7 Kettlebell Exercises That Are Better Than Weight Machines

Kettlebells make a great swap for machine exercises.
Image Credit: klebercordeiro/iStock/GettyImages

While you may be inclined to hit the machines at the gym (after all, they're easier to use than free weights), you may want to swap some of those exercises for kettlebells. Especially if you're looking for total-body strength, free weights will target your core and stabilizing muscles more than machines, according to the American Council on Exercise.


But if you're wondering which swaps are most effective, Henry Halse, certified strength and conditioning specialist, has you covered. Replace some of your common machine habits with these kettlebell exercises:

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Read more: 8 Dumbbell Exercises That Are More Effective Than Weight Machines

1. Instead of the: Leg Press Machine

Do: Farmer Kettlebell Squats

  1. Stand with a kettlebell in each hand, holding them by your sides.
  2. Squat down as low as you can while keeping your back flat and weight in your heels.
  3. Once your legs form a 90-degree angle, pause. You can tap the ground with the kettlebells in this exercise, but it's not necessary.
  4. Press through your heels to stand back up.
  5. Perform this exercise for 10 to 12 reps, three rounds total.

2. Instead of the: Hamstring Curl Machine

Do: Kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell in each hand, holding them in front of your body, bells against your thighs.
  2. With only a small bend in your knees, shoot your hips back and lean forward, keeping your back flat. Continue until your hands drop below your knees
  3. Stand back up.
  4. Perform this exercise for eight to 10 repetitions, three rounds total.



You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings in the bottom of the movement, Halse says.

And if you feel like you're turning this move into a more of a squat or traditional deadlift, make sure your knees don't move forward and maintain straight legs, he says.

3. Instead of the: Overhead Press Machine

Do: Standing Overhead Kettlebell Presses

  1. Hold two kettlebells at shoulder height, with the bell flipped over so that it's leaning against the back of your wrist.
  2. Keeping your wrist straight, press the kettlebells (either together or one at a time) straight up overhead until your elbow is locked out.
  3. Return to the starting position.
  4. Perform this exercise for eight to 10 reps, three sets total.


4. Instead of the: Triceps Extension Machine

Do: Kettlebell Skullcrushers

  1. Lie on your back on a bench, holding one kettlebell.
  2. Press the kettlebell up so that your arms are straight overhead.
  3. Holding the bell with both hands (not the handle), slowly bend your elbows back and lower the kettlebell down behind your head.
  4. Extend your elbows back up until they're locked out in the starting position.
  5. Perform this exercise for 12 to 15 repetitions, three rounds total.



Read more: An At-Home Triceps Workout With Just 4 Moves

5. Instead of the: Pec Deck

Do: Kettlebell Flyes

  1. Lie on your back, holding a kettlebell in each hand by the handles, bells against the back of your wrist.
  2. Press the bells up over your chest so that your palms face each other.
  3. Slowly bring your arms out to the side, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Continue to lower your arms until your hands are in line with your body.
  4. Press the kettlebells back up over your body.
  5. Repeat this exercise for three rounds of 10 to 12 reps each.



Start with light weight for this exercise, because it's stressful for the shoulder joint, Halse says. If you're having trouble imagining this exercise, the motion is similar to a bird flapping is wings.

6. Instead of the: Seated Row Machine

Do: Chest-Supported Kettlebell Rows

  1. Set a bench at a 45-degree incline and lie on your stomach. Place two kettlebells on the ground at the end of the bench where your place your head.
  2. Reach down, grab one kettlebell in each hand.
  3. Row them up at the same time or one at a time. Keep your elbows close to your ribs and pause when the kettlebells reach chest height.
  4. Lower them back to the ground, keeping your chest at the end of the bench and your head off the bench.
  5. Perform this move for three sets of 8 to 10 reps each.


7. Instead of the: Shoulder Raise Machine

Do: Kettlebell Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with a light kettlebell in each hand.
  2. Reach and raise your arms straight out to the side until they're parallel to the ground, forming a T.
  3. Then, bring the kettlebells back down to your sides. The kettlebells should remain vertical as you raise and lower them.
  4. Repeat this exercise for 10 to 12 repetitions, three sets total.


Keep the kettlebells vertical as you raise and lower them throughout this exercise, Halse says.

Read more: The 12 Best Kettlebell Exercises You're Not Doing