Kettlebell workouts can target several muscle groups at once in a short time. They can help improve your strength, power, and cardiovascular fitness.

Kettlebells are a popular strength-training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines.

They were originally used as farm tools in Russia, but were reinvented as an exercise weight after male performers used them to compare feats of strength.

Kettlebells used for exercise typically weigh 3–100 pounds (lbs) (1.5–45 kilograms (kg)). They can be used on their own to create a full-body workout, or you can select certain kettlebell exercises to add to your exercise routine.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends the following kettlebell weight ranges for adult males and females, depending on strength training experience:

BeginnerIntermediate to advanced
Male15–25 lbs (7–11 kg)35 lbs (16 kg) or more
Female8–15 lbs (4–7 kg)18 lbs (8 kg) or more

Several factors may also influence your choice of kettlebell weight, such as the exercise you’re performing and your overall health condition.

Keep reading to learn more about 7 versatile kettlebell exercises to include in your workout, as well as the benefits and risks of kettlebell training.

How should you pace your kettlebell workout?

Try to work in your kettlebell exercises 2 or 3 times each week.

Start by aiming for 6–8 repetitions of each exercise. Once you can comfortably complete the reps, work toward adding more sets as you build strength.

Don’t forget to prep with 5–10 minutes of warmup exercises before starting your kettlebell workout.

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Deadlifts are a compound exercise, which means they target several muscle groups. The ACE suggests deadlifts may be a good first move to get your kettlebell workout started.

  • Muscles worked: glutes, quads, back muscles
  • Reps: 6–8

How to do kettlebell deadlifts

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a kettlebell just outside each foot on the floor.
  3. Engage your abdominal muscles and draw your shoulders down as you squeeze shoulder blades together.
  4. Push hips back and bend knees to reach kettlebell handles.
  5. Firmly grip kettlebells, keeping arms and back straight and feet flat on floor.
  6. Slowly lift chest and press hips forward until you’re standing up straight.
  7. Pause and inhale before lowering your body.
  8. Repeat 6–8 times. Perform 1 set to start, and work up to 3–4 sets as you build your strength.
Person with long hair doing a kettlebell deadlift
Active Body Creative Mind

Kettlebell swings are the most common kettlebell exercise. They may boost muscle strength, power, and endurance.

While your shoulders and arms will do some work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs.

Start with a lighter weight to get used to the movement and technique. Keep a firm grip on the kettlebell throughout this exercise.

  • Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, arms, shoulders
  • Reps: Do as many swings as you can in 20 seconds while keeping proper form. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat.

How to do the kettlebell swing

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with a kettlebell centered just in front of your feet on the floor.
  2. Engage abdominal muscles and roll shoulders back.
  3. Push hips back and bend knees.
  4. Grab kettlebell with both arms.
  5. Inhale and pull the kettlebell back quickly until your wrists are between your thighs and the kettlebell is slightly behind your legs, near your butt.
  6. Exhale as you make an explosive forward movement with hips to swing kettlebell upward and out in front of you.
  7. Your arms should finish parallel to the floor.
  8. In one motion, lower chest toward the floor and push hips back, to swing kettlebell between your legs and behind you.
  9. Repeat for 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat for another 20 seconds. As you build up your strength, aim for 6–7 sets of 20 seconds each.
Person with long hair doing a kettlebell swing
Amy Crandall

Goblet squats are an excellent lower-body compound exercise. Using a kettlebell adds more effort to the squat.

  • Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, abdominal muscles
  • Reps: 6–8

How to do the kettlebell goblet squat

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly.
  2. Hold a kettlebell with both hands around the sides of the handle, not from the top of the handle, and keep it close to your chest.
  3. Slowly bend both knees so that thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep elbows forward and back straight.
  4. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, stand up to your starting position. Your feet should remain firmly on the floor.
  5. Repeat 6–8 times. Perform 1 set to start, and work up to 3–4 sets as you build up your strength.
Active Body Creative Mind

Like traditional lunges, kettlebell lunges target multiple lower-body muscles. They’re an effective balance exercise, too.

  • Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings
  • Reps: 6–8

You can hold a kettlebell in both hands to increase the difficulty.

