2 Killer Kettlebell Circuits

Upgrade your workouts this off-season with kettlebell training. Jim Carpentier provides two muscle-building kettlebell circuits to develop your entire body.

Kettlebell Circuit

We live in an age of upgrades: version 2.0, 4G wireless networks, seemingly endless updates to iTunes. So it should be no surprise that the exercise community has a new and better tool for whipping athletes into phenomenal shape. Step aside dumbbell, the kettlebell is here.

Kettlebells provide all of the strength benefits of traditional dumbbells, but with an extra assault on your forearm and wrist strength. The bells' unique shape helps you develop a more powerful grip—a helpful attribute to any hockey, baseball, tennis player or golfer. Its irregular shape forces you to recruit more stabilizer muscles, making kettlebells an outstanding way to develop better balance and core strength. (See Ask the Experts: What's the Difference Between a Kettlebell and a Dumbbell?)

But don't just listen to me. Try a kettlebell circuit and see for yourself. To perform the following two circuits, you'll need three kettlebells—one that feels heavy (about 90% of what you could lift), one medium, and one that feels light. Perform a dynamic warm-up before you start the routine, and then get ready, because these workouts are pretty tough (you've been warned).

Kettlebell Circuit #1

Front Squats


Holding the heavy kettlebell in one hand forces the core muscles (abdominals, lower and middle back) to work harder to stabilize the body against the imbalanced load, while also strengthening the forearm, wrist and grip. Plus, you get the usual benefits of a Squat, working the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

Sets/Reps: 3x3-5

How to

  • Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and the heavy kettlebell lying on the floor.
  • Squat down, grab the kettlebell with your right hand and stand back up.
  • Pause for one second, then start your second rep, maintaining your hold on the weight.
  • Rest for 10 to 20 seconds, then perform the set on your other side (using your left hand).
  • That's one set. Rest 45 seconds between sets.

Cleans and Presses


A terrific upper and lower body movement that works the shoulders, arms, chest, lower, middle and upper back and leg, gluteal and core muscles.

Sets/Reps: 3x6-8 each side

How to

  • Use the medium-weight kettlebell.
  • Assume the same stance you used for the Squa
  • Lower down and explosively pick up the kettlebell with your right hand, rising up onto your toes as you pull the weight to your right shoulder.
  • Quickly press the kettlebell from your shoulder up overhead.
  • Repeat for specified  reps on the right side, rest for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch to your left.

Alternate Push-Ups and Pulls


Engage the chest, triceps, biceps, upper, middle, lower back, and abdominal muscles. Multiple pushing and pulling movements occur in sports like football and wrestling.

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

How to

  • Assume push-up position with your right hand grasping the handle of a light kettlebell and your left hand on the floor.
  • Perform a push-up, then pull the kettlebell off of the floor and up to your chest.
  • Lower the weight back to the floor and repeat until you've completed all reps on that side.
  • Rest for 30 seconds, then switch to your left hand. That's one set.
  • Rest for 45 seconds before beginning your next set.

Kettlebell Circuit #2



It's an excellent core, lower- and upper-body muscle endurance exercise involving the abdominal, lower, middle, and upper back, shoulder, arm and leg and hip muscles.

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

How to

  • Hold a light kettlebell in your right hand just above the shoulder.
  • Bend your knees while rotating to the left, driving the kettlebell down toward the outside of your left ankle as you look to the rear.
  • Your left hand should be outstretched overhead toward the rear in a straight line with your right arm.
  • Pause for one second, then return to the starting position.
  • Perform for specified reps on your right side, rest for 30 seconds, then switch to your left.

Turkish Get-Ups


The exercise effectively strengthens the core and lower-body muscles necessary for quickly getting up off the field, court or ice from a supine or seated position while the play is still in progress and getting back on offense or defense.

Sets/Reps: 3x6-8

How to

  • Start in a supine position holding the medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand above your right shoulder.
  • Rise up off your back and stand up, holding the kettlebell up as you move.
  • Repeat the sequence five to seven more times, then rest for 30 seconds before repeating with the kettlebell in your left hand.

Kettlebell Swings


It's an all-in-one lower, upper body and core strengthening exercise.

Sets/Reps: 3x3-5

How to

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and your toes pointing diagonally out.
  • Bend your knees and lift the kettlebell off the floor with your right hand.
  • At the top of the rep (the weight should go no higher than just above your waist), reverse direction and swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
  • Perform all reps with your right arm, then switch to your left without rest.
  • Wait 30 seconds between sets.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles tight and back straight during swings to avoid placing excess stress on your lower back.

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