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The 20 Single Most Important Kettlebell Exercises

One kettlebell and 20 movements for you to master and get fitter.

You only have one kettlebell and want to get fit? Then take a look at the 20 most important single kettlebell exercises you need to master.

Kettlebell enthusiasts will argue that movements such as the Turkish get-up should be included within this list. However, I want to stress that when compiling this article I was looking to select 20 of the most easily performed movements that bring the best response from the body.

Turkish getups along with many other complex kettlebell movements are incredibly helpful, but the high level of technique required means they will not be making this list.

single kettlebell exercises

So with that being said here are the 20 most important kettlebell exercises to improve all aspects of strength and conditioning

1. KB Russian Swing

“The Kettlebell Swing is the Swiss Army Knife of exercises, It is a total body strength and conditioning workout in one single movement.”

When it comes to single Kettlebell exercises, there is nothing more important than the Kettlebell Swing. It is the king of Kettlebell movements.

Whether you’re looking to build strength, muscular endurance, burn some fat, improve athletic performance, or become a more functional person, the Kettlebell swing will give you an unrivalled bang for your buck!

Technique

  • Feet stay at hip-width apart
  • Hold the KB with arms straight but not tense
  • Keeping a tall spine as you hinge at the hips
  • Let the Kettlebell Swing underneath your hips as you load up the glutes and hamstrings
  • Push your feet through the floor as you explosively thrust your hips to extension allowing the Kettlebell to float up to chest height.
  • Let the Kettlebell descend keeping your core tight and shoulders back as you repeat for the net rep.
  • Your swinging from the hips not lifting with the arms 

2. Goblet Squat – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“The Squat in one form or another should be the foundation of any good program.”

If the Swing is the King of the kettlebell jungle, the squat is the emperor of the rest of the fitness world.

It is the most functional movement known to man, from getting out of bed in the morning to bending down to pick something up. We squat multiple times per day without realising it so getting stronger in this department is vital.

The Kettlebell goblet squat is the squat to conquer all. Everyone can learn to Goblet Squat with good form and once you can Goblet Squat with good form you can learn to master every other Squat variation. It’s the squat for all squatters!

Technique

  • Feet just outside hip-width
  • Hold the bell by the horns with your forearms pressed against the bell elbows down
  • Keep the Core activated, Back straight and shoulders neutral 
  • Sit back as you bend at the knees keeping the knees in line with the feet
  • Squat to parallel or below while maintaining a strong neutral spine
  • Keep the core tight and maintain form and you push your feet into the floor to accelerate out of the bottom of the squat
  • Stand up tall, take a breath and repeat

3. Arm Press – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“Pushing, Pressing, Punching… The Single Arm Press is as functional as it gets, whether your training to be a fighter a survivor or a taxi driver.”

The Single Arm Kettlebell Press builds upper body strength. It allows you to train your shoulder muscles in a full range of motion as well as working the core muscles as you stabilise during the press.

Technique

  • Standing tall rack the kettlebell in a front rack position with the bell resting between the bicep and forearm
  • Keep the elbow tight to the ribcage with the handle resting diagonally across the palm
  • Keep a loose grip on the Kettlebell as you brace your core with a big belly breath
  • Press the kettlebell hard upwards keeping a loose grip and a tight core as you punch the bell overhead
  • Lower the bell back to your rack position, reset and repeat 

4. Single Arm Row

“If you want to push more you gotta pull more…it’s a fact of life.”

If you’re going to Press you better balance it with some Pull. We’ve all been guilty at some point or another of prioritising the mirror muscles over the muscles we don’t see so much.

It’s those muscles that are less visible in the mirror that make the difference to your strength and performance.

Technique

  • Hinge forward with your chest over your toes keeping the back straight and strong 
  • Brace the core as you row the elbow past the side of your body
  • Fully extend your elbow to lockout before performing the next rep
  • You have an option to split your stance, and you can perform the row strict or dynamically depending on the stimulus 

5. Single Arm Cleans

“Picking a load from the floor and racking it on your chest is one of the most primal movements known to man, think picking up your kids.”

First of all, when I speak about the Kettlebell clean and the snatch I’m talking about a traditional clean and snatch, not from a swing, but from the ground up.

  • The Clean is vital for building athletic performance and improving your ability to produce power from the floor. It is also great for helping to improve your vertical jump.

