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Full-Body Kettlebell Workout for Any Fitness Level (2020)

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If you’re looking for a full-body kettlebell workout that challenges you whether you’re a beginner or a pro, then you certainly won't want to miss this! 

We asked our OriGym trainers to name their favourite kettlebell exercises, and carefully selected 13 of them for our intense kettlebell full-body workout... (yes, 13 different exercises!).

Interested in turning your passion for fitness into an exciting new career? Go check out our Personal Training packages before you carry on reading... 

Kettlebell Swing 

Kettlebell Swing from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

This may be a full-body kettlebell workout, but the great thing about the kettlebell swing is that it actually classes as a full-body kettlebell exercise on its own. It’s explosive, great for conditioning and does, in fact, work most of the major muscle groups! 

One fact that may surprise you is that the kettlebell swing was actually created unintentionally by Russian farmers and strongmen, who would swing ‘girya’ (the ancient word for kettlebells) around when they were bored. 

Girya were used to measure out goods on Russian markets until the farmers and strongmen discovered they could be used as a measure of strength also! You can read more about this in OriGym’s article on kettlebell history

Also, the kettlebell swing is pretty useful for developing the explosive power that is incredibly transferable and useful for other challenging exercises. 

One source that backs this point is Matthew R. Maulit's essay on the role of the kettlebell swing in training strength and power. Maulit holds a Masters Degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from California State University, and states the following:

The kettlebell lacks the capacity for high loads in comparison to a loaded barbell. However, speed of movement during the kettlebell swing may be more specific to athletic movements making it an ideal exercise for explosive strength development. 

While you can't load up with a kettlebell as high as you could with a barbell, the fact that they can be used for kettlebell swings gives them one advantage over more traditional bodybuilding exercises. Kettlebell swings are a pretty unique exercise, especially due to the hip hinge movement which is great for building power, and shouldn't be overlooked! 

Muscles worked: shoulders, lats, abs, hamstrings, glutes, hips, pecs (& grip strength) 

Starting Position:

  • Have your legs just over shoulder-width apart 
  • Keep your back in a neutral position 
  • Get into a slight squat
  • Loosen your shoulders and keep them back
  • Grab the bell by the handle (ready to launch it backwards for momentum) 

Method:

  • Push the kettlebell backwards between your knees, keeping your back neutral and your grip loose 
  • Use your hips and glutes to drive it forwards
  • Engage your glutes and your core as you hinge your hip
  • Allow the momentum to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder-level 
  • Repeat!

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Chest Loaded Kettlebell Swing 

Chest Loaded Kettlebell Swing from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

If you’re struggling with the traditional kettlebell swing or you just want to try something slightly different without adding in the ballistic element, you should definitely make use of the chest-loaded kettlebell swing. 

Not only is it a little easier on the body when you’re getting to grips with how to hip hinge correctly, but it’s also a great way to practise explosive techniques for deadlifts and snatches/jerks.

With the chest-loaded swing, you'll have the best full-body kettlebell workout in terms of variety; you won't be skimping on any minor detail! 

Want to see all of these videos in one place? Check out our full-body kettlebell workout on YouTube

Muscles worked: shoulders, lats, abs, hamstrings, glutes, hips, pecs

Starting position:

  • Have your legs just over shoulder-width apart 
  • Keep your back in a neutral position 
  • Carefully load the kettlebell onto your chest, holding it by the horns and resting it just above your lower sternum 
  • Loosen your shoulders and keep them back

 

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Method:

  • Keeping your back neutral, push your hips back so that you’re in a partial squat 
  • Use your hips and glutes to drive your body forwards 
  • Engage your hips and core as you enter the hip hinge (without hyperextending the hips or spine) 
  • Repeat!

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Kettlebell Halo 

Kettlebell Halo from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

It may sound all innocent and pretty easy, but if you’re passionate about exercise and packing on muscle mass you’ll be glad to know that the kettlebell halo is a lot more difficult than it looks… 

Moving away from the hip hinges in our quick full-body kettlebell workout, the halo will focus in on your shoulder muscles, and those in your chest and upper arm. To be more specific, these are the deltoids, the trapezius, the pectoral muscles, and the triceps. 

Not only this, but your core will also work to stabilise your upper body as you manoeuvre the weight around your head, so it will receive some of the benefits of the exercise. 

Muscles worked: deltoids, trapezius, pectoral muscles and triceps 

Starting position: 

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart 
  • Loosen your shoulders 
  • Keep your back in a neutral position 
  • Carefully raise the kettlebell whilst holding it by the horns

Method:

  • Engage your core and glutes 
  • Choose a direction to move the kettlebell in 
  • Keeping the kettlebell as close to you as possible (you can brush the top of your head with your forearm), slowly move it around your head, making sure your back is straight and your body is braced
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 10-12 reps (try varying the direction!) 

Kettlebell Suitcase Carry

This is a truly challenging exercise that will make your kettlebell full-body workout more well-rounded than it has been in the past. One area of fitness that is often overlooked by fitness fanatics and regular gym goers is grip strength. 

Many people choose to focus on bulking and shedding pounds, which is absolutely great! However, if you want to do well in exercises such as the deadlift and overhead press and want to improve your overall health, working on your grip strength during your full-body kettlebell workout will be invaluable to you. 

The suitcase carry is all about overloading one side of your body for a short period of time to shock it into action. You’ll pack on mass when it is used alongside other strength training exercises, and it will work wonders for your grip strength thanks to your arms being nice and loose during the exercise!

A wide range of muscles are worked during the suitcase carry, which is another good sign. Your stabilising muscles will take some of the pressure, as well as your forearms! 

Muscles worked: abs, deltoids, trapezius, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hips, glutes and hamstrings, stabilising muscles  

Starting position:

  • Grab a kettlebell and place it next to your left or right foot (one that is heavy enough to strain you) 
  • Keeping your back neutral, squat down until you can reach the handle 
  • Brace your body to lift 

Method: 

  • Loading your weight onto your heels, lift your body whilst holding the kettlebell in a neutral grip (palm facing inwards)
  • Hold it at the side of your hip, as if you’re carrying a suitcase or carrier bag 
  • Ensure that your core and glutes are braced, and hold your chest up 
  • Walk forward slowly, keeping your torso centred (without leaning to one side) 
  • Squat down carefully to place the weight on the ground once you’ve finished the carry 
  • Turn around, and repeat on the other side! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets (on each side), for around 30/40 seconds for beginners 

Overhead Carry 

Kettlebell Overhead Carry from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

Being extremely similar to the suitcase carry, you’ll probably know what to expect from this exercise. However, you should definitely be careful as it can be a little risky when performing a full-body kettlebell workout for beginners, and should only be done once you have a good understanding of loaded carries. If you're a beginner, maybe skip this one until you feel more confident. 

You should also try using a slightly lighter weight for this one too, as it’s harder to support heavier weights safely when holding them above your head. 

It works with a similar principle, but places more strain on the upper body (particularly the shoulders) alone. Although it can be done with dumbbells, it’s a good idea to use kettlebells as they’re usually a lot easier to grip and stabilise! 

Muscles worked: wrist flexors, deltoids, trapezius, triceps, abs/core, obliques, stabilising muscles 

Starting position: 

  • Grab a kettlebell and place it next to your left or right foot (start out with a light weight before you nail the form) 
  • Clean the kettlebell as you would in the kettlebell clean 
  • Carefully press the kettlebell into the overhead position 

Method: 

  • Ensure that you’re holding the kettlebell in a neutral yet stable grip overhead 
  • Brace your core and glutes 
  • Walk forward slowly, keeping your torso centred (without leaning to one side) 
  • Bring the kettlebell down into the rack position and then to the ground carefully once you have completed the carry 
  • Turn around, and repeat on the other side!

Reps & Sets: 3 sets (on each side), for around 30/40 seconds for beginners 

Romanian Deadlift

Kettlebell Deadlift from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

If you have a strong interest in fitness or you’ve ever set foot in a gym, you’ll certainly know about the deadlift. It’s known as a staple weight training and powerlifting exercise, especially for its ability to build muscle mass and provide you with a well-rounded workout. 

