Meredith Jade Training Leave a Comment

27 Kettlebell Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Kettlebell workouts help cure boredom by keeping your routine fun through a wide variety of technical moves… so grab your kettlebell by the horns and let’s get started!

Why Choose Kettlebells?

Anatomy of a Kettlebell

Kettlebells are the GQ members of the free weight family. Their sleek design is specific to performance, and each portion of the weight is important.

The body of the kettlebell is rounded and houses the bulk of the weight. From the body stems a curved handle, and the base of the handle on either side of the bell is called the horn.

Benefits of the Design

Why does this unique kettlebell anatomy matter, you ask? Unlike the dumbbell, the kettlebell design offers limitless function. Since the weight is further away from your hand, the center of gravity is shifted, and your body is forced to adapt to this imbalance. This creates a much more dynamic workout.

Kettlebells are also vital additions to HIIT workouts. They can add an aggressive edge to your explosive bodyweight movements and get your heart rate skyrocketed. Since a lot of movements use counterbalance and swinging techniques, your whole body will feel the effects. Your core will fire during each kettlebell movement, making this piece of equipment one of the most valuable and versatile tools in the gyms.

Another benefit of the kettlebell: it’s a grip strengthener. If you are a rock climber or a barbell lifter, listen up. Many kettlebell exercises require you to grip the handle or horns throughout the entire exercise. Sometimes you’ll shift the body of the KB around (i.e. kettlebell snatches,) creating even more of a challenge for your grip.

What Size Kettlebell is Right For Me?

Not only are there a variety of benefits to kettlebells, there are a variety of sizes! In other words, anyone can start using kettlebells and feel comfortable. Traditional weights are categorized using kilograms, and each kettlebell is coded with a color around the horns. The regulation sizes range from 8 kg (17.6 lbs) – 48 kg (105.6 lbs) There are also some “in between” sizes for incremental work and small sizes for mobility work.

When choosing the kettlebell size that’s right for you, it is important to take these things into account:

  • Male or female
  • Conditioned or de-conditioned
  • Lightweight mobility work or heavy lifting

Depending on the person and the specific exercises being performed, special care must be taken when choosing kettlebell weights. If you’re unsure, alway start light or ask a professional.

Now that you know all about the anatomy and benefits of the equipment, let’s learn about some exercises you can do with kettlebells.

For ease, I’ve classified the exercises based on their function and weights on a scale of light/moderate/heavy.

27 Kettlebell Exercises You Can Do Anywhere:

Warmup/Mobility

1. Halo

The halo is a mobility move that really warms up your shoulder joint by taking it through all ranges of motion. This rotational exercise is a great start to your upper body workout.

How it’s done:

  • Grab a moderate sized KB by the horns at chest level
  • Your abs should be crunched and your glutes clenched
  • Dipping the body of the weight behind you head, rotate in a steady “halo” shape around your head
  • Be sure to take this movement clockwise and counterclockwise

2. Screwdriver


The screwdriver is another shoulder mobility movement. It trains your shoulder how to react and stabilize a load that’s in constant motion.

How it’s done:

  • Start in a supine position (on your back)
  • Grip a moderate sized KB by the handle in a “bottom’s up” position
  • Extending your elbow fully, creating a 90 degree angle between your arm and torso
  • Carefully balance the weight and don’t let your shoulder sink back toward your ear (think of you arm as a golf ball nested perfectly in the tee—your shoulder)
  • Twist your wrist back and forth, allowing full range of movement

3. Around the World

This movement activates your core by creating momentum with the abdominals. The controlled swinging of the KB around your body challenges your agility, grip strength, and timing.

How it’s done:

  • Begin by holding a heavy KB in front of you
  • Using only your core to fuel the motion, swing the KB around your body
  • Pass KB hand-to-hand and repeat motion clockwise and counterclockwise


4. Windmill

Windmill kettlebell exerciseThe windmill, like its screwdriver counterpart, challenges your shoulder joint by testing different ranges of motion under stress. In addition, the windmill works your lateral chain (i.e. obliques) while also giving you a nice hamstring stretch.

How it’s done:

  • Begin with a light KB and press it overhead (let bell rest on your wrist)
  • Your feet should be pointed in a 45 degree angle away from your loaded hand
  • Hinging at your hip and driving them backward, tip your body over
  • Stretching through your hamstrings & obliques, reach for foot opposite your loaded hand
  • Keep your eyes on the KB and your arm straight through the entire movement
  • As you stand up, engage your core to lift the torso and KB back to a standing position


5. Figure 8

Figure 8 kettlebell workout

This movement works well for warming up your lower body. The figure 8 requires you to be in a static squat position and practice dexterity with your hands.

