9 Kettlebell Exercises to Improve Full Body Strength and Conditioning

Kettlebells are originally from Russian farmers, to test their strength but are now used is most gyms to built strength and stamina. Most kettlebell exercises force ma large number of muscles to be utilised because the weight is distributed on the outside. It is not even like with dumbbells or barbells. Many of these kettlebell exercises are unilateral, and that builds better core strength because the whole body has to support the inbalance.

Often in CrossFit kettlebells are measured in Poods. That is and old Russian measure system. One pood equals, about 16 kg/ 36 lb.

I, personally, am really fond of kettlebells. My gym career is largely based on them. There are innumerable ways to utilize the kettlebells. You don’t need a gym, just some space and one or two kettlebells and get a tough workout. Here are some of my favorite kettlebell movements.


1. Renegade Row

Renegade rows engage your shoulders and the whole core.


  • Start in a plank position on two kettlebells.
  • Do a push up while holding the handlebars of the kettlebells.
  • When you are in the plank again, shift your weight on either side. push that hand down
  • Lift up the kettlebell that is on the other side and lift it up to your chest, like a row
  • Put the kettlebell down and do the same for the other side, with a push up in between.

There are two different types of rene rows. If you want to increase your strength chose a heavier kettlebells. If you on the other hand want to get more balanced take the lighter kettlebells. It is really hard to balance the whole body on one small kettlebell while lifting the other arm.

Good workout for rene rows is to have many weights set up and begin by trying to lift your medium weight 10 times (5 times each arm). Then start going heavier each round, do three or four, or until you cannot lift the kettlebells any more. Then work your way down again until you cannot balance on the smallest kettlebell.

The width between your legs makes all the difference. The wider the space between then the more balance you have. The narrower the more core stabilization you need. With the smaller kettlebell rene rows, start with legs apart and work your way to getting your feet closer together.

If you are a beginner, you can skip the push ups in between to spare your shoulders.

2. Man Maker

Many Crossfitters know the exercise Man Maker and it is similar but only using kettlebells. It is a rather complex exercise consisting of 4 movements. push ups, rene rows, cleans and thrusters.

  • The same start as with the rene row, in a plank/push up position with two kettlebells under your arms. Shoulders should be right over the kettlebells, it makes the movement easier.
  • The same movement do the push up and then lift one kettlebell up to your body. Put it back down and repeat for the other side.
  • Jump with your leg towards the kettlebell, while still holding onto them.
  • With a straight back, clean the kettlebells up to front rack position.
  • Perform a thruster, squat down and as you stand up, use the hips to get the kettlebells over your head.
  • Go the same way back and put the kettlebells on the floor, don’t drop them.
  • Jump your legs back into plank and then you have done one Man Maker.

Tip: you can do a squat clean, so you only have to stand up once, instead of twice.

You must hold the kettlebell the whole time, never let go of the handlebar. This will get all the body pumping and it is crucial to keep the tension the whole time.

If you are a beginner, you can again skip the push ups, and also skip the thruster. Just do the row and clean, with the burpee jump.


3 Turkish Get Up

Typical one handed movement that engages the whole body. It is fairly complex and a movement that you should not rush through.

One hand is holding the kettlebell but the whole body gets it up.

  • Start lying down with the kettlebell over you pressed up
  • The knee on the same side must bend up
  • Raise yourself up on the other elbow, raising the kettlebell even higher
  • Raise yourself onto the extended arm, keep it close, always keep a straight line from the kettlebell to the ground, through the body.
  • Take the straight leg and bring it to a kneeling position behind you
  • Lift the arm from the floor and then you are kneeling
  • Stand up from the kneeling position and still with the kettlebell in a raised hand with locked elbow.
  • The same way down, to a kneeling position,
  • Arm on the floor
  • Bring the leg in the front
  • Elbow on the ground
  • Lay down

Always start slowly and stop for a few seconds at each movement. It helps to look at the kettlebell the whole time, be careful not to drop it onto you, or others around you. As with all kettlebell movements you must keep the tension the whole time. The elbow must be locked and keep the kettlebell on top the whole time.

When you have laid down again, you can either put the kettlebell down to your side or behind you. Don’t switch hands over your body, so the kettlebell wont crash on your face.

To make it even more difficult try to hold the kettlebell bottom up, then the grip must be tighter.

4. Wood Chopper

Like a lumberjack would chop down a tree, you must swing the kettlebell from either shoulder to the hip on the other side.

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart
  • Bring the kettlebell up to one shoulder while using both hands to hold the handlebar, like in a regular swing
  • Keep the kettlebell controlled while you perform a movement like wood chopping.
  • Raise the kettlebell back up to the shoulder

This movement is most straining for the core, to keep stable, don’t let the body sway with the kettlebell. The arms can get a little awkward because both are holding the kettlebell side by side, very unlike the hold on the ax for the lumberjacks.

In this video he has another grip, which you can try as well.

5. Swing

Most people know the kettlebell swing best of all the kettlebell exercises. It is the most popular one, and often the only kettlebell exercise some people know.

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart
  • Have the kettlebell under your body, between your legs
  • Use both hands to hold onto the handlebar, bend you knees to take the kettlebell up, don’t round the back
  • Keep your arms straight, think of them as ropes
  • Use the hip to thrust the kettlebell up
  • The arms are not supposed to lift, just go with the kettlebell
  • Let the weight of the kettlebell bring it back down, but keep tension to stop it between your leg
  • Slightly bend the knees, don’t squat
  • Don’t let the kettlebell touch the floor between reps,
  • When you put it down, the same rule as before, bend your knees, don’t round the back

There are two main types of kettlebell swings. One is called Russian, the other American.

In the Russian version the kettlebell only needs to reach eye level before going back down.

The American version the kettlebell must do overhead, there you need better hip explosion. This one is more popular in CrossFit.

You can also alternate arms if you feel confident enough to let go of the kettlebell in mid air. Be careful if there is something in front of you if you lose the grip.

6. Bottom Ups Press

Normal grip for a kettlebell press, clean, snatch has the kettlebell handle diagonally in the palm and the weight on the outside of the wrist or forearm. Where as this movement forces you to keep the kettlebell bottom up.

  • You must grip it really hard to keep it straight up. That requires more tension in the whole arm as well as much more balance.
  • Keep the kettlebell upside down all the way from your shoulder to an overhead position with locked elbow.
  • Look at the kettlebell at all times.

Because this is way harder then a regular press the weight cannot be that heavy. Because it is an one arm press the core must make up for the unbalance. Try to lift the kettlebell straight up, don’t let the arm get swayed away with the weight.

7. Windmill

This movement is rather advanced and requires a lot of mobility.

  • Stand up straight, with kettlebell in one hand overhead
  • Push the hip to the side
  • Try to reach to the floor with the other hand
  • Keep eyes on the kettlebell at all time
  • Straight legs and back

It is possible to have kettlebells in both arm to make it harder.

Notice how the kettlebell rotates with his arm when he is going down,

8. Around The World

To turn the weight round the body, or just the head works your core and shoulders.

Three types of rounds you can make around your body.

  1. Around the head

Hold onto the sides of the kettlebell and have it upside down in front of you. Use only the arms, don’t sway the head away and go around the head, while turning the kettlebell. It is supposed to be bottom down behind you.

Try doing 10 rounds each way.

2. Around the waist.

Swing the kettlebell around your whole body while changing hands.

  • Begin standing, holding the kettlebell with the left hand
  • Swing it behind
  • The left hand takes it
  • Brings it in front.
  • There you change hands again.

Keep your body steady the whole time, let the core fight against the movement.

3. Around the legs

Swing the kettlebell in between the legs and change hand there.

  • Begin standing up with width stance, holding the kettlebell in one hand
  • Bend the knees like your are performing a regular swing
  • Instead of flexing the hips to bring the kettlebell up, catch is behind the legs with the other hand
  • Bring the kettlebell back in front and go under your thigh and catch it again.

9. Abs

Everything you do with the kettlebell strengthens the core, so without noticing you are building abdominal strength. If you want to focus better on the abs, you can add the kettlebell to any regular core movement. For example the sit up, russian twist and hollow rock to make it more demanding.

Hollow rock movement require the whole body to hold tension while you rock front and back, without resting your legs or shoulder blades on the floor. Add the kettlebell, keep it overhead the whole time and lock out the elbows.

Russian twist,

  • Sit on the floor
  • Raise your legs
  • Bend the knees, lean back
  • Lift the kettlebell from side
  • Bring it to the other side
  • Front and back


Try This Intense Kettlebell Workout from Annie Thorisdottir

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