Working out with kettlebells adds variety to your fitness routine. You can use them to perform vigorous strength training along with power exercises to boost your explosiveness, Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, a fitness expert and the founder of GroomBuilder, explains. As you advance, kettlebell training will help you add muscle and size to your frame. We spoke with the experts who share nine of the best kettlebell exercises to build size and strength. So if your goal is to get bigger and stronger, grab those kettlebells, and read up!
"Kettlebells are in many ways more forgiving than dumbbells and barbells," says Tyler Read, the founder of PTPioneer.com and a personal trainer who's been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. "Most kettlebell movements with the upper body allow your shoulders to have a better range of motion when performed holding the kettlebell in a proper rack position. Kettlebells overall excel for dynamic training and early muscle and strength. At the upper end of strength, you will need to include some heavier movements as well. However, most people's muscle and strength goals can be reached with kettlebells and diet alone."
Keep reading to learn Yeung and Read's top-recommended kettlebell exercises to build size and strength. And next, don't forget to check out The 5 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Stronger Legs.
1. Kettlebell Swings
You'll begin this first exercise in a deadlift position with the free weight a few feet away from your body. "Then, hike the kettlebell back between your legs like a center in football and explosively drive your hips forward. Imagine propelling the kettlebell to a target in front of you," Yeung instructs. Be sure your arms remain relaxed throughout the exercise.
2. Kettlebell Deadlifts
If you want to build size and strength, kettlebell deadlifts are necessary. You'll begin with your feet shoulder-width distance apart. The kettlebell should be in between your legs with the handle aligned with the bony portion of your ankles, Yeung explains. Hinge your hips back as you use both hands to take hold of the kettlebell. Your back should be nearly parallel to the floor with the lower portion of it completely flat.
"Squeeze the handle hard, pull your shoulders backward, and crush your armpits," Yeung continues instructing. "Lift the kettlebell by pushing through the ground, not by pulling up. Stand tall and squeeze your glutes at the top. On the way down, place the kettlebell at the same exact spot you lifted it from."
3. Kettlebell Clean
The kettlebell clean will have you assuming a deadlift position with the kettlebell a few feet away from your body. Then, move the weight back between your legs and press your hips forward in an explosive fashion. Swing the weight upward so it meets a rack position, then repeat.
"Don't use your arm to yank the kettlebell. This will pull the kettlebell away from your body and then slam it onto your arm," Yeung cautions. "Instead, as you swing up, keep your elbow jammed to your ribcage, keep it there, and spin your hand. Also, try starting the kettlebell in the rack position. Then, swing it between your legs and return to the rack position."
4. Kettlebell Snatch
For this next exercise, you'll once again begin in a deadlift position. You'll then "hike" the weight back through the middle of your legs and press your hips forward in an explosive manner. Swing the kettlebell up and overhead as you would with a push press. "Imagine zipping up your jacket as you pull the kettlebell overhead," Yeung says. Lastly, bring the kettlebell between your legs, and complete the motion again.
According to Yeung, "The most common problem with the snatch is when the kettlebell slams on your forearm at the top. Don't whip the kettlebell around your hand; whip your hand around the kettlebell."
5. Kettlebell Push Press
Begin the kettlebell push press by having the weights in a "rack position"; the kettlebells will be held at chest level with the weights on the exterior of your arms and both hands positioned below your chin. Maintain a tall chest, press your shoulders back, and make sure your wrists remain straight. Then, descend into a partial squat before explosively driving your body up through your legs and pressing your arms above your head. Once you reach the top of the motion, keep your biceps close to your ears and your wrists flat. Using control, bring the kettlebells back to the rack position, and repeat the movement.
6. Kettlebell Goblet Squats
The kettlebell goblet squat is an incredibly efficient way to build up muscle and strength in your glutes and quads, Read says. You'll begin the exercise by placing your feet shoulder-width distance apart and holding the kettlebell like a goblet up to your chest. The bottom of the weight should face the ceiling. Keep tension in your core as you hinge your hips back and descend into a squat before pushing yourself back up.
7. Kettlebell Overhead Presses
"Performing overhead presses with the kettlebell is great for shoulder and upper body strength. You can do one or both arms at a time," Read tells us.
To begin, take the kettlebell in both hands and bring it up to one side of your shoulders, Onnit explains. Move the kettlebell to just one hand with the handle positioned diagonally on your palm. Stand up straight, and keep your tailbone tucked. Keep the elbow of the kettlebell hand close to the side of your body. Then, push the weight up above your head before "squeezing your lat" to bring it back down.
8. Kettlebell Rows
"Kettlebells are perfect for doing single-arm bent-over rows," Read points out. "Avoid shrugging and focus on the squeeze in your armpit and shoulder blade as you row upward."
To begin, you'll plant one knee and hand on the same side on a workout bench. With the opposite hand, grab the kettlebell. During single-arm rows, your shoulders should be kept relaxed, BarBend explains. Your elbow should lead the motion as you row the weight up. Bring your elbow up further than your torso before lowering the kettlebell back down.
9. Kettlebell Lunges
"You can perform kettlebell lunges holding the kettlebell with a variety of grips," Read explains. He recommends performing this exercise with a goblet grip if you're beginner-level.
To begin, stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Take hold of the kettlebell using a goblet grip. Step back with one leg as you descend into a lunge. Repeat on the opposite side.