Technique 

  • Start with the Bell under your hips, with your weight back through the hamstrings chest forward
  • Grab the bell with the arm at full extension and initiate the lift by pushing your feet through the floor 
  • Keep the bell close to your body as you extend through the hips knees and ankles to propel the bell upwards 
  • As the bell clears the hips, shrug the shoulder and pull the elbow up and backwards bringing the bell to rest in the racked position
  • Stand tall to complete the rep

6. Single Arm Snatch 

“Grip it and Rip it, Nothing beats the snatch for expressing your inner savage.” 

There is nothing that satisfies the primal urges like a snatch. Gripping and ripping a weight from the floor and throwing it overhead brings out the inner caveman in all of us.

Aside from that, there are many benefits to performing the snatch. The cross over to sports and athletic performance make this a must for any athlete looking to get more out of an exercise.

Technique

  • Start with the shoulder above the hips, neutral spine, hips and hamstrings loaded 
  • Push your feet into the ground as you explosively deadlift the bell keeping the elbow close to the body
  • As you hit triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle pull the elbow high while keeping it close to the body
  • Let the bell float up over the shoulder finishing with a punch to lockout to finish the rep

7. Tater – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“The Swing is King, the Squat ain’t far behind but how about a combination of the 2? This is a serious bang for your buck movement.”

This is not only one of my favourite moves of the single kettlebell exercises, but one of my favourites movements ever. I think the combination of the swing to the squat is one of the most complete lower body movements possible.

It is like your hamstrings and your quads are playing tennis, battling muscle activation back and forth between one another.

The Tater is the perfect wall ball alternative when you are limited by equipment and space as well as being a great movement to help develop lower body power for clean and jump variations.

Technique

  • Start with a Hip hinge, pushing the hips back to load the hamstrings and glutes before explosively thrusting the hips through.
  • As the Kettlebell travels out of the hips perform a high pull to direct the Bell directly up the body towards your chest 
  • Pull the kettlebell into your chest and catch the bell in your goblet position, You have 2 options here you can catch the bell by the horns, or by the bell as seen in the video
  • As you catch the bell you should already have softened the knees for the descent into the squat, once you hit the bottom of the squat, push your feet through the floor to return to standing and release the bell back to the swing to complete the rep.

8. Thrusters – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“The biggest bang for your buck possible.”

It’s hard to find a movement that brings a greater response from the body than the thruster.

Squatting your Kettlebell before explosively pressing overhead is the ultimate display of primal power.

Whether performed single-handed or with a two-handed grip, these are a real bang for your buck movement.

Technique

  • Hold the Kettlebell either by the horns in a goblet position or with the thumbs through the handles allowing the bell to rest in the palms
  • Sit deep into the squat loading up the legs while keeping the core braced
  • Drive up from the bottom of the squat with explosive power using that force to stay the bell moving upwards
  • As you near full lower body extension Press the arms to lockout the bell overhead
  • Lower the bell back to your rack position, reset and repeat 

9. Kettlebell Deadlift High Pulls 

“All the links in the posterior chain pulling together to produce one powerful movement.”

The Deadlift High Pull is a posterior powerhouse. A movement that crosses every joint in the body to perform a huge multi-compound movement that uses the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors.

Technique 

  • Start with the bell under your hips with a wide stance, toes pointing outwards
  • Hinge down allowing the knees to bend as you grasp the handle of the bell
  • Initiate the movement by pressing the floor away as you drive the hips forwards to send the bell up your body
  • Keeping the bell close to the body pull the bell up high under the chin with the elbows flared

10. Kettlebell Ballistic Rows 

“I like to think of this as the worker’s row, dynamically pulling the bell as you switch hands has a huge carryover to all rope/chain pulling and climbing.”

Ballistic rows come with a plethora of benefits. The row itself is a huge compound movement but when we add in the ballistic element of bracing the core and maintaining position, as we change hands, there is a deceleration of the bell. This can help build joints, tendons, and ligaments.

You really do have a powerful tool to add to your training

Technique 

  • Assume your row position, chest over the toes, weight back through the hips knees slightly bent with the core braced
  • Start with the arm at full extension and row the bell towards your abdomen.
  • Once you reach the top of the row release the hand and switch to the opposite hand as you decelerate the bell back to full extension and load up for the next row.

Read More: Add Kettlebell Flow to Your Training

11. Headcutters – Single Kettlebell Exercises 

“Don’t use machines, build them. There isn’t a machine in the gym capable of the upper body bang for your buck that comes with the Kettlebell Headcutter.”

Lifting the Kettlebell from hips to overhead, using the shallow hip hinge from the swing, the pull from the biceps and traps before firing up the triceps and delts to press overhead.

It really is a powerhouse of a movement and one of the most complete ones out of this list of Single Kettlebell Exercises.

Technique

  • Start by performing a Kettlebell Swing
  • As the bell pass’s the hips perform a high pull switching the hands from handles to horns to catch on the chest in your goblet position
  • Dip and the knees and drive up into the Push Press
  • Return the weight to the goblets position before dropping to the hips as you switch the hand positions back to start the next rep.

12. Kettlebell Explosive Deadlifts 

“A Tower of power that’s too sweet to be sour.”

Exploding into the air while holding a weight has many benefits, most importantly increasing power production and improving the ability to harness and transfer energy during ballistic movements.

This has a huge carryover to improving weight lifting movements and sports performance. The Explosive Deadlift is my favourite loaded plyometric movement.

The movement is initiated using the hamstring and the power production comes from the posterior chain which supports movements such as the snatch, clean, swing and vertical jump.

Technique

  • Start by with the Bell between your feet located directly under your hips
  • Initiate your hip hinge Grabbing the bell by the handle
  • Perform a standard Deadlift by driving your hips forward 
  • As the bell clears your knees explosively thrust through the hips to perform the jump
  • Land and repeat

13. Goblet Lunges – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“Step Strong, Last long… The more load your legs can handle the more useful they become.”

Unilateral lower body exercises are vital to building a strong and durable base. You can sex it up however you wish but you would be hard-pressed to find a better movement than the good old fashioned Goblet Lunge.

The single-leg lunge allows for increased joint stability while also help improving balance and coordination.

When we talk about functional movements, the Lunge is one of the best. It strengthens the body’s ability to carry the load and it is useful for elite athletes and beginners all together.

Technique

  • Start with the bell in your Goblet position, grasping the horns with the elbows tucked, forearms tight to the bell.
  • Keeping the core tight step into your lunge keeping the shoulders over the hips and the knee over the ankle 
  • Lunge to full depth before reversing the movement and switching legs 

14. American Swing – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“Everything is bigger in America and the Kettlebell Swing is no different.”

The American Swing has become a staple in the CrossFit community, becoming the go-to Swing when Kettlebell Swings are prescribed.

The reason for this is the American swing has a clear starting and ending point – the bell has to pass under the hips and then finish locked out overhead. This makes the American Swing an easier movement to judge in the competition.

The American Swing comes in for a lot of criticism with kettlebell enthusiasts, but I actually see it as a valuable movement regardless of whether your competing or not.

Technique

  • At the bottom of the movement, we want the bell to pass under the hips with the forearms touching the thighs
  • From there initiate the hip extension to propel the bell upwards
  • As the bell clears the waist perform a high pull to send the bell directly up the body finishing in a lockout overhead
  • Reverse the movement and repeat

15. KB Alt Arm Clean and Press

“Total Body Power and Precision”

The Kettlebell Clean and Press comes in many forms, my favourite variation is the single kettlebell exercises variation as I believe it gives the greatest strength and conditioning bang for your buck possible.

Cleaning the bell from a dead stop and then pressing the bell overhead is one of the biggest possible movement patterns.

The movement crosses every joint using almost every muscle group in the body to perform, thus making it a non-negotiable in any good kettlebell training program.

Technique

  • Start with the kettlebell between your feet 
  • Grab the kettlebell by the handle with your hips back and hamstrings loaded
  • Push your feet into the floor and extend your hips and knees to perform the clean catching the bell in your single-arm racked position
  • Once the bell is rack dip the knees forward and drive upwards as you press the bell overhead to lockout

16. KB Goblet Carry

“Lifting weights is one thing, but can you move with weight”

The Kettlebell Goblet carry is my favourite single Kettlebell loaded carry. The goblet position of the load allows us to strengthen and activate all those postural muscles through the trunk and glutes all the way to the traps, lats and rear delts.

The stronger you can become at holding, lifting and carrying weights in this goblet position the more load you will be able to handle through movements other front-loaded movements such as the Front Squat, Shoulder Press or Clean variations.

Technique

  • Start with the kettlebell between your feet
  • Clean the KB straight up the body catching it in your Goblet position, hands on the horns, elbows tracking in line with the wrists
  • Keeping your core tight and shoulder blades back start walking.
  • The key here is to keep a good upright posture with the shoulder over the hips, core strength as you take your steps.

17. KB Kick Back Push-ups

”When your body has all the answers, its time to change the questions”

Kick Back Push-ups are a great exercise for getting more out of your horizontal pushing movement pattern. They increase the core and shoulder stability required to perform the standard push-ups and challenge the chest, shoulders and triceps in ways the standard push up cannot.

As much as this is a great movement to work on your pushing muscles and specifically triceps strength it is also a huge movement for your core.

Technique

  • Start with both hands on the Kettlebell handle with the thumbs parallel 
  • Brace the core and tuck the elbows as you lower your sternum to the Kettlebell
  • Aim to keep a solid plank position as you press your body back up from the bell keeping the elbows against the ribcage 
  • Finish at full lockout of the elbows before repeating for the next rep

18. KB Alt Arm Swing – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“Kettlebell Slinging at its finest, get this right and it’s a thing of beauty…Let it flow”

Strength, Power, Coordination, Endurance – all packaged into one simple movement: the alternating arm kettlebell swing.

The Swing itself will challenge your posterior chain more than a standard swing as you shift the load to one side of the body. You also then have the extra power output needed to propel the bell upwards in that single-arm Swing and not forgetting the hand-eye coordination required to switch hands at the top.

Technique

  • Feet stay at hip-width apart
  • Hold the KB with arms straight but not tense
  • Keeping a tall spine as you hinge at the hips
  • Let the Kettlebell Swing underneath your hips as you load up the glutes and hamstrings
  • Push your feet through the floor as you explosively thrust your hips to extension allowing the Kettlebell to float up to chest height.
  • Let the Kettlebell descend keeping your core tight and shoulders back as you repeat for the net rep.
  • Your swinging from the hips not lifting with the arms 

19. KB Floor Press – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“Kettlebell Bro’s don’t need a Bench”

The Kettlebell Floor Press gives you the option to get your bro pump on without needed a barbell or a bench.

The Kettlebell Floor press is a great horizontal pressing movement, the grip being narrow on the bell really helps to recruit those triceps while still working the muscles in the chest and shoulders.

Technique

  • Start laying on your back, feet planted with the kettlebell on your chest
  • Grab the KB with your thumbs inside of the horns and the bell resting in your palms
  • Keep the elbows tucked into the ribcage as you initiate the press
  • Press the bell to lockout before reversing the movement bringing the bell to the chest and the triceps to the floor to begin the next rep

20. KB Blusters – Single Kettlebell Exercises

“A retro mixtape of movement but when bang for your buck is the goal can you really top it?”

The Kettlebell Bluster (Better naming options are welcome) is a total body mash-up of movements.

We go from a half burpee to a clean, squat and finishing with a press overhead. It’s a movement that crosses every single joint in the body and then some.

The KB Bluster is the perfect movement for those workouts when you are short on time and need to get some serious work done.

Technique

  • Start with the kettlebell between your feet, hinge forward putting your hands on the floor and jump your feet back to full lockout keeping the kettlebell in line with your waistband
  • Jump back in placing your feet on either side of the bell and landing with your weight back through the hamstrings in a deadlift position
  • Grab the bell by the handle and initiate the explosive deadlift to pull the bell up your body, once the bell clears the hips high pull it into your goblet clean
  • As the bell racks, you should already have started your descent into the squat, once hitting the bottom of the squat explosively stand up while simultaneously pressing the bell to a lockout overhead

If you want to get more out of your kettlebells, click here.

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About Luke Downing

“NASM Certified Personal Trainer Minimal Kit specialist, Daddy to Luca & Roma Ray. As a father and business owner, I’m well aware that not everybody has hours each day to spend in the gym. I believe that you can do a lot without a lot, which is why I’m a lover of the single Kettlebell workout. I like to keep things as functional as possible, which means I do not waste time with unnecessary movement’s. Everything I do with my athletes has a purpose and a carryover to sports, activities and everyday life.”

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