The 12 Best Kettlebell Exercises You’re Not Doing
Last Updated: Sep 27, 2017
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Bored of the same old kettlebell exercises? Or maybe you’ve yet to incorporate them into your fitness routine. The kettlebell is a heart-pumping, muscle-sculpting, full-body exercise tool that can be used for a wide variety of workouts. Kettlebells are often used in compound movements (i.e., exercises that involve more than one muscle group or body part). Not only do kettlebells recruit a wide variety of muscles during movements, but they also help strengthen tendons and ligaments. If you want more than the usual swings, cleans, snatches and push presses, here are 12 of the best kettlebell exercises you’re not doing — yet.
gym couple posing with kettlebells
Get your heart pumping and your legs burning with this squat variation. It works your entire body, with special attention on the core and legs. The goal here is not to go too heavy, so choose a lighter weight and stay solid through your core. HOW TO DO IT: Hold a kettlebell (bell side down) by the handle with both hands at your chest. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and squat below parallel (if your mobility allows). Take a big breath and brace your core as you extend your arms in front of you while staying in a deep squat position. Pump your arms out with control two to three times, and then stand up. Lower back into a squat and repeat.
Back of young fit woman sitting on kettlebell in outdoor park in workout clothes during summer
Kayaking isn’t just for the water. The kettlebell kayak is a midsection-sculpting exercise that requires your obliques to fire and your core to stay braced the entire time. HOW TO DO IT: Take a seat on the floor and hold a kettlebell by the handle with both hands. Raise your legs off the floor with bent knees, balancing on your sit bones. Rotate your torso to the left, tapping the kettlebell on the ground next to your hip. While keeping your feet lifted, twist to the right, tapping the kettlebell to the outside of your right hip. Keep alternating sides.
Related: 10 Core-Strengthening Kettlebell Moves
gym couple posing with kettlebells
Once you get this exercise going, it’s easy to see where the name comes from. The halo works on shoulder stability and mobility while also activating your core. HOW TO DO IT: Step one foot forward into a lunge. Place both hands on the handle of a kettlebell and raise the kettlebell above your head. Keep your shoulders down and back and rotate the kettlebell around your head one way. Reverse and rotate the kettlebell around your head the other way.
Dragging something across the floor sounds easy — until you try this exercise. It requires you to keep your core steady while moving other parts of your body. Lateral movement is also a great addition to more typical back-to-front movement patterns. HOW TO DO IT: Secure a strap around a kettlebell handle and wrap the other end around your right wrist. Step to the left of the kettlebell so that the strap is extended. Cross your right leg in front of your left leg as you drag the kettlebell next to you. Continue walking sideways for a few steps, and then switch to the other side and repeat.
SINGLE-ARM BENCH PRESS
Compared to double-arm movements, you won’t be able to mask any weaknesses in single-arm movements. This exercise forces stabilization in your chest and shoulders. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent and pointed upward. Grab a kettlebell in one hand and keep your back pressed into the floor. Push the kettlebell away from your body and into the air, completely extending your arm. Lower back to the ground and repeat. Once you’ve done all your reps on one side, switch arms and repeat.
Related: 8 Unilateral Exercises to Challenge Your Balance
KETTLEBELL GOOD MORNING
This exercise is perfect for a warmup or your active recovery workouts. It stretches and activates your hips as well as the entire posterior chain (all the muscles along your back from the glutes down). HOW TO DO IT: Grab a kettlebell by the handle with both hands behind your back and the kettlebell resting on your glutes. With your feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the hips (maintaining a flat back) and slowly lower your chest toward parallel with the ground, allowing the kettlebell to glide up your glutes. Rise up to standing position with control and repeat.
By utilizing kettlebells for the push-up, you put a special twist on a traditional movement. The kettlebells add an element of instability and also require the athlete to go deeper into the push-up than normal. HOW TO DO IT: Place the kettlebells on the ground and your hands on the handles at shoulder width. Extend your legs behind you with your core tight. Slowly lower your chest down as deep as possible, keeping your elbows glued to your sides. Push away from the ground and return to the starting position.
Related: 24 Essential Push-Up Variations for Total-Body Strength
SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
Single-leg work is vital to your workout routine. It isolates muscle groups, trains metabolic conditioning and improves power. And since the deadlift is an essential exercise, try the single-leg variation with a kettlebell. HOW TO DO IT: Hold the kettlebell with your right hand as you balance on your left leg (without locking the left knee). Keep your hips squared as you lower the kettlebell to the inside of your left leg while maintaining a flat back. Raise your right leg so it’s parallel with the floor as you lower. Squeeze your glutes as you rise back to standing. Do all your reps on one leg before switching and repeating on the other leg.
It seems simple enough: Just carry a kettlebell from point A to point B. But with a challenging weight this exercise activates almost every muscle group in your body, including legs, core, back, arms and grip strength. HOW TO DO IT: Pick up a kettlebell in each hand and hold them by your sides. Keep your shoulders down and back as you walk forward across the length of the room.
Related: The 41 Hardest Ab Exercises
SINGLE-ARM BOTTOM-UP CARRY
Take the farmer carry of the previous slide and incorporate more shoulder strength. By placing the bottom of the bell up in the air, you’re forced to stabilize your shoulder, which builds strength for other upper-body exercises. HOW TO DO IT: Place a lightweight kettlebell in your hand with the bell side up in a rack position. Extend your arm overhead, remembering to keep your core tight as you walk forward with the bell up in the air.
DOUBLE OVERHEAD SQUAT
Sure, you’ve mastered the squat, but can you handle this core-crushing variation? This exercise works shoulder mobility, balance and core stability all in one. HOW TO DO IT: Place one kettlebell in each hand, allowing the bell side to rest against your forearm. With feet shoulder-width apart, raise the kettlebells overhead with your palms facing forward. Keep your chest tall and your core tight as you send your hips down and back, squatting toward the floor. Keep your arms overhead and push away from the floor to return back to standing.
This variation on the traditional squat activates different muscles than most people are probably used to working. By placing your feet wider apart than normal, the load is taken off your quadriceps and hamstrings and placed on your adductors and glutes. HOW TO DO IT: Place your feet wider than shoulder width with your toes pointed to the side. Hold a kettlebell between your feet. With a straight back and tall chest, grab the kettlebell with both hands and bring it up to standing. Squat back down so that the kettlebell barely touches the floor.
Related: 9 Fat-Torching Kettlebell Moves
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you use a kettlebell in your workouts? What are some of your favorite exercises? Have you done any of these yet? Which ones were your favorites? Which ones seem the hardest? Are there any other unique or innovative kettlebell exercises you’d add to this list? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!
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