Looking not unlike cannonballs with handles, kettlebells are a fun and functional exercise tool. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and have been hovering in the background of fitness training since the early 20th century but, in the last few years or so, kettlebells have really stormed to the forefront of fitness and are being touted as being the ultimate exercise tool.

There is no denying that kettlebell exercises are awesome. You can lift them, press them, pull them, swing them and throw them in all manner of ways. Does that make them the ultimate exercise tool – that’s hard to answer.

For developing explosive strength and power, muscular endurance, conditioning and all-round fitness, kettlebells are very effective and a great fitness tool to ad to any strength training program. However, if it’s pure, brute strength you want, barbells are where it is at, simply because it is easier to load a barbell with the requisite loads necessary to build strength.

Also, where a barbell is adjustable by simply adding or removing weights, a kettlebell is not. This means that you’ll have to have access to a variety of kettlebells according to the exercises you are going to perform and also, if you train at home and buy your own kettlebells, be prepared to upgrade your kettlebell collection as you get stronger and require heavier, more challenging weights. As kettlebells aren’t cheap, this can prove costly and remember, those lighter kettlebells you have now “outgrown” are still sat there looking like a pile of cash that you just can’t spend. And, of course, for many KB exercises you need pairs of kettlebells so you have to double your expenditure…

So, while you can train exclusively with kettlebells, there is no reason you have to. Think of kettlebells are a nice workout tool rather than your entire tool box. That way you can enjoy their benefits and not bother worrying about their limitations.

If you do decide that kettlebells are for you, there are dozens of exercises you can perform – some being better than others. From all those exercises, is it possible to distil that list down to as few as five essential exercises? We think it is! In general, these exercises are unique to KB training or offer significant improvements over similar exercises performed using different workout tools.

Number one – halos

Halos are a great shoulder and core exercise. Performed in your warm-up, they help mobilize your shoulders in readiness for more demanding exercises. With heavier weights, they can be used to develop upper body and core strength.
• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent
• Hold your kettlebell by the side handles so it is upside down and in front of your chest
• Raise your left elbow, invert the kettlebell and pull it over toward your left ear
• Circle the weight behind your head – your left forearm should be parallel to the floor and the weight right-side up
• Move the KB over to your right ear and then back to the front
• Immediately reverse directions and circle the weight the other way around
• Keep your chest up and abs braced throughout

Number two – kettlebell swings

If you only ever do one kettlebell exercise, make it swings. With a light weight for high reps, swings are an almost unbeatable cardiovascular and fat burning exercise. With heavier weights for lower reps, swings will increase your explosive hip drive – essential in just about every sport. Swings are also supreme butt toners!
• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the KB held in both hands in front of your thighs
• Brace your abs, lift your chest and pull your shoulders down and back
• Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from your hips. Do not let your lower back round
• Lower the weight between your knees but keep your arms straight
• Snap your hips forward and use this power to swing the KB up to around eye-height
• Swing the weight back down and as the weight descends, push your hips back and get back into the starting position
• Repeat while maintaining a smooth and steady swing rate of around 30 swings per minute
• This exercise can be also performed one handed or using two kettlebells at the same time – one in each hand.

Number three – get ups

Sometimes called the Turkish get up although it’s unclear why, this exercise involves a number of elements all rolled into one, hopefully smooth and harmonious, movement that will strengthen, stabilize and mobilize every joint in your body. It’s also a great core and coordination exercise.
• Lie on your back with a kettlebell in your left hand. Extend your arm and press the weight straight up. Keep your arm vertical
• Bend your left leg and place your foot as close to your butt as you can. Place your right arm on the floor at around 45 degrees to your body. This is your starting position
• Push down through your left foot and punch your left arm up to the ceiling while rolling over onto your right elbow. Push off your elbow and up onto your hand so you are sat up. Keep your eyes fixed on the kettlebell and your arm vertical
• Lift your hips off the floor and into a sort of side plank. Pause for a second to get your balance
• Step back and under with your right leg so you are in a kneeling half-lunge position with your supporting hand still on the floor and the arm holding the kettlebell still vertical
• Push off the floor so your torso and arm are upright
• Slowly stand up and bring your feet together
• Reverse the motion by stepping back and into the kneeling lunge
• Lie back down and repeat
Because this is a technically demanding exercise, focus on perfecting get ups while using a light weight and with low repetitions – no more than five per side. High repetitions of this exercise are not especially beneficial.

Number four – windmills

Windmills work your core, shoulders and legs and develop mobility, flexibility, stability and strength; all in one move.
• Stand with your feet a little wider-than shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell above your head in your right hand
• Push your hips over to the right and slide your left hand down your leg toward your foot while keeping your right arm vertical. Bend your left knee as little or as much as necessary to reach your foot
• Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times
• Slowly stand back up again and repeat
• For a less demanding workout, hold the kettlebell in your opposite hand and lower the weigh down toward your foot while reaching up with an empty hand
• For a more demanding workout, hold a kettlebell in each hand and keep your legs straighter

Number five – goblet squats

Goblet squats are an excellent leg exercise that promotes really good squatting technique. If you have trouble performing regular barbell back squats, goblet squats can fix whatever ails you so you can progress onto “real” squats in no time at all.
• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward
• Hold your kettlebell by the side handles and hold it at chest-height so the handle is touching your chin. Tuck your elbows into your ribs
• Lift your chest and slightly arch your lower back a little
• With your weight in your heels, push your hips back and bend your knees
• Push your knees outward as you descend
• Squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor
• Keep your torso fairly upright and avoid rounding your lower back
• Stand back up and repeat
There are plenty of other kettlebell exercises you can perform but in terms of benefits versus effort, these five are very hard to beat. You could even perform this list of five exercises as a single, standalone workout if you so choose – just start at the top of the list. Kettlebell training does seem to live up to the hype but remember, it is just one of many ways you can overload your muscles and will only do you good if you actually do your workouts!

Share this:
Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)


Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.

Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.