How to do the kettlebell lunge

  1. Stand with feet together.
  2. Hold kettlebell by the handle in one hand, arm by your side.
  3. Keep shoulders back and chest upright.
  4. Slowly step forward with left leg, bending knee while keeping right foot in place.
  5. Pause for a few seconds, then push down through your forward leg to move your body upward to standing.
  6. After you finish your reps on one leg, switch sides so the kettlebell is in your other hand and your right leg steps forward.
  7. Shoot for 1 set of 6–8 reps on each leg to begin. Aim to do 3–4 sets as you build up your fitness.
Active Body Creative Mind

According to the American Sports and Fitness Association, the Russian twist could help:

  • improve your balance and stability
  • improve your posture
  • strengthen your core

Remember to keep a firm grip on the kettlebell so you don’t drop it on your lap.

  • Muscles worked: abdominal muscles, obliques
  • Reps: 6–8

How to do the Russian twist

  1. Sit with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Holding the kettlebell handle with both hands, lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  3. With heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettlebell slightly across your body.
  4. Rotate from side to side 6–8 times.
  5. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position.
  6. Do 1 set to start. Try to work up to 3–4 sets as you build your fitness and strength.
Active Body Creative Mind

Pushups are a great strength-building exercise with many variations. Using kettlebells may help improve your balance and core strength.

  • Muscles worked: pecs, shoulders, triceps, core
  • Reps: 6–8

When doing kettlebell pushups, keep your wrists straight, not bent. To prevent injury, stop if you feel out of balance or like your wrists can’t support your weight.

How to do the kettlebell pushup

  1. Place two kettlebells approximately shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  2. Grip the handle of each one, and assume a pushup position. Feel free to use a modified pushup position if that’s more doable.
  3. Keeping your core engaged, back straight, and upper body rigid, lower body toward floor.
  4. When your chest is even with the kettlebell handles, exhale and push your body back to its starting position.
  5. Repeat, always being careful not to arch your back.
  6. Repeat 6–8 times and do 1 set to start. Aim for 3–4 sets as you get stronger.
Active Body Creative Mind

A 2022 study found that performing shoulder presses with kettlebells instead of dumbells stimulated more activity in the targetted muscles.

  • Muscles worked: shoulders, triceps
  • Reps: 6–8

For this exercise, use a weight you can manage safely.

How to do the kettlebell shoulder press

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a kettlebell by the handle with your right hand so that it rests against the outside part of your right shoulder. The palm side of your hand should be facing your chin, and your elbow should be close to your body.
  3. While exhaling, push the kettlebell upward so that your arm is almost straight overhead.
  4. Slowly lower the kettlebell to its starting position, keeping wrist and forearm in a neutral position and elbow close to your body.
  5. Do 6–8 repetitions with one arm, and then switch arms. Aim for 1 set with each arm to begin. Work up to 3–4 sets for each arm as you become more advanced.
Active Body Creative Mind

Research suggests that working out with kettlebells may have several benefits, such as:

Kettlebell training may add benefits to your exercise regimen, but it may also pose several risks. According to a 2017 study, these may include the following injuries:

If you drop the kettlebell, you could also hurt your foot or any other part of your body in the kettlebell’s path.

You can reduce your risk of injury and improve the effectiveness of your workout with the following tips:

  • if you’re new to kettlebells, start slowly
  • start with lighter weights at first to get comfortable with the proper techniques
  • wear stable, closed-toe shoes when handling kettlebells
  • keep a good grip on the kettlebell and get used to the weight’s swinging movement
  • maintain good posture, form, and alignment to prevent injury
  • remember to breathe during each repetition of an exercise
  • stop immediately if you feel a sudden, sharp pain

A certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center can also show you the proper form for kettlebell exercises, as well as give you advice on safety gear like weightlifting gloves and wrist guards.

If you’re making a major change in your activity level, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor first.

Do kettlebell workouts really work?

Yes, research suggests they’re just as effective as other muscle-building tools to improve power, endurance, and strength.

Can you get in shape with just kettlebells?

Yes, various kettlebell exercises can help improve your aerobic and cardiovascular fitness.

What kind of body do kettlebells give you?

Kettlebell exercises may target all the muscles in your body, helping you build strength, power, and cardiovascular fitness.

Is 30 minutes of kettlebells enough?

Research suggests that kettlebell circuits lasting 10–20 minutes could help improve muscular, cardiovascular, and overall fitness.

Kettlebells can require a little patience at first. But with proper technique, they can deliver results in both muscle strength and cardio fitness.

You can work several muscle groups simultaneously with one kettlebell, making it a great total-body workout tool.

If you’re unsure where to start with kettlebells, speak with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist. They could help develop an exercise program tailored to your goals while minimizing the risk of injury.