26 Highly Effective Kettlebell Exercises

STACK Expert John Papp describes 26 of his favorite kettlebell exercises to help you build strength and balance.

Kettlebells are wonderful tools that can be found in almost any gym. You can quite literally use only one kettlebell and target every single muscle group with a full-body workout. Below I list my 26 favorite kettlebell exercises and how to do them. Make sure to check out the above video for a visual demonstration.

1. Two-Arm Swing

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, set the bell between your feet and even with your heels.
  • Hinge at the hip, keeping your back straight, until you can grasp the bell with your hands.
  • Pop your hips forward and  stand straight up until the bell is at sternum height.
  • Focus on using your glutes.
  • Repeat the movement explosively using your hips each time and making sure not to overextend backwards.
  • Why: A strong posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, erectors, etc.) promotes powerful hip extension, the backbone of improving sports performance.

2. One-Arm Swing

  • Set up the same as for the Two-Arm Swing, but grab the handle with only one hand while holding your other arm straight out to the side.
  • Swing the bell the same as with the Two-Arm Swing.
  • Why: Same as the Two-Arm Swing with a slight variation.

3. Halos

  • Grab a bell by the sides of the handles and hold it close to your chest.
  • Squat down and while holding the Squat, circle the bell around your head and return to the original position.
  • Why: Halos train the lower body and abdominal muscles isometrically (no movement). They also target the triceps and shoulders.

4. One-Arm Clean

  • Place the bell between your feet set shoulder-width apart and grab the handle with one hand.
  • Explosively bring the bell up to chest level, keeping it as close to your body as possible. Think of it like zipping up a coat.
  • When the bell reaches chest level, your hips, knees, and ankles should be fully extended (triple extension).
  • When the bell reaches the top and you are in triple extension, "drop under" the bell and catch it in front rack position. Make sure to check out the video for a visual demonstration.
  • Why: Powerful hip extension is the backbone of improving sports performance.

5. One-Arm Clean & Press

  • Perform the Clean portion same as above.
  • Once the bell is in front rack position and you are standing straight up, dip down slightly and press the bell overhead.
  • Press the bell straight overhead, turning your arm so your palm faces away from your body at the top.
  • Why: Powerful hip extension paired with upper-body strength and stability due to the load on only one side.

6. Double Clean

  • Perform the Clean with two kettlebells.
  • All technique stays the same.
  • Why: Progression of the One-Arm Clean, again targeting hip extension.

7. Alternating Power Pull

  • Also known as a Clean High Pull, this is the first half of the Clean.
  • Remember to keep the bell as close to your body as you can, making sure to hit triple extension (ankles, knees, and hips fully extended).
  • When you return the bell to the ground, switch hands and alternate hands after each rep.
  • Why: Regression to a Kettlebell Clean, which is easy to learn and perform but still confers benefits from extension of the ankles, knees and hip.

8. Push-Up Position Transfer

  • Assume a push-up position with a bell resting on the ground outside one hand.
  • Reach across with the hand opposite of the bell, maintain your position, lift it across your body and set it on the ground on the opposite side.
  • Keep your hips and torso locked in place and brace your abdominal muscles to ensure success with this.

9. Plank Transfer

  • Assume a plank position with a bell resting on the ground outside one hand.
  • Repeat the same motion as the Push-Up Position Transfer, again trying not to rotate your torso or hips..
  • Why: This challenges your abdominal muscles as well as your shoulders.

10. Half Kneeling Rotation

  • Grab a bell by the side handles and get into a lunge position with your back knee resting on the ground.
  • Start with the bell at your hip pocket on your down-leg side and your upper body rotated toward the bell.
  • Keeping your arms straight, rotate and raise the bell until you are looking straight ahead with the bell at face level.
  • Reverse the motion, returning the bell to your hip pocket.
  • Why: In a one-half kneeling position, overall stability is challenged and the rotation adds to the work your abdominal muscles have to do.

11. Half Kneeling Bottoms Up Curl 'N Press

  • Assume a lunge position with your back knee on the ground and the bell on your down-knee side.
  • Grab the bell at the top of the handle, curl the weight up and press it overhead.
  • When you do this, squeeze as hard as possible with your hand to keep the bell in place. When you press it overhead, the bell should be upside down with the handle below the ball.
  • Why: Stability in the shoulder due to the bottoms up grip on the bell, plus strength in the biceps and deltoid.

12. Goblet Squat, Curl & Press

  • Hold the bell at chest level, gripping the sides of the handles.
  • Squat down, and when you reach the bottom, extend your arms and curl it back up to your chest.
  • Once you curl the bell to your chest, press it straight out.
  • Return, then stand up out of the Squat.
  • Why: Total body strength and stability.

13. One and a Half  Rep Goblet Squat

  • Hold the bell at chest level, again holding the sides of the handles.
  • Squat down to the bottom, come halfway up, return to the bottom, then return to the top.
  • Why: Adds volume to the workout and really challenges your lower body.

14. One-Arm Bottoms-Up Press

  • Stand upright with a bell in one hand at shoulder level in the "bottoms-up" position (the bell should be upside down).
  • Press the bell overhead with a neutral grip, elbow pointing straight ahead.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Use a lighter weight than you would for a traditional Press because of the lack of stability in the bottoms-up position.
  • Why: Stability in the shoulder from the bottoms-up position.

15. One-Arm Bottoms-Up Carry

  • With a bottoms-up hold, press the kettlebell overhead and hold the position at the top.
  • Slowly walk forward with the bell overhead and your opposite arm straight out to the side.
  • Make sure to master the Bottoms-Up Press before attempting the Carry.
  • Why: Stability in the shoulder from the bottoms-up position and engaging the core.

16. One-Arm Front Rack Carry

  • Clean the bell up to a front rack position (see number 4).
  • With your opposite arm pointing out to the side, walk forward, keeping your shoulders level.
  • Why: Stability and strength improvements due to the unilateral load.

17. Farmer's Walk

  • Pick up two heavy kettlebells, hold them at your sides and walk forward.
  • Make sure your chest is up and your shoulders are level.
  • Why: Nothing trains grip strength and endurance like heavy Farmer's Walks. Back muscles are also heavily involved, particularly your trapezius.

18. Suitcase Carry

  • Perform like the Farmer's Walk, but hold a kettlebell in only one hand.
  • Why: Grip strength and endurance, abdominal strength and stability due to the unilateral load.

19. Deadlift

  • Set the bell on the ground between your feet set at shoulder-width.
  • Drop your butt down and bend your knees slightly, making sure your back is straight.
  • Lift the bell off the ground by pushing your hips forward until you are standing straight up.
  • Return the bell to the ground in the same way.
  • Why: Posterior chain development.

20. Double Front Squat

  • Perform a Double Clean (see number 6) and hold the bells in a double front rack position.
  • Squat down and return to the top.
  • Make sure to stay back on your heels and do not collapse forward due to the front load; to do this, keep your elbows up slightly so the bells can't shift forward while you squat.
  • Why: Lower-body strength and abdominal strength due to the load in the front.

21. One-Arm Front Squat

  • Perform a One-Arm Clean (see number 5) and hold the bell in a front rack position.
  • Squat down and return to the top.
  • Again, make sure to keep your elbow slightly up and try to prevent leaning or rotating due to the load on only one side.
  • Why: Lower-body strength and abdominal strength and stability due to the unilateral load.

22. Turkish Get-Up

  • Lie down on your back with a kettlebell in one hand.
  • Press the bell straight up and out from your chest.
  • Raise and bend the knee on the side of the bell.
  • Extend your opposite arm out to the other side.
  • Keeping the bell pressed out, come up to your opposite elbow.
  • Next, come up to your hand still pressing the bell out.
  • Raise your hips up and "make a table" with your body.
  • Slide your foot and knee back under your body. You should now be resting on the knee opposite your overhead arm.
  • Stand up on both feet, still pressing the weight overhead.
  • Reverse the motion and return to the ground keeping your arm locked out the entire time.
  • This is a very tricky exercise to master. Practice first without weight, then progress to light weight (5 to 15 pounds). Move up to heavier weight only after you become comfortable with the exercise.
  • Remember: elbow, hand, hip, stand!
  • Why: Total-body strength with an emphasis on shoulder stability.

23. Gladiator

  • Perform a Turkish Get-Up, but stop after you raise your hips and "make a table" with your body.
  • Staying on your hand, rotate your body until you are in a modified side plank position with your arm extended straight above.
  • At this point, your feet should be stacked on one another. Lift your top foot as high as possible, then return it to the stacked position.
  • Return to the hips up, table position and reverse the motion until you are lying on your back again.
  • Master the Turkish Get-Up first, then progress to this exercise. Again, watch the video above for a visual demonstration.
  • Why: Progression of the traditional Turkish Get-Up.

24. Romanian Deadlift

  • Start with a single bell in your hands, standing straight up.
  • Hinge at the hip, keeping your back straight, until the bell touches the ground.
  • Return to the top by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes as hard as possible.
  • Why: Posterior chain development.

25. Single Leg Deadlift

  • Hold a kettlebell in one hand with the back of your hand facing away from you, and stand straight up.
  • Lift one foot off the ground and balance on your opposite foot while simultaneously hinging at the hip and lowering the bell.
  • Aim the bell directly in front of your balancing foot so you can lower the bell and bring it across your body at the same time.
  • Once the bell touches the ground, return to the top, still keeping your back straight.
  • For a better understanding, check out the video.
  • Why: Posterior chain development and challenging balance.

26. Overhead Squat

  • Press two kettlebells overhead until your arms are fully extended, palms facing out.
  • Squat down until you reach parallel.
  • Return to the starting position, keeping the bells locked out overhead the whole time.
  • While squatting, keep your hands pulled back behind your ears slightly.
  • Why: Shoulder strength and stability and lower-body development.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock