Imagine the most grueling exercises you've ever tried: burpees, plank pikes and snatches. They recruited multiple muscle groups at once, combined cardio and strength, left your body extra sore and even challenged your mind.
These full-body kettlebell exercises will do just that. When you're ready to take your usual strength or high-intensity workout to the next level, Samuel Chan, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York, suggests incorporating these five hardest kettlebell exercises. Plus, you can do them right in your living room.
1. Kettlebell Swing
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly, gripping a kettlebell on the floor a few inches in front of your feet.
- Keeping your back flat, hinge your hips back, and hike the bell between your legs and under your hips.
- On an exhale, push your hips forward to straighten your legs, swinging the bell up to chest height with control.
- Using the bell's momentum, hike the bell back between your legs and under your hips as you simultaneously hinge your hips back and bend your knees.
- Push your hips forward again to go right back into the next swing.
To make the kettlebell swing even more challenging, you can perform the move with one arm, switching sides after you complete all your reps, Chan suggests.
2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
- Stand with your feet just wider than hip-distance apart (toes can face forward or turn out slightly), and hold a heavy kettlebell by the horns at chest height.
- Keeping your chest tall and core tight, hinge your hips back and down to sit into a squat so your thighs are parallel with the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go with good form).
- Press through all four corners of your feet to return to standing.
3. Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Overhead Press
- Begin in a half-kneeling position with your left leg in front of you, bent at 90 degrees, and foot planted on the floor. Kneel on your right knee with the toes tucked.
- Hold the kettlebell at shoulder height in your right hand in a front rack position, allowing the bell to rest on your elbow.
- On an exhale, press the kettlebell overhead with your biceps by your ear.
- Pause for a moment, then bring the weight back down to shoulder height in the front rack position.
4. Turkish Get-Up
- Place a kettlebell on the floor by your right side and get into a fetal position so you're holding the horn of the bell with both hands.
- Rollover to lie on your back. Bend your right leg so that your foot rests flat on the floor and extend your left leg out at a 45-degree angle on the floor. Press the kettlebell with both arms above your chest and then extend your left arm straight to the side, palm down on the floor. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your right arm extended and your eyes on the bell throughout the movement, push off of your right foot on the floor to roll over to your left side, coming up to your left elbow.
- Push the kettlebell even higher as you shift your body weight from your left elbow to your left hand, corkscrewing your palm to the floor. You’re now in a fully seated position, braced by your left hand.
- Lift your glutes off the ground and extend your hips to straighten your trunk. You're in a bridge, balanced on your left hand.
- Slide your left leg back to kneel on your left knee so that your left knee and ankle are in a straight line with your left hand on the floor. Hinge your hips back to your right side.
- Then, bring your left knee to face forward so that you're forming a 90-degree angle with your front and back legs. Face forward and press into your right heel to stand up, bringing your feet parallel with each other and keeping the kettlebell raised overhead.
- Reverse the steps to return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side with the kettlebell in your left hand.
"Make sure to keep your arm directly vertical throughout the exercise," Chan says. "Start with a lighter weight."
5. Plank Pull-Through
- Begin in a high plank with your wrists directly below your shoulders, and your hips and head in a straight line. Position your feet wider than hip-distance to form a stable base, and keep your hips low.
- Place the kettlebell just behind your right hand.
- Engaging the glutes, low back and abdominal muscles, reach your left arm across your chest to grab the kettlebell, dragging it on its side by the handle under your body.
- Pause when the kettlebell is just behind the left hand, stacked below the shoulder.
- Repeat on the opposite side.