In fact, some fitness fanatics and bodybuilders swear that the deadlift is the only exercise (or one of the only exercises) that they do! 

The great thing about incorporating the Russian deadlift into your full-body kettlebell workout is that it makes the barbell version accessible with regular training (due to it being a little easier than this exercise). 

With the kettlebell deadlift, not only will you be able to gain a well-rounded workout (you’ll be able to see how many muscles are worked below), but you’ll also be able to prepare for deadlifts with barbells, especially if you start to use heavier weights.  

Muscles worked: abs, obliques, rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and erectors

Starting position:

  • Start with your feet around shoulder-width apart, the kettlebell between your feet
  • Keeping a neutral spine, squat slowly until you can grasp the handle of the kettlebell 

Method: 

  • Load your weight onto your heels
  • Slowly rise using your legs, keeping your back straight 
  • Push your hips forward as you reach the top of the movement 
  • Carefully return the kettlebell to its original position
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of around 8-12 reps (less reps for heavier weights) 

Goblet Squat 

Kettlebell Goblet Squat from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

Goblet squats are a great place to start when it comes to squatting in a full-body kettlebell workout. They only involve one bell, so you’re able to get a good grasp of how it feels to squat with one without overloading your lower body. 

They’re great for developing muscle mass and tone in your quadriceps and glutes, and if performed quickly (after a good amount of practice), they can be brilliant for building explosiveness. 

This explosiveness if great for use in sports, but also in other advanced exercises such as the overhead press and deadlifts. 

Another great reason to perform the goblet squat is that they're great for torching fat, so would do extremely well in a full-body kettlebell workout for fat loss!

Muscles worked: quadriceps & glutes (primarily), the core, and lower-body stabilising muscles 

Starting position:

  • Stand upright with your feet around shoulder-width apart
  • Hold the kettlebell by the horns with a moderate grip, just in front of your chest 
  • Keep your spine straight and your shoulders back

Method: 

  • Drive your heels into the ground, resting your weight on them 
  • Push your hips back and begin to squat 
  • Break-even (or squat just below your knees)
  • Use your heels to drive the kettlebell and your body back upwards 
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 10-12 reps 

Front Squat

Kettlebell Front Squat from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

While you won’t be able to load up as much weight with a kettlebell front squat as you would a barbell front squat, you’ll be surprised at just how much it can do for you in terms of building lower-body strength and muscle tone. 

The reason for the kettlebell front squat being difficult is that kettlebells have an off-set centre of mass, and trying to hold two of them simultaneously is very different than holding and stabilising a barbell. 

During a kettlebell front squat, the lats are disengaged and so your core has to do more of the work. This makes the exercise difficult, which also means that it’s good for those who need to develop/correct a lack of stability in certain areas of the body. 

If you master this exercise as part of your full-body kettlebell workout, you’ll reap the benefits physically as well as being able to progress to the barbell front squat quicker! 

Muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, the core, and lower-body stabilising muscles 

Starting position:

  • Brace your core and glutes
  • Clean both kettlebells into the rack position on either side of your body 
  • Ensure that your back is neutral in preparation for the squat 

Method: 

  • Lower your body into a squat, as deep as you can make it (work up to being able to break even, below the knee) 
  • Keep your spine neutral during the movement 
  • Drive your body and the kettlebell back upwards
  • Push your hips out at the top of the movement (hip hinge)
  • Lower your body towards the ground again
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of around 8-10 reps 

Kettlebell Clean and Press

Perhaps one of the most renowned kettlebell exercises, the kettlebell clean and press has always been a favourite of ours here at OriGym. It’s impossible to do this exercise without feeling strong, and there’s no other feeling that you’d want to feel when completing a full-body kettlebell workout!

It incorporates the clean and the press together and is significantly less intimidating than trying the same exercise with a barbell. 

NOTE: we've uploaded every exercise from our full-body kettlebell workout on YouTube, just in case you wanted to take a look!

