Kettlebell Workout - Guide and Tips

A kettlebell workout is an explosive style of exercise that can give you superior benefits of burning fat and calories while adding lean muscle. The nice thing about kettlebells  is that you can get this done in just 20 minutes a day!!

Historically, kettlebells have been the tool of choice for strongmen and weight lifters everywhere. For centuries, athletes have realized the explosive exercises provided by these “cannon balls” can give a full-body workout with amazing results.

More recently, kettlebells have gained popularity because people are looking for ways to get an efficient workout in less time. For most of us, the days of spending 2 hours at the gym are gone. Who has the time? By adding kettlebells to your fitness program, you can increase strength, build muscle, lose fat, and improve overall conditioning.

What are Kettlebells

The kettlebell, or girya, is a cast iron weight that looks much like a cannonball or bowling ball with a handle. It was developed in Russia in the 1700s; and, although it was one of the most commonly used conditioning tools in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it didn't really become popular in North America until the 1990s.

kettlebell workout

While they may have had a late start, it didn't take long for American athletes to make up for lost time. The kettlebell workout quickly became the latest trend, and their ability to deliver outstanding results has given them the reputation of being one of the most effective fitness and conditioning tools available.

Unlike dumbbells or barbells, kettlebells can be used for swinging exercises and ballistic (or explosive) movements so you can add a completely different aspect to your workouts. And, since the heaviest part of the weight is hanging away from your hand, you will have to work harder and engage more muscles to perform exercises correctly.

While you can get great muscle building benefits, working with kettlebells will also give you a high-intensity interval training effect that you won't get with traditional weight lifting.

What Size Kettlebell Do I Buy?

Kettlebells come in a wide variety of sizes ranging from 2 pounds to over 100 pounds. Choosing the right weight is important to the effectiveness of your workout. You want to make sure that it isn't too heavy or too light.

If you have never used kettlebells before, then it is recommended that you begin with a lighter weight until you master the moves. Most trainers suggest that men start with 25 pounds and women begin with about 12 pounds. If you are very physically fit, then you may want to increase the weight slightly.

A basic guideline is to choose a weight that you can lift above your head with some resistance while still maintaining control and stability. Remember, a kettlebell workout will have you swinging the kettlebell and moving it quite rapidly through several different planes of motion, and this can be much more challenging to your muscles than traditional bicep curls or chest presses.

Try various sizes to see which one you prefer. You may even want to visit your local gym for a few sessions to determine which weight works best for you before purchasing your own kettlebells.

clean and press kettlebell workoutKim Demonstrating the Kettlebell Clean & Press

Kettlebell Workout at Home

Many of us have a hard time getting to the gym. If you're looking for a fitness plan that doesn't require expensive equipment that takes up to much space, a kettlebell workout could be the perfect solution. 

Kettlebells are inexpensive, compact, and easy to use in your house or apartment. When your workout is finished, you can literally store them under your bed.

How To Get Started

If you are new to the kettlebell experience, there are a few basic tips to follow that will make sure you get the most from your workout without causing injury. Working with kettlebells requires a lot of coordination because all of your muscles and joints are moving at the same time.

Compound exercises can be difficult for anyone at first, but when you add a kettlebell into the mix, the challenge is even greater. It takes practice and patience, but the benefits are definitely worth it!

1. Keep it simple. While there are a lot of exercises to choose from, a kettlebell workout doesn't have to be complicated. To get started, work on learning the 4 basic moves: swing, clean, press, snatch. Once you have mastered these, you can move on to their many variations or other more advanced movements such as the Windmill, Turkish Get-Up, or the High Pull. But, even if you don't learn any additional moves, the four core exercises will give you a great full-body workout.

2.  Use the right grip and don't hold your shoulders too tightly. There is a tendency to want to tighten your shoulders in much the same way you would for traditional weight lifting. However, this can impair your swing and increase the stress put on your joints and tendons. An incorrect grip can also affect the balance of the weight, hinder your form, and put excess strain on your wrists, arms, and neck.

3.   Don't use your upper body to power the movements. When you watch the exercises, it may look like you should use your arms to swing and lift the kettlebell. However, most of the energy should come from the legs, glutes, and hips, with the core being engaged for stability. Focusing on your upper body can cause instability, improper form, and may lead to injury.

4.  Be patient. Progression is the most important factor in a kettlebell workout. If you are an experienced exerciser, you probably don't want to start at the beginning. But, remember, mastery is the key. Many people, especially men – particularly those who have done a lot of traditional weight lifting – lack flexibility, stability, and range of motion. No matter how physically fit you may be, it can take time and patience to re-train your muscles and develop the skills or abilities needed to perform complex kettlebell exercises. Don't get ahead of yourself. Start at the beginning and work through the progressions properly. 

Kettlebell Workout

A kettlebell workout is one of the best ways to build muscle, increase conditioning, and improve overall health. Mastering the moves may take a little bit of time, but once you have them figured out, exercising with kettlebells can be both rewarding and fun.

Demonstration of Basic Kettlebell Exercises

As you can see by the video, using a kettlebell that isn’t too heavy will let you do a quite a few repetitions without ever setting the weight down. By doing this, you will increase your heart rate and also work most of the muscle groups in your upper and lower body.

Most people start with kettlebell’s that weigh anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds.

Benefits of The Kettlebell

  • Burns Fat: Since using kettlebells is very similar to HIIT, your metabolic rate will increase. Studies show that you can burn up to 20 calories per minute, which is twice as high as activities such as swimming or tennis, and almost four times higher than regular weight lifting alone. 

  • Increase Muscle and Strength: Kettlebells will help you build lean muscles without as much of the bulk often associated with traditional weight lifting. Yes, you can increase mass and definition, but the longer, leaner muscles will allow for more power and speed. This type of physique is appealing to certain athletes, particularly those involved in track, basketball, boxing, or martial arts.

  • Full Body Workout: When you perform exercises with dumbbells or even a machine, one particular body part will be doing all the work while the rest of your body remains stationary. Your center of gravity is fixed and only the targeted muscles are benefiting from the resistance. Since kettlebells involve swinging or multi-muscle movements, your entire body will be engaged.

  • Core Strength: The off-center weight of the kettlebell will force you to engage your core muscles with every movement or lift.
  • Greater Flexibility and Range of Motion: The acceleration and deceleration of lifting and swinging not only improves flexibility and range of motion, but it also strengthens tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Mobility is increased, your joints are protected, and you will be less susceptible to injuries.
  • Improved Aerobic Capacity: The high intensity or aerobic aspect of kettlebell exercises provide an exceptional cardiovascular workout. And, since you are combining cardio with muscle building, you are able to challenge your body even more.
  • Better Posture: The stances required to correctly perform kettlebell exercises, combined with the increased shoulder and upper back strength, will result in improved posture.
  • Inexpensive: Kettlebells are relatively inexpensive to purchase and since they are made of cast iron, if you buy a good one, it will last forever.
  • Anyone Can Use Kettlebells: Everyone from beginners to advanced athletes can benefit from a kettlebell workout. Whether you are a teenager wanting to put on some muscle or a senior trying to prevent muscle loss, kettlebells are appropriate for every age and fitness level.

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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.

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