4 Killer Kettlebell Moves You Need to Try

Article posted in: Fitness

The kettlebell swing is an incredible exercise—it combines strength with conditioning, and when done properly, can be done for lots and lots of repetitions without injury. But it’s a tough exercise without a coach on hand to critique your form, and it doesn’t do everything.

Luckily, that kettlebell is good for even more than swinging. These four exercises need just one kettlebell to work most of the rest of your body—and combined, they create a short workout that will build strength while leaving you just as gassed as a session of swings. Read on for exercise instructions, then try out the workout protocol at the bottom.

Exercise 1: Floor Presses for Safe Pressing Strength

Using a kettlebell to perform a bench press turns a simple exercise into an experience that’s akin to pushing the weight while wrestling a catnip-crazed cat that’s latched onto your hand. The bell wants to fly all over the place, which is why a floor press—where your shoulder and back are pressed into the ground rather than a bench—can make the press a little safer for your shoulder while still working your chest and triceps.

How to do it:

Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your upper arms should be at your sides so that your upper body forms a pointy arrow shape and your fists are around your nipple line. Hold a kettle bell handle in your right hand so that the weight is behind your hand on the floor. Bring your shoulder blades together to open your chest and set your shoulder in a healthy position.

Pressing your mid- and upper back into the floor, press the weight straight up over your chest. As you press, use these two cues to make the movement natural and safe: As you push, think of how you’d push someone away from you—your arm should travel in the same pattern. And as the weight comes up, think of pressing your upper back harder into the floor instead of thinking of pushing the weight away from your chest—this can keep you from lifting your shoulder up off the floor.

Once the weight is at the top of the press, bend your elbow to return to start. Do all your reps on this side, then switch sides and repeat.

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Exercise 2: One-Arm Bent-Over Row for a Strong Back

Build a strong front with the presses, and you’ve got to balance it with pulling strength. The beauty of using the kettlebell for this row is actually the opposite of when you press with it: The position of the handle above the load actually makes the weight more stable in your hand while you perform the row. Where a dumbbell might shift in your hands with one or the other end banging into your wrist, the kettlebell’s handle position means the weight remains balanced under your hand, so you can concentrate on performing the motion perfectly.

How to do it:

Stand with a firm bench on your left side. Place your left knee on the bench, then bend your torso forward and place your left hand on the bench to support your body. In this position, your upper body should be parallel to the floor. Reach down and grab the kettlebell with your right hand, returning to this position where your body is parallel to the floor, with the weight hanging straight down from your right shoulder.

Maintaining that upper body position, pull your right arm straight up until your hand reaches the side of your chest. Lower the weight back to the starting position, and repeat. Do all your reps on this side, then switch sides and repeat.

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Exercise 3: Improve Squat Form and Safety with the Goblet Squat

Squats work a gazillion muscles (OK, only a few hundred), help improve bone density and testosterone production, and, of course, give you stronger, sexier legs. But they can also hurt your knees and lower back if your form’s off. But the kettlebell can help with that. By holding the weight in front of your chest in a “goblet” position, it’s more natural to keep your chest up, and it’s harder to collapse forward over your knees, since the weight would just topple you over. It’s a safe way to start squatting—or to keep your form on point.

How to do it:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out from parallel. Cup the ball of the kettlebell in both hands in front of your chest with your elbows pointing down—in this position, the kettlebell and your arms will look like a goblet, and the handle will be just in front of your chin. Push your hips back to initiate the squat. Bend your knees to descend until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, keeping your chest up and your weight on your heels. Keep the weight of your body in your heels and press back to standing.

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Exercise 4: The Single-Arm Shoulder Press with Lunge Doubles Your Results

Lots of workouts pair an overhead shoulder press with a lunge, with the press done while at the bottom of the lunge. But the shoulder is, for many lifters, a fragile joint, and exercising it in the midst of another balance-heavy move can be unnecessarily risky. This single-arm shoulder press with lunge flips the order, combining the two exercises so that the shoulder press can be done safely on each repetition, and with ample rest between each rep. The kettlebell also provides a unique way to keep the shoulder safe: By holding the bottom of the weight in the palm of your hand, you’re forced to press the weight straight up instead of an arc, which can keep your shoulder in a safer position.

How to do it:

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the ball of the kettlebell in your right hand next to your shoulder, with the handle up—in this position, it will almost look like you’re a waiter, and the kettlebell is your tray. Bring your shoulder blades back together by imagining that you’re squeezing a grapefruit between them; hold them in this position throughout the move.

Keeping your shoulders level, press the kettlebell straight up until your elbow is extended; the “bottoms up” position may require you to use a smaller weight than you think you can handle. Bend your elbow to return the kettlebell back to the start position.

With the kettlebell still at your shoulder, take a large lunge step forward with your right leg, descending as you step until your knees both form 90-degree angles. Press through your right foot to stand back up. Once standing, you’ll repeat the overhead press, and then lunge again. Once you finish all your reps on the right side, do an equal number with the kettlebell on your left side, lunging with your left foot instead.

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Combine the 4 moves into a simple workout:

Each of these exercises can build strength. Performed alone in sets of 3 to 5 with adequate rest, they’ll do just that. But combine them into a circuit, and they’re a fat-burning foursome that will soak your shirt and leave you gasping. Try this ultra-efficient circuit:

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Then move to the next exercise and repeat until you’ve done 20 seconds of all four moves. The first time you try it, do just one round. If you’re still up for more, rest for one minute, and repeat all four moves again. If you can make three rounds, you’re doing awesome.

But if three rounds is too easy, look back at your 20-second intervals of work—each bout of 20 seconds should be done as quickly as you can while maintaining the exercise form. Try to fit as many good reps into that period as possible. The next workout, three rounds might not be so easy!

Over time, try to improve just a tiny bit with each successive workout: Even adding one more second to one of the four exercises is an improvement. Do this work out as often as 4 times per week.