Muscles worked: triceps, biceps, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, upper chest, deltoids, rhomboid, abdominals, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps 

Starting position:

  • Have your feet around shoulder-width apart 
  • Grab a kettlebell and place it in front of you on the ground 
  • Keeping your back neutral, squat down until you can reach the handle 
  • Brace your body to lift 

Method:

  • Clean the kettlebell on the side of your body that you’ll be using first 
  • Take a sharp breath through your nose 
  • Ensuring that your core and glutes are braced, press the kettlebell overhead 
  • Hold for around 2 seconds 
  • Bring the kettlebell back into the rack position in a controlled manner 
  • Squatting slightly, carefully place the kettlebell back onto the ground
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 8-10 reps on either side 

Kettlebell Clean and Jerk 

People confuse the kettlebell clean and jerk with the clean and press, which is understandable if you’re not used to seeing kettlebells used for exercise. However, each exercise is significantly different to the other, and engages different muscles when executed in a kettlebell full-body workout. 

For example, the kettlebell clean and press is a low-impact exercise that is performed slower than the clean and jerk, whereas the jerk involves a lot of explosiveness when the kettlebell is driven upwards. 

The clean and jerk is pretty high-impact and leaves you more fatigued at the end of each set. We’d recommend trying this one after you’ve mastered the clean and press, especially if you want to build explosiveness in your lower body!  

Muscles worked: deltoids, triceps, biceps, forearms, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, upper chest, abs, hamstrings, glutes, calves 

Starting position:

  • Have your feet around shoulder-width apart 
  • Grab a kettlebell and place it in front of you on the ground 
  • Keeping your back neutral, squat down until you can reach the handle 
  • Brace your body to drive the kettlebell upwards 

Method: 

  • Clean the kettlebell with the arm that you’re going with first 
  • Take a sharp breath through your nose 
  • Keeping your knees loose/springy, squat slightly and drive the kettlebell upwards
  • Bring the kettlebell back down into the rack position 
  • Repeat! 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 8-10 reps on either side 

Renegade Rows

Kettlebell Renegade Row from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

The back is often missed out of home workout routines, or those that don’t involve a lot of gym-standard exercise machines. Not everyone can afford to have a barbell and squat rack at home!

Not to worry; you’ll be glad to know that a full-body kettlebell workout can indeed involve exercises that focus on the back. Alongside the kettlebell deadlift, renegade rows are great for working your back (as well as conditioning your core). 

Not only this, but they’re also great for building the general stabilisation of your body. They cover a large range of muscles and present a decent challenge when it comes to executing the exercise properly (they’re harder than they look!), which means that you’ll reap a whole heap of benefits once you master them!

It's great to know that even your back can be targeted during a full-body kettlebell workout, an area that many people would assume to be missed out with kettlebell training.  In his article on how kettlebell training is an alternative to traditional exercise methods, Rodrigo Luiz Vancini states:

Considering that traditional strength training devices (barbells) and exercise facilities (gyms) could be expensive and keep beginners away, kettlebell exercise may be a more affordable and accessible strength and aerobic training alternative to increase and maintain physical fitness related to cardiorespiratory health and power and strength performance.

From this point, we can add our own view that kettlebells are a great alternative to traditional exercise methods. If you're looking for a full-body kettlebell workout for beginners, it's likely that you're looking to start this kind of training from the comfort of your own home, and that's great! Kettlebell training is a great doorway into strength training, and can certainly help you to maintain a good level of fitness.

You may not be able to push it as far with kettlebells as you can with other exercises, but you can certainly work out every major muscle group this way and not worry too much about skipping on any important areas. 

Muscles worked: abs, obliques, triceps, biceps, pectoral muscles, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, rhomboid, and the trapezius

Starting position:

  • Make sure that you use an exercise mat 
  • Place two kettlebells on the ground in front of you 
  • Get into a plank position (ensuring your back is straight), holding the handle of each kettlebell 

Method: 

  • Keeping your hips from dropping and your spine straight, slowly pull one kettlebell (using your elbow, not your hand) towards your rib cage 
  • Slowly place it back in its original position 
  • Pull the other kettlebell towards your rib cage using the same method, placing it back in its original position after a few seconds 
  • Repeat!

