The kettlebell is a stellar exercise tool, but it can be a little intimidating if you’ve never worked with one before. You’ve probably seen people on Instagram throwing them around or doing really complex moves that seem out of your league. The thing is, kettlebells aren’t just for super advanced exercisers. As long as you have a base level of strength (meaning it’s not your first time ever lifting weights) and are approaching kettlebells with the same level of care you would any other free weight, you can definitely use them in your routine.
The biggest difference between kettlebells and dumbbells is the shape. Because of its handle-and-bell construction, you can move a kettlebell a little more dynamically—you can swing it, and flip it over your arm, and hold it a few different ways. That makes it a great tool for many functional exercises, but also means that your wrists will be working even harder to stay straight and keep the weight stable. (You may also feel more sore than normal after a kettlebell workout since your body’s not used to lifting this sort of weight.)
Also, because of the kettlebell’s shape (with the majority of the weight on one end), “most kettlebell exercises challenge the stability of more than one muscle group at a time, specifically the core,” says Ava Fagin, certified personal trainer at Body Space Fitness in New York City. “Kettlebells are fantastic tools to use if you’re looking to build strength and get your heart rate up at the same time,” Fagin adds.
So, she put together a short-and-sweet workout that’ll help you do just that. The workout below includes five exercises and are arranged so that you’ll be alternating between upper-body and lower-body exercises, Fagin explains. They also focus on four very functional movement patterns—hinge, push, knee bend, pull—and get you moving in a few different directions “so you’re challenging your muscles to work in more than one plane of motion.”
While this workout isn’t incredibly advanced, you should have at least a little bit of experience lifting weights in general before jumping into it. If you have any injuries or are unsure if this workout is safe for you, it’s best to speak with your doctor before trying it.
The workout is an AMRAP workout, which stands for “as many rounds as possible.” The goal is, you guessed it: to complete as many rounds of the exercises as possible in the allotted time. “If you’re short on time and have a moderately sized kettlebell, doing an AMRAP is a great way to get a solid workout in,” says Fagin. “During an AMRAP, you will be given certain exercises and the rep count for each exercises. The goal is to complete as many rounds as possible of this set of exercises in a given time frame.” For this one, that’s 10 minutes.
“Though the goal is to work for as many rounds as possible, make sure you are safe and take a rest if you need it,” adds Fagin. “In addition, make sure you have warmed up first.” She recommends activation exercises with mini resistance bands, and doing a few dynamic stretches to prep your muscles to work through their full ranges of motion. Then, you can get into the main workout, below.
What you’ll need: Two moderately heavy kettlebells. Fagin suggests using the overhead press (instructions below) as a gauge for how heavy the weight should be. “Ideally, if you’re able to press the weight comfortably over your head 10 times without complete exhaustion, it should be appropriate for the rest of the exercises,” she says. Remember, you’ll be using the weight for 10 full minutes, so if it seems too heavy within the first few reps, it’s best to use something lighter.
- Kettlebell Swing—10 reps
- Kettlebell Overhead Press—10 reps
- Kettlebell Lateral Lunge—10 reps
- Kettlebell Bent Over Row—10 reps
- Kettlebell Halo—10 reps
- Do 10 reps of each exercise.
- Minimize rest in between each move.
- Repeat the circuit as many times as you can in 10 minutes.
Fagin suggests aiming for 5-7 rounds, though it’s always best to concentrate on proper form over speed. As you get stronger and more comfortable with each move, you’ll likely be able to fit in more rounds in the 10-minute window.
Demoing the moves below is Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies.
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