How it’s done:

  • Begin in a wide squat stance
  • Using a moderate sized KB, swing the weight through your legs in a figure 8 motion
  • As you’re weaving the KB through your legs, time the squats and create a rhythmic bounce—this will prevent hitting your legs with the bell
  • Work both directions

Lower Body

6. Goblet squat

Goblet Squat Kettlebell ExerciseThe goblet squat is an essential part of your kettlebell arsenal. Just like the old-fashioned squat, this KB version works your quads and glutes. What it does differently is add weight to the front of your body. Having the KB at your means that your arms and core are also involved.

How it’s done:

  • Grab a moderate sized KB by the horns and bring it to your chest
  • Hinging at the hip, sit back into a low squat (thighs at least parallel to the ground)
  • Stay mindful that your knees don’t jut out over your toes
  • Drive up to full hip extension putting weight in your heels

7. Russian Kettlebell Swing

The swing is perhaps the most iconic exercise for kettlebell users. In this movement, think of your arms as a pendulum on a grandfather clock. Your hamstrings and glutes are the powerhouses, and the rest of your body controls the momentum.

In the Russian version of the swing, you’ll use a heavier KB and only let it rise as high as your hips’ explosive motion can swing the bell (chest level at best).

How it’s done:

  • Starting with the KB on the ground in front of you, grip the handles and swing back through your legs
  • Loading power throughout the hips, hamstrings, and glutes, thrust the weight forward with a quick snap to full hip extension
  • Let the KB drift forward/up as far as your explosive motion naturally takes it
  • Keep your chest lifted and eyes forward
  • Avoid rounding your back or squatting too much


8. American KB Swing

American KB Swing

Like it’s slavic cousin, the American kettlebell swing uses similar technique. The difference happens at the top of the swing. The shoulders assist in boosting the weight overhead.

How it’s done:

  • Follow all set-up steps used for the Russian swing
  • Instead of only letting the weight rise to chest level, take the KB overhead using the pull of your shoulders (scapular retraction)

9. 1-Arm Swing

One Arm KB SwingConsider this swing a more advanced version of all the swings. The 1-arm not only requires more grip strength (you should attempt using similar weight as classic KB swing), but it also fires a completely different set of muscles.

While the classic swing tracks on the sagittal plane of our bodies, the 1-arm forces our body to resist rotation with the unevenly distributed weight.

How it’s done:

  • Follow all set-up steps used for the previous swings
  • Accelerate the weight with your hips and exchange hands while KB is at chest level


10. Single Leg Deadlift

Single Leg DeadliftWant a tough balance challenge? Try this exercise. The single-leg deadlift is a test for even the most steady of gym-goers. It not only works on ankle stability and counterbalance techniques—it heavily targets the stationary leg’s hamstring.

How it’s done:

  • With a light to moderate KB, grip the handle with both hands
  • Keeping one leg stationary and straight, begin hinging at your hip and tip over
  • Let your other leg lift behind you to counterbalance your torso
  • Find a spot on the floor to focus on—this will help steady you
  • Sink as low as your balance or hamstring flexibility will allow
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of the movement, squeeze your posterior chain and lift yourself back to standing position
  • Complete reps on one leg before switching sides

11. Lunge Pass-Through

Lunge Pass-ThroughWant to spice up your boring old lunges? The kettlebell pass-through element adds weight, but it also acts as a built-in trainer. The technique requires that you use proper form. You can’t sneak anything past this move! And your back is the litmus test.

How it’s done:

  • Using the classic walking lunge, take a big step forward, plant your heel into the ground, and lower your body deep into the move (one moderate sized KB in hand)
  • Both of your knees should be bent in a similar degree, and your torso remains upright
  • At the bottom of the lunge, you’ll take the KB and pass it underneath your body to the opposite hand
  • When you sink to the bottom of the lunge and pass the kettlebell through your legs, you must go low enough so that you don’t compromise your back
  • If your back begins to round when reaching to pass the KB, you know you’ve not gotten deep enough into the lunge

12. Good Morning

Good MorningThis exercise is appropriately named because your posterior chain will definitely be awake afterward! The Good Morning adds a twist to the traditional deadlift by distributing weight in a different way. Start light, and work your way up in weight as you get accustomed to the move.

How it’s done:

  • Start with a light KB until you perfect your form
  • Grab KB by the horns and place it gently behind your head and on your upper back—it will rest there throughout the move
  • With a slight bend in your knee, hinge at the hip and bend over
  • Keep your spine neutral and eyes looking ahead
  • Since the weight placement is further away from the hinge point, the pull is dramatically increased
  • Stand to full hip extension and repeat

Upper Body

13. Bent Over Kettlebell Row

Bent Over Kettlebell RowThis is one of the most effective pull moves you can add to your routine. The row works all the muscles in your back and secondarily engages your bicep.

