Over the last half decade, few workouts have grown faster than kettlebell workouts. Kettlebells have been used in fitness competitions for more than three decades, but they have become closely associated with strength training in recent years. Kettlebell exercises usually qualify as a form of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, and kettlebells are a staple in most CrossFit workouts.
Nowadays most gyms have a set of several kettlebells that vary in weight. Additionally, anyone can order kettlebells online if they prefer to do their kettlebell exercises at home. Whether they are done in your garage or in a gym, there are numerous kettlebells workouts trending these days. Not all of these workouts, however, are the same in how they burn calories, strengthen muscles, elevate your heart rate or target specific muscle groups. Most of them are great total-body workouts.
Some of the more popular kettlebell workouts include:
- Kettlebell Swing
- Kettlebell Clean
- Kettlebell Overhead Press
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat
- Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up
- Kettlebell Overhead
Your specific fitness goals will dictate which type of kettlebells exercises you want to try during a given workout. The weight of the kettlebell may vary based on the muscles or muscle groups you are targeting with your workout. Almost all mainline kettlebell exercises will hit your core muscles and will strengthen most of the muscles within your entire body while providing a killer cardio workout that will burn calories in a hurry.
One of the most important parts of any workout is maintaining proper form. This is especially true with kettlebell workouts, which take into consideration sometimes unfamiliar details like hip-width and shoulder-width distances, rack position and shoulder height.
Dilemmas like these are why Caroll Zeamer stays busy helping her clients establish injury-free workout routines. Caroll is a NASM certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist, as well as a regular Generation Active contributor. She is a big fan of kettlebell training, but only if the workouts are done with proper form.
The kettlebell swing is a full body exercise. It’s triggers the deltoids going up the shoulders. It also works muscles across the chest. Going down, it triggers the hamstrings. Coming back up, you’re going to squeeze the glutes.”
Four of Caroll’s favorite kettlebell exercises are the goblet squat, kettlebell swings, single leg deadlift workouts and the unilateral tricep extension.
“With the goblet squat, it’s geared more towards your glutes,” Caroll says. “It’s going to trigger the glute maximus and the gracilis on the inside of your thigh. It’s also going to trigger– the intrinsic core stabilizer is coming down. And really engage the core coming down, again, keeping your hips out and the weight in your heels.”
Those who are new to the workout may not be comfortable holding the kettlebell by the horns. Caroll says that the movement is a more important aspect of the form with this workout.
“Using the kettlebell with the goblet squat, hold it by the horns,” she says. “If you’re not comfortable by holding it by the horns, hold it by the bell, supporting it the whole way down and as well as the whole way back up.”
The unilateral tricep extension is a great way to target the one of the arms “glory muscles.” It will exercise more than just the triceps though.
“With the unilateral tricep extension, you want to hold the kettlebell belt at the handle, bringing it up and around, nice and safely, keeping a tight core– you’re going to keep your elbow nice and steady– and then only moving at the forearm.”
Everyone will have different weights and rep amounts based on their current fitness level. Each person’s individual goal will also come into account.
“As far as a set to rep ratio for the tricep extension, I would do– for toning, if you want to tone your triceps, I would do 10 to 12 reps at a moderate to light weight. If you’re trying to build more muscle, I would go at a heavier weight. You could even use heavier dumbbells if kettlebell aren’t enough weight for you at a 8 to 10 rep.”
Kettlebell Swings are arguably the most popular workout on this list, and for good reason. “The kettlebell swing is a full body exercise,” Caroll says. “It’s going to trigger the anterior, posterior, and lateral deltoid going up the shoulders. It’s also going to work muscles across the chest. When you come down, it’s going to trigger the hamstrings and the glutes. Coming back up, you’re going to squeeze the glutes real nice and tight, concluding the full body workout.”
Another reason why the workout is so popular is the versatility it offers. You may not be running around, but the cardio workout is no less intense here.
“For the kettlebell swing, there’s a couple variations. You can go single arm, both, so regular standard kettlebell swing. You could even add a power clean to it by swinging it up, and then adding a squat and a press.”
Single Leg Deadlift
Finally, anyone who doesn’t believe in skipping leg day is likely to be a big fan of the single leg deadlift. Though, like squats, nobody loves the next day soreness when they get out of bed in the morning.
“The single leg deadlift is going to work on the lower body. It’s going to work the hamstrings coming up, triggers the calves and glutes,” Caroll says. “You want to hold it right at the top, at the handle. When you’re coming down, you want to go any further than about mid shin, just below the knee. And then come back up, again, squeezing the glutes at the top.”