How To Use A Kettlebell & The Workouts To Try

Designed to improve strength, fitness, endurance and flexibility, kettlebells are one of the most useful pieces of at-home gym equipment you can own. Here’s a bit more on how to use them and the best workouts to try…
By Tor West /

They’re Small But Mighty

Even though it’s one small piece of equipment, a kettlebell can provide a cardio and strength session in one. As Caroline Bragg, PT at A Body Forever, explains, it all comes down to the unique shape. “A kettlebell is asymmetrical, which challenges your stability more than a pair of dumbbells. At the same time, it provides the perfect opportunity to build strength and pairs perfectly with classic HIIT moves to provide a killer workout that can target every muscle in the body.” Plus, as fitness expert Penny Weston explains, they have clear advantages over dumbbells, too. “Not only is a kettlebell easier to grip than traditional weights, but they work on multiple muscle groups. They’re ideal for working the back, shoulders and lower body.”

They’re Versatile

“A kettlebell can be used to improve strength, conditioning, speed, mobility and power – the list really is endless,” Caroline adds. “They can easily be incorporated into a workout to target the lower and upper body as well as the core. To give you a taste, a kettlebell can be used in a squat, deadlift, row, lunge, snatch and swing – it’s a great way to add some explosive conditioning to your training. All of these exercises can also be adapted with a mixture of lighter and heavier kettlebells to keep the body challenged.”  

They’re Suitable For Everyone

Whether you’re just starting out on your fitness journey or are a seasoned pro, the beauty of kettlebell training is that it can easily be scaled up or down, depending on your level. If you master one move, make it the kettlebell swing, says Penny. “The kettlebell swing is a great way to strengthen your posterior muscles, such as the glutes and hamstrings. And not only is it a clever way to build lean muscle, it’s also a form of anaerobic conditioning. Practise using a hinging motion to swing the kettlebell into the air rather than just squatting and raising it, which will ensure more of the power comes from your hips and hamstrings. Control the exercise by manipulating the time, rest or amount of sets and reps completed.”

A kettlebell can be used in everything from a squat to a lunge and is a great way to add explosive conditioning to your training.

They’ll Always Challenge The Body

Looking to invest in a kettlebell? Go heavier than you think, advises Caroline. “One of the most common mistakes women make when using a kettlebell is not going heavy enough. There’s still a huge misconception that strength training will make you bulky, but this simply isn’t true. To build strength and a leaner body, you need to be working at an intensity where the last few reps feel like a challenge – keep this in mind when choosing the right weight for you.” If you’re a beginner, Caroline recommends starting with a lighter kettlebell for overhead work and slightly heavier for lower body exercises. “If you’re performing a kettlebell swing, always go heavier than you think. If you go too light, you’ll start to use your arms and lower back, which can lead to an injury. The weight needs to be challenging to get the correct muscles to do the work.” Not sure where to start? Penny says that if you’re a beginner, start with a kettlebell in the 4-6kg mark; if you’re at an intermediate level, aim for an 8kg; and advanced is anything from 10kg and above. 

They’re A Great Form Of Low-Impact Cardio

Studies show a kettlebell workout can burn the same number of calories as running a six-minute-mile, meaning it ticks both the cardio and strength boxes. Going one step further than running, kettlebells will increase cardiovascular fitness and build lean muscle without the impact of jogging. “If you struggle with niggles and sore joints, strength training with a kettlebell is a great place to start,” Caroline finishes. To raise the heart rate and challenge your muscles in one fell swoop, Penny recommends this foolproof workout: “A simple kettlebell workout could involve three set of 20 reps of swings, squats, lunges, sit-ups and twists, all done using a kettlebell. The reps and moves can be increased as your fitness levels improve, as can the weight of the kettlebell.”

For more, visit ABodyForever.com & PennyWeston.com

Want In? Try One Of These Online Workouts…

01

Caroline Girvan Kettlebell Workout

For a full-body workout that targets all the major muscle groups, this 30-minute session gets our vote.

Visit YouTube.com

02

The Body Coach Home Kettlebell Workout

You can always trust Joe Wicks to deliver a great workout – this 25-minute workout combines five exercises with five rounds of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off.

Visit YouTube.com

03

MadFit Kettlebell Shred Workout

Short on time? This speedy 15-minute video will get your heart rate soaring for real results.

Visit YouTube.com 

04

Kettlebell HIIT Workout

All you’ll need for this workout is a pair of light to moderate kettlebells. Split into four sections, it’ll target lower and upper body, as well as the core.

Visit YouTube.com 

05

Heather Robertson Full Body HIIT

This 50-minute workout combines two HIIT-style circuits. If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can use a single dumbbell.

Visit YouTube.com 

06

Nourish Move Love Full Body Kettlebell Workout

With a challenging 30-second on, 30-second off format, this half-hour workout also includes a warm-up and finisher.

Visit YouTube.com 

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