How it’s done:

  • Begin in a staggered stance and rest your non-working arm on leg in front
  • Gripping the KB handle, use your back to pull the weight up toward your armpit
  • Keep your elbow close to your body and don’t allow your back to round


14. Bottoms Up Press

Bottoms Up PressThis exercise highlights why the kettlebell is the most versatile tool in the gym. The bottoms up press allows you to work on stability as well as shoulder strength. As your body compensates for the unsteady bell, muscles from your wrist to your core begin to fire in attempt to stabilize the weight.

How’s it’s done:

  • Grip the KB by the handle
  • The bottom of the KB should be pointed toward the ceiling
  • With your arm in a neutral position, press the KB up extending fully at the elbow


15. Floor Chest Press

Floor Chest PressSince this is a 1-arm move (similar to the 1-arm swing), you will be moving away from that midline and performing an off-balance movement. This is a great way to work your chest, and being on the floor allows your leg to steady your whole body. The move itself is straightforward, but special attention needs to be placed on the set-up. Improper set-up could cause a shoulder injury.

How it’s done:

  • Safe set-up: Begin onto your side and grasp the handle firmly with both hands. Roll safely to your back and allow the bell to rest in the pocket of your elbow
  • Press up to the ceiling, using a planted leg and extended non-working arm to support the thrust
  • Return safely to the pocket of your elbow

Core

16. Kettlebell Sit-Up

Kettlebell Sit-UpKettlebells add a special component to core work. In this particular variation of the KB sit up, we’ll target the arms by including some tricep working—paying special attention to the slower, eccentric portion of the move.

How it’s done:

  • Begin on your back with the KB placed behind your head
  • Reach back and grab the horns of the bell and fully extend your elbows
  • Continuing that fluid motion, bring the KB to your chest and sit up
  • Return to ground, slowly moving the KB up and behind your head
  • As you place the KB back on the ground behind you, move slowly—this lengthens the muscle and increases flexibility

17. Bicycle Figure 8 Crunch

Mixing it up is a great way to stay interested in core work. Grinding out sit up after sit up can get boring, so the figure 8 crunch adds another ingredient to abdominal work that’ll help you forget about the burn and build coordination.

How it’s done:

  • Using a light KB, sit on the ground with your body in a V position and heels lifted
  • Pump your legs in a motion that mimics pedaling
  • Concentrate on tightening the core—don’t allow your back to compensate
  • Holding the KB by the horns, pass the weight under your knee with each pedaling motion—your biceps are engaged
  • Instead of counting reps, try doing this exercises in timed increments


18. Kettlebell Chop

Most core exercises require you to be on the ground, but the KB chop offers a great alternative. It’s perfect for those who are older or overweight because it doesn’t require getting up and down from the floor. The chop specifically targets the obliques and gets your whole body involved.

How it’s done:

  • Begin with your knees slightly bent and holding the KB by the horns outside your knee
  • Using your hips and side abdominals, move the KB in a controlled swinging motion diagonally upward and overhead
  • Squeeze your core as you twist and slowly bring it back to starting position
  • Repeat equally on each side

Compound

19. Sumo Deadlift + High Pull

Sumo Deadlift + High PullThis pull-heavy move is the perfect full-body exercise that isolates the antagonist muscles. In one fluid motion you move from deadlift to pull, working the entire backside of your body. The hamstrings (specifically the inner thigh) and the lats are the stars of this exercise.

How it’s done:

  • Using a moderate to heavy KB, stand in an extra-wide stance, toes pointed out
  • With hips driven back and eyes head, lift the KB by the handle and stand up
  • Without allowing the KB to stop, use the momentum from the deadlift and pull the KB to your chin—elbows should be up and shoulder blades pinned back
  • Safely return KB to the ground avoiding a rounded back


20. Kettlebell Clean

Kettlebell CleanThe KB clean is a must-have foundational movement. Finessing the KB clean will prepare you for more advance moves and ensure that you understand how to properly rack a kettlebell. Unlike the barbell clean where palms are out, the KB clean keeps palms in, and requires your grip to be loose enough for the handle to rotate in your hand.

How it’s done:

  • Begin by loosely gripping a KB between your knees
  • Using your hips, thrust the weight up and allow the bell to glide over and land softly on your wrist essentially, the KB clean is a 1-arm swing that ends up in the front rack position
  • In the front rack position, the KB is set in the pocket of you forearm and bicep
  • Hop the weight up and out of the pocket and back down to start position

21. Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell SnatchNow that you have a basic understanding of both the swing and clean, you’re ready for the snatch. The KB snatch uses similar ballistic movements (i.e. the hip thrust of the swing and the pull of the clean) but the end product is overhead. The arc of the KB snatch is between the swing and clean.

How it’s done:

  • With the KB on the ground in front of you, grip the handle loosely
  • Using power through your hips, swing the KB up
  • As the KB moves upward, the handle rotates smoothly through your hand allowing the bell to land softly on your wrist overhead
  • Return to the floor and repeat

22. Suitcase Carry

Suitcase CarryThe suitcase carry is the simplest KB move, but it’s extremely valuable. This exercise strengthens the shoulders while improving your posture.

How it’s done:

  • Using proper technique, pick up two heavy kettlebells and begin walking forward
  • Pin your shoulders back and puff out your chest
  • Prevent the weights from swinging and walk steadily
  • For added balance work, suitcase carry one KB at a time

23. Kettlebell Get-Ups

Kettlebell Get-Ups

Kettlebell Get-Ups

This KB get-up is one of the most complex moves. Broken down step-by-step, it’s easy to see how this move joins the rank of Burpees, offering total body strength, mobility, and heart-pumping benefits.

How it’s done:

  • Begin on the ground with a light KB pressed toward the ceiling (RT arm)
  • The object is to keep you arm extended and perpendicular with the ground at all times—your body adjusts underneath the KB.
  • Using your left forearm to assist, sit up and shift post to hand
  • Your position should resemble a side plank on your left side
  • Plant your left knee directly under your torso, as if a straight line connected the weighted arm and planted knee
  • Raise up into a lunge position and square the hips
  • Stand up to full hip extension—KB should be overhead
  • Reverse the movements—backward lunge, hinge forward and post the hand, sweep the leg underneath your body, lay down to your forearm, then flat on your back

24. Kettlebell Thruster

This squat + overhead press exercise is a compound movement. It also requires major core awareness. With two heavy front racked KBs in squatting position, the back’s natural tendency is to lean forward and collapse under the weight. Engaged abdominals and lower back keeps the chest lifted and the KB thruster exercise solid.

How it’s done:

  • Begin with two moderate sized KBs in the front rack pocket of your arm
  • Keeping your chest lifted, perform a correct squat
  • Instead of lifting out of the squat normally, add an explosive stand
  • Momentum from the bottom of the squat will help you press those KBs overhead
  • As you return downward to repeat, the KBs should lower to rack—the motion is fluid


25. 1-Arm Overhead Lunge

1-Arm Overhead LungeLike the KB get-up, the overhead lunge requires you to stabilize weight directly overhead for the duration of the movement. Like the 1-arm swing, this movement forces imbalance and stabilizing work. Put them together, and you have an advanced lunge that focuses on posture and depth.

How it’s done:

  • Begin with a light KB overhead and execute a walking lunge
  • Like the pass-through, this movement also requires a tall torso—any dipping forward causes the shoulder to be compromises and the KB to drift forward
  • Complete several walking lunges before changing arms

Cardio Moves

26. Bob & Weave

Bob & WeaveThe bob & weave is a cardiovascular exercise that hits a completely different plane of movement than most other KB exercises we’ve covered—the frontal plane. This lateral motion strengthens joint structure.

How it’s done:

  • Grip a KB by the horns at chest level
  • Take a large step to the side, dipping low as if ducking underneath something
  • Repeat the motion side-to-side in timed intervals

27. Kettlebell Jump Squats

Kettlebell Jump SquatsThis is another cardiovascular move that will get your muscles conditioned. Adding weight to ballistic movements increases muscle endurance, so the KB jump squat is a must-have for athletes.

How it’s done:

  • Grip a KB by the horns at chest level
  • Perform a squat, adding a jump at the top—feet should come at least an inch off the ground

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’re convinced that kettlebells are the new black. They’re relevant, they’re functional, and there’s no movement they can’t facilitate. The kettlebell offers some amazing foundational skills.

Knowing the form and ballistics of the basic swing creates a baseline for many other movements.

Perfect your swing, get acquainted with how the weight moves, and you’ll be unstoppable : )


Sources:

1- Which Are More Effective: Kettlebells or Dumbbells?

2- Three Kettlebell Exercises for an Iron Grip

3- Kettlebell Coding

4- What Size Kettlebell is Right for Me?

5- Kettlebell Screwdriver Demo

6- Why 1-Hand Swings are King

7- Strengthening Your Posterior Chain

8- Neutral Shoulder Press

9- Five Reasons Why I Added Eccentric Moves to my Workouts

10- Lateral Training for Athleticism

11- Benefits of Ballistics

Further reading:

Greatist: Which Are More Effective: Kettlebells or Dumbbells?

Youtube: Kettlebell Snatch Video

Youtube: Kettlebell Get-Up Demo Video


More in Training: