosive movement to return to standing. Aim for 12 to 15 reps on each side.

Finish off the circuit with one minute of mountain climbers and repeat the entire circuit three times.


Do each exercise in the circuit with little to no rest between movements. Finish with one minute of mountain climbers. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat three times.

turned-out squat with single-arm snatch
This move targets your legs, glutes, core and shoulders. (Image: Jason Wimberly/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Exercise 1: Turned-Out Squat With Single-Arm Snatch
Targets: Legs, Glutes, Core, Shoulder

A snatch is an Olympic bodybuilding move and has many variations, but all use the same principal. The goal is to use the force from your legs and hips, pulling up through your traps rather than your arms to get the weight overhead. In this variation, you're using a wide, turned-out leg position and alternating arms quickly for a cardiovascular boost.

Place the kettlebell on the floor and position your feet wide and turn out them out as much as you can while keeping your knees over your toes. Start by sitting low, grabbing the weight with one hand and placing the other hand behind your back.

Think about keeping the weight close to your body as you use your legs to pull it off the ground and lifting the elbow to use your shoulders as you would in a shrug or upright row. Bend your knees to return the weight to the floor, then switch hands. Once you have the movement down safely, pick up the tempo. Aim for 12 reps (right and left is one rep).

kneeling wide-shoulder press
This move targets your shoulders, core and lats. (Image: Jason Wimberly/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Exercise 2: Kneeling Wide-Shoulder Press
Targets: Shoulders, Core, Lats**

While kettlebells were designed to work movements, not just muscles, they're still interchangeable with dumbbells and can actually add some varied difficulty because of the grip. To finish off this circuit, simply drop to your knees, engage your core and keep your body lengthened and upright to perform a single-arm shoulder press.

By staying high on our knees, you'll feel the core work to keep your balance, and you'll remove the possibility of swinging momentum to press the arm high. Taking the arm wide to the side as you lower from the press will slightly activate the lat as well. Keeping the opposite hand behind the back, do 15 reps on each side.

Finish off the circuit with one minute of mountain climbers and repeat the entire circuit three times.

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