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 8-10 reps 

Kettlebell Lunges 

Kettlebell Lunges from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

If you’re into fitness, chances are you’ve tried lunges before. However, even if you haven’t this move doesn’t have to be overly complicated! Thankfully, they’re quite a natural movement and not as difficult as some of the other full-body kettlebell workout moves. 

They’re great for conditioning your lower body for sports and other exercises, as well as preventing injuries concerning your ACL (which you definitely don’t want to experience!). Without kettlebells, they’re used as dynamic stretches… but add the weight, and they transform into a fully-fledged lower body exercise. Give them a try! 

Muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and the core 

Starting position: 

  • Deadlift two kettlebells (one in each hand), keeping your back neutral and using a light grip
  • Stand upright with your shoulders slightly back 

Method: 

  • Lunge forward with one leg, keeping your legs at 90-degree angles in the ground position 
  • Stop when your back knee is almost touching the ground 
  • Hold the kettlebells steady at your sides, keeping your back straight and shoulders slightly back (don’t let the bells touch the ground)
  • Return to the starting position 
  • Lunge forward with the opposite leg! 

Alternatively, you can perform the lunges with one leg and return to them with the opposite leg for the next set. 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 12-20 reps (each side) 

Kettlebell Lateral Lunges 

Kettlebell Lateral Lunges from OriGym Personal Trainer Courses on Vimeo.

Much like the conventional kettlebell lunges, you’ll be glad to know that this exercise doesn’t require as much effort as some of the more complicated moves in the full-body kettlebell workout. With some practice, you too can look just like Spider-Man on the gym floor (or in your own living room!).

The main mistake that is made during the lateral lunge using a kettlebell for extra resistance is when the body almost collapses over the straight knee. 

To avoid this, you should ensure that you’re bending from the hips with your core fully engaged and your back positioned straight. Imagine that you’re doing a conventional squat, as the process is very similar! Drive upwards with the foot that belongs to the bent knee, and you should have no issues. 

Muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, inner thighs and outer thighs

Starting position:

  • Lift a kettlebell carefully to chest height, and hold it by the horns 
  • Stand upright with a straight spine and your shoulders slightly back
  • Have your feet about hip-width apart 

Method: 

  • With a moderate/steady grip on the kettlebell and your core engaged, lunge out to one side
  • Bend the knee that you lunged with at around a 90-degree angle, keeping the opposite leg straight 
  • Break-even (just below knee-height), hold for a few seconds, then return to your original position 
  • Lunge out with the opposite leg (as you just did)
  • Repeat!

Alternatively, you can perform the lateral lunges the same leg and return to them with the opposite leg for the next set in the circuit. 

Reps & Sets: 3 sets of 12-20 reps (each side) 

Before you go! 

We hope you’re ready to try out our full-body kettlebell workout, whether you’re completely new to the exercise or you’re already a kettlebell pro. 

Interested in turning your passion for fitness into a new and exciting career? Go ahead and download our FREE prospectus, or check out OriGym’s range of Personal Trainer courses on the website for more info on what you could be learning! 

More exercises to try… 

Feeling inspired by the kettlebell full-body workout, and want to add in some more exercises for variation? Go check out our exercise guides on the following:

References

  1. Maulit, Matthew R. Effects of Kettlebell Swing vs. Explosive Deadlift Training on Strength and Power. International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science. (2017). p.2. Available at: http://journals.aiac.org.au/index.php/IJKSS/article/view/3078/2547. Date accessed: 26/11/2019. 
  2. Vancini, Rodrigo Luiz et al. Kettlebell Exercise as an Alternative to Improve Aerobic Power and Muscle Strength. Journal of human kinetics vol. 66 5-6. (2019). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6458586/. Date accessed: 26/11/2019. 

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer with a particular interest in circuit training. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training.