Kettlebells are a handy tool for resistance training. Any exercise you can do with a dumbbell, you can probably do with a kettlebell too.

Kettlebell variations distribute the weight differently and allow you to work through slightly different ranges of motion. In short, this means they offer a somewhat different challenge to doing the same exercise with a dumbbell.

Plus, kettlebells allow you to do more explosive movements that require a little more momentum behind them.

Perfect for delivering an efficient full-body workout, here’s how you can use just one kettlebell to do a session that works all the major muscle groups.


How to hold a kettlebell


Before getting into the exercises, it’s helpful to understand the different ways you can hold a kettlebell.


Front racked kettlebell:

One great thing about the kettlebell is that it is much more comfortable to hold in the front racked position. Grip strength becomes less of a problem, meaning your hands don’t get as sore from holding the weight, and you can do your exercises for even longer.

Any exercise you do in a racked position has the arms and core working harder.

To front rack a kettlebell:

1. With one hand, hold the kettlebell by the handle at shoulder height.

2. Keep your elbow fully bent to do so, and make sure it’s tucked into the body and not flaring out.

3. Don’t make your upper arms a shelf for the kettlebell; otherwise, you’ll end up with all sorts of bruises.

4. Make sure your wrist stays straight and doesn’t start to bend back with the kettlebell’s weight.


Goblet hold:

The goblet hold involves keeping the weight close to the chest. By doing so, you activate your coreto stabilise your posture.

To goblet hold:

1. Turn the kettlebell upside down so the bottom of the bell points upwards

2. Hold the handles of the kettlebell underneath with two hands

3. Keep the weight close to your chest by bending at the elbows and tucking them into the sides


Bottom-up hold:

Like the goblet hold, the bottom-up hold is done with the bell of the kettlebell facing upwards.

To bottom-up hold:

1. With the bottom of the bell facing up, position your palms on the underside of the bell

2. Allow the handle to fit in the space between your wrists, using your palms to secure the bell


Two-handed hold

The two-handed hold is where you simply hold the kettlebell by the handle with two hands.


Single-handed hold

You guessed it. Here, you hold the kettlebell by the handle with one hand.


For the legs


Kettlebell lunges

Kettlebell lunges are effective when holding the weight in the front racked position. You can do this on one side, or if you’re up for it, on both. This way is much more of a challenge than holding the weights down by your sides.

The exercise primarily works the lower body, but your upper body and core also need to get involved.

1. Front rack a kettlebell onto one side of the body

2. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and adopt a good posture

3. With the leg on the same side as the kettlebell, take a big step forward

4. Keeping the knee of the front leg pointing in the same direction as the feet, lower the body down by flexing the knee and the hips of the front leg

5. The knee of the back leg should come down until it almost touches the ground

6. Push back up to standing, driving through the front heel and extending the hips and knees

7. Place the foot back to the starting position and repeat



Kettlebell swings

Kettlebells are probably best known for the swings. They can be a tricky movement to get right, as it’s all about the hinging of the hips. When done correctly, kettlebell swings are an effective explosive movement that works the posterior chain muscles. That includes the back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

1. Stand shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell with a two-handed grip

2. Bend slightly at the knee and hinge the hips back, pulling the kettlebell back between your legs

3. Allow your torso will bend forward but your back straight

4. Drive your hips forward, extending them fully and come back up to standing, bringing the kettlebell up to shoulder height

5. Allow the kettlebell to come down and repeat



For the glutes


Goblet squat

The goblet squat is a beginner-friendly squat variation that helps to reinforce good posture and form. It allows for a comfortable grip and lets you achieve balance whilst working the muscle groups in the glutes quads, core, and back.

1. Hold the kettlebell in a goblet hold at the chest

2. Start feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider

3. Squat down by sitting the hips back and allowing the knees to bend until the thighs are parallel with the floor

4. Maintain a flat back throughout

5. Drive up to standing, extending the hips and knees and squeezing the glutes at the top



Sumo squat

The sumo squat is a wide stance variation of the squat, which works more of the inner thigh and the glute than a narrower stance version.

1. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart

2. Hold the kettlebell in front of the body in a two-handed grip

3. Squat down by sitting the hips back and allowing the knees to bend until the thighs are parallel with the floor and the kettlebell almost touches the ground

4. Maintain a flat back throughout

5. Drive up to standing, extending the hips and knees and squeezing the glutes at the top



For the core


Russian twists


The Russian twist is a floor-based exercise that feels more comfortable when done with a bottom-up kettlebell grip compared to holding dumbbells.

1. Sit on the floor

2. Either place your feet on the floor with your knees bent or keep a slight bend in your knees and hover your feet off the floor to make it harder

3. With elbows bent, hold the kettlebell above the stomach

4. Twist from left to right by rotating the torso. Bring the kettlebell down towards the floor on each side as you twist



Sit up to press

This two-phased movement works both the core and the upper body well. Using a kettlebell allows for a comfortable and secure grip as you move through the exercise.

1. Start by lying on the floor, holding the kettlebell by the handles but with the bottom facing up

2. Sit up by lifting the upper body off the floor, ensuring your legs and feet stay grounded

3. As you reach the top of your sit-up, press the weight out and upward by contracting the chest and extending the arms

4. Return the kettlebell to your chest and return your upper body to the floor



For the back


Single leg deadlifts

Single leg deadlifts can be tricky and require a lot of balance. Using a kettlebell helps stabilise you during the movement and encourages you to shift your weight towards the floor using the leading leg. Deadlifts are in general, an extremely effective exercise that builds strength in the back, glutes, and hamstrings.

1. Stand shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in one hand

2. Lead with the same leg holding the kettlebell

3. Keep a slight bend in the leading leg and hinge the hips to bring the torso parallel to the floor

4. The opposite leg will come up to counterbalance the weight

5. Maintain a flat back and bend until you feel a mild stretch in the hamstring.

6. Extend the hips to come back up to standing



Split stance kettlebell rows

The exercise works the upper back, particularly the trapezius muscles and the muscles at the back of the shoulder. It’s also great for improving core strength and endurance. The split stance engages the lower body, too, making it a great all-rounder.

1. Adopt a split stance by stepping one foot forward

2. Hold a kettlebell on the same side as the front leg

3. Hinge at the hips to bring your torso as parallel to the floor as possible

4. Start with the arm extended down towards the floor

5. Pull the kettlebell up towards the torso by bringing the upper arm and elbow back and up towards the sky

6. Keep the elbow tucked into the body

7. Slowly lower back down by extending the arm and repeat



For the shoulders


Kettlebell overhead press

The overhead press can be done from kneeling or standing. You can work one side or both sides at a time. The pressing movement develops upper body strength, in particular in the shoulder muscles. Using a kettlebell offers a comfier grip and helps you to keep control of the movement throughout.

1. Start in the front rack position, keeping your shoulders back and down

2. Press the kettlebell overhead without locking out the elbows at the top

3. Slowly return to the start and repeat



For the arms


Tricep extensions

Like the version done with a single dumbbell, the tricep extension aims to isolate the tricep muscles at the back of the upper arm.

1. Hold the weight overhead with both hands

2. By bending at the elbows only and keeping them tucked in, lower the weight behind the head

3. Extend back to the starting position and repeat



Kettlebell curls

Traditional bicep curls can also be done with a kettlebell. Work one arm at a time to build strength in the upper arm with this isolated movement.

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart

2. Hold a kettlebell with one hand, palms facing forward

3. Curl the kettlebell up by fully bending at the elbow

4. Slowly lower and repeat



Full body finishers


Turkish get-up

The Turkish get-up can be tricky to get right. It’s a complex exercise that involves lots of different phases of the movement. But it’s worth it. When you master this exercise’s technicals, it can help you build full-body, functional strength and endurance. By ending your kettlebell workout with it, you’ll know it’s been an effective session.

1. Start by lying on your back with your arms and legs out

2. Bend your right leg, placing your foot flat on the floor

3. Extend your right arm up towards the ceiling

4. Gaze up towards your fist

5. Drive up through your left shoulder and your right heel, coming up onto your left shoulder

6. Push up onto your left palm and come into the seated position

7. Bring your left leg underneath you and place your left knee and ankle onto the floor underneath your arm

8. Bring your left hand off the floor and come up into a kneeling position

9. Drive up from kneeling using the right heel up to standing

Tip: Keep a strong core at all time, and make sure your back remains flat. Focus on which muscles are driving up at each stage.