Ah kettlebells. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Yep. I love using kettlebells.
You might think they look a bit scary. You’d be right. Ha.
They can give an intense workout. If you want that kind of thing.
But don’t panic too much.
They can be used for a more relaxed workout just as easily. It depends what you’re looking for and what your goals are.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I just want to say, THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR MEN.
Yes, they are a weight. Yes, they can get quite heavy. AND yes, they can be used for building muscle. That’s not a bad thing.
But they can also be used for fat burning. Conditioning. Cardio. Mobility. They work all of your muscle groups, including your core muscles.
They are an all rounder. A great way to train. And that’s what I love about them.
They don’t take up much space either, which is always a bonus for me.
So, what do you need to know about home kettlebell workouts?
Well, yes, you’re going to need a kettlebell for your home kettlebell workout.
There are lots of videos of people making them, which could save you some money. But I honestly think that to get the most out of your workout you’re going to need to invest.
You could always try making one initially, to make sure you like it, before you invest.
Kettlebells are so popular now that you can pick one up almost anywhere. You can even get adjustable ones, that have some rave reviews. I've never used these before so I honestly don't know how good the are.
If I were starting out again, I would get these, probably two, as they seem to give most variety.
But, I’m not just starting out.
I’ve got 6, at last count. Weights ranging from 10kg – 20kg. And I want more. And heavier.
Be prepared for the kettlebell bug. You’ll soon want heavier weights. I promise you.
To be honest, there aren’t that many kettlebell specific exercises. There are some. But, whatever you can do with your bodyweight or a dumbbell, you can do with a kettlebell.
So, what makes them so special then?
It’s not the type of exercise, as such, it’s the way you can use them that gives you the extra challenge.
Their unique shape and the kettlebell handle at the top allows for easy transition from one exercise to the next, meaning you don’t have to put them down and reset. You can flow.
More time with weight in hand means you have a harder workout. More calories burned. And, for me at least, it is the fun part of kettlebell training.
Kettlebell circuit are my favourite way to train. It’s what I did exclusively during lockdown.
I'll introduce you to the world of circuits in the workout below.
Having said all of that, there are a few exercises that are exclusive to kettlebells, or, they’re different enough that we should mention them.
It’s a hip hinge not a squat and definitely not an arm exercise. You hinge at the hip and fire it through your legs with your glutes.
My old trainer used to describe it (to the men at least) as the movement you do when you’re making love (although his language wasn’t quite as polite).
You can do these with other pieces of equipment, like barbells, but they work slightly differently with kettlebells.
It’s a swing that finishes with the bell ‘in the rack’. In your hand, resting on your arm with you standing upright.
Again, not exclusively a kettlebell move, but is it quite different with other pieces of equipment. It’s a swing that ends with the kettlebell overhead.
It’s quite an advanced move, so make sure you’re comfortable with your swing and clean before you try these.
It’s always worth getting a bit of instruction when it comes to kettlebells. They can be great tools to help you get fit, burn fat etc etc. But, if your technique is even just slightly off, they can cause injury.
The gold standard of kettlebell instructors is StrongFirst. You know you're in safe hands if you can find a personal trainer with the StrongFirst qualification. That’s not to say other trainers aren’t just as good. But if their swing looks more like a squat and the bell goes straight overhead...run a mile and demand your money back.
Whilst I would always suggest you get some in person instruction, if you’re really struggling to find some, or you just don’t feel that confident, do get in touch. I’m sure we can arrange some kind of virtual instruction.
No, I haven’t got a StrongFirst qualification, but I learnt from one. And I am qualified to teach kettlebells.
Before we get to it, let’s go over the exercises you’ll need to do for your home kettlebell workout...
With your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, grasp the handle of the kettlebell.
Hike the kettlebell back between your legs and towards your bum. Keeping a flat back, pushing your hips back and slightly bending your knees.
Then drive through your heels whilst moving the hips forward dynamically. The kettlebell will arc upwards.
When the kettlebell is at the top of the arc, about shoulder height, keep your arms relaxed, squeeze your glutes and brace your core.
Then let the kettlebell naturally swing between your legs pushing your hips back.
With the kettlebell on the floor, feet hip-width apart, your right hand grasps the bell by the handle and brings it up vertically, close to the body, as you stand up.
Allow the kettlebell to wrap around your forearm to a ‘racked’ position. That means the kettlebell is close to the body, at chest height, resting on your forearm.
In this position do not relax or let the kettlebell drop away to the side.
Return to the starting position, by bringing the kettlebell back to the floor. Let it fall in towards the midline of the body while simultaneously bringing the elbow out and high and bending your knees.
Repeat on the opposite side, your left hand grasping the kettlebell handle.
Keep the kettlebell in the ‘racked’ position, as above, brace your abdominal and back muscles and flex your knees and hips.
Lower slowly to a comfortable position, until you are in a squat position (thighs parallel to the floor).
Return to a standing position by pushing the ground away keeping your chest lifted throughout to maintain a neutral spine.
Keep your knees in line with your toes and your heels down at all times.
Once standing concentrate on getting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes.
Start with the kettlebell in a strong rack position, with your feet well grounded.
Press the kettlebell in a straight line, up overhead, keeping your forearm vertical and your wrist fixed throughout. Straighten your arm with the palm of your hand facing forwards
Stabilise your shoulder blades and contract your triceps so your arm is straight.
Lower the kettlebell under control and pull it back into the ‘racked’ position.
Take quite a wide stance, feet shoulder-width apart, kettlebell in the middle. This is known as a Sumo stance.
Bend knees and grasp the bell by the handle.
Straighten your legs by pushing the ground away keeping your chest lifted. Once standing, concentrate on keeping your core braced and your glutes squeezed and pull the kettlebell up to your chin.
Return the bell to the floor by bending your knees.
Lay flat on your back, arms and legs extended like a star, come up into a huggie and then move back.
Make sure your lower back is pushed firmly into the floor at all times.
Ok, let's get started...
All about the swings - EMOM (every minute on the minute)
Set a timer for 15 minutes.
At the top of the minute do 15 kettlebell swings. Rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat for the 15 minutes.
This is going to be a slow burner so don’t go too mad at the beginning.
The complex - AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
Set a timer for 15 minutes and complete as many rounds as possible in that time.
1 x Clean
3 x squats
2 x overhead presses
Put the bell on the floor and repeat on the other side. That’s one round. Rest as and when you need.
Set a timer for 15 minutes. At the top of every minute complete the following:
II really hope you enjoy your home kettlebell workout(s) as much as I do.
The compound exercises are designed to work your entire body at once. Yep, you'll be working your upper body and lower body making it a really effective way of training.
Let me know how you get on and, if you have any suggestions to improve it.