Updated: May 31
This blog brings you four of our best kettlebell workouts. But you might be wondering, what makes them the best?
Well, for starters each workout can help improve a broad range of components of fitness. Whereas a conventional gym session focuses on, say, strength or cardio, the kettlebell workouts target both of these including power and muscle endurance. In short, they can promote whole-body fitness conditioning.
Another reason why they’re the best is because they can accommodate trainers of varying levels of ability. For example, a beginner can get just as much out of the workout as an advanced trainer.
But enough of why they’re the best. Let’s have a look at some of the health and fitness benefits the four workouts can bring about.
Best kettlebell workouts health & fitness benefits
Kettlebell training is one of the most effective forms of maintaining ‘fitness conditioning.’ As defined by Strength & Conditioning specialist Nik Grantham, ‘conditioning refers to ‘body management’ and includes the development of ‘gross athletics,’ ‘fundamental movement skills,’ and the improvement of ‘general fitness,’ (Strength & Conditioning Bible).
In addition to promoting a broad array of attributes, developing our physical functionality through kettlebell training can enhance sports and exercise performance.
Another benefit thrown into the bargain is injury reduction. Improving ‘body management,’ ‘gross athletics,’ and ‘fundamental movement skills’ all help to enhance our exercise competency and the strength of our muscles and connective tissues.
The two surest ways to reduce exercise injury risk include: 1) ridding your lifting technique of errors, and 2) forging a stronger, more robust body.
Essential reading: Supertraining
The best kettlebell workouts will help you forge functional strength. Being functionally strong is arguably more useful than being statically strong. But what’s the difference?
To make a quick distinction, static strength is the type that’s developed by performing controlled movements. Typically, the trainer loads up a bar or a machine and exerts force against a resistance. Static lifts follow a lineal trajectory – up and down as in a squat, or out and back as in a bench press.
Though there are many benefits of static strength training, its application is limited. Also, it doesn’t reflect the way we exert force when engaged in everyday tasks. Norris identifies this as a problem in his book The Complete Gide To Core Stability.
Essential reading: Advances in Functional Training
When we execute a static lift ‘the muscles responsible for posture and spinal alignment are not being trained.’ At least not to the same extent as when performing exercises on ‘an unstable base.’ Such unstable functional movements engage many ‘stabiliser and neutraliser muscles’ and they require greater activation.
Functional strength training, in contrast, is qualitatively different. While the weights are not as high, the exercises are more technical. Lifting even a light weight while coordinating your body through a complex movement pattern requires considerably more control.
Fat loss and muscle tone
Besides building functional strength, explosive power, flexibility and body control, these best kettlebell workouts will also help you burn fat and improve muscle tonality.
‘The fat loss power of kettlebells,’ Tsatsouline tells us, ‘is explained by the extremely high metabolic cost of throwing a weight around,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
In addition to being metabolically costly, the price of which is paid for in fat, kettlebells stimulate muscle growth. A leading strength and conditioning coach explains it thus.
‘Here’s the idea: If you generate a lot of lactic acid during your weightlifting sets. Your body will then produce more growth hormones. Growth hormone helps your body release fatty acids from your fat cells, which you can use for energy. Result: you get muscle from lifting weight, and you lose fat,’ (quote attributed to Charles Poliquin – The Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
Related: Want to know more about the Benefits of Kettlebell Training?
Best kettlebell workouts
Now that we’ve reviewed the health and fitness benefits, it’s time to take a look at the best kettlebell workouts. The four workouts feature a brief overview, which includes an explanation of the training method and target fitness outcomes.
Following the overview, you’ll find a list of key points. As well as covering the essential workout criteria, the list also outlines a few helpful hints and tips. These can enable you to get the most out of the workouts.
Essential training process
Prior to pitting yourself against any of the workouts, you should spend at least 5 minutes (preferably 10) warming up. Preparing the body for the demands of exercise help to reduce injury risk while improving training performance.
Related: Use this all-purpose Gym Warm Up
Concluding the workouts, it is good practice to spend a further 5 minutes cooling down and stretching the major muscle groups. These two oft-missed phases of a workout facilitate the removal of the metabolic waste that accumulates during physical activity.
In addition to reducing post-exercise soreness (DOMS), this also enables the body to get to work repairing damaged tissue.
Related: 10-Minute Stretching Routine
Best kettlebell workouts #1: Atomic kettlebell conditioning
Our first best kettlebell workout was originally developed for the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2. Its aim is to build explosive power and crushing fitness conditioning.
These outcomes are achieved via a potent mix of classic kettlebell exercises and high-volume training. The method of the workout couldn’t be simpler. Split into four distinct sections, your objective for each section is to sustain output for 5 minutes.
Once the time elapses, you can take a break before progressing to the next section. At just 20 minutes the workout duration is comparatively short. However, the training intensity should remain high – between 75 and 85 of max effort.
Key training points
Complete the suggested warm-up: 1000m rowing → 10 KB swings → 10 KB cleans (each arm) → 10 KB under the leg passes → 1000m rowing.
Once warm and ready, set a 5-minute countdown timer.
Starting at Section 1, perform single-arm clean & presses for the stipulated duration. The objective is to complete as many reps as possible.
Concluding Section 1, take a short break before progressing to the next section.
Best kettlebell workouts #2: Military drill complex
Inspiration for Workout #2 was taken from Pavel Tsatsouline’s The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. In the Russian military annual kettlebell competitions are held. During these competitions, soldiers battle it out for girevik supremacy.
The military drill complex is comprised of a diverse range of kettlebell exercises. In addition, it involves a mix of training methods. It starts with a quick-fire set of super-short AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), performed with a single K-bell.
Following the AMRAPs the intensity eases up a bit as you navigate a series of sets and reps. But the calm doesn’t last long before you’re back into the stormy waters of more AMRAPs.
Related: When you're done here, try these Pavel Tsatsouline workouts
Key training points
Complete the suggested warm-up: 500m rowing → 10 KB swings → 10 KB cleans (each arm) → 500m rowing → 10 KB swings → 10 KB cleans (each arm) → 500m rowing → 10 KB swings → 10 KB cleans (each arm) → 500m rowing.
Once warm and ready, set a 3-minute countdown timer interspersed with one-minute rests then complete the three AMRAPs.
After taking a well-deserved swig of water, move on to the next phase of the battle.
Use the following sets and reps as a recovery period in preparedness for the final AMRAPs.
The two AMRAPs, which are separated by a low-intensity exercise, are 5 minutes each.
Best kettlebell workouts #3: Full body single KB workout
This workout was developed for trainers with access to only one kettlebell. But it’s also ideal for those that are not yet confident at performing double kettlebell exercises.
You’ll notice that there are no sets and reps scheduled for this workout. That’s because reps are determined by training intensity (grit and determination). The plan features five compound exercises grouped into 5-minute AMRAPs.
Your objective is to sustain consistent output for the stipulated duration. Concluding each 5-minute AMRAP, you get a rest before progressing to the next exercise.
The rest duration you take – between 1 and 3 minutes – should be determined by your current level of fitness. Beginners should take the maximum rest while intermediate and advanced trainers opt for 2- and 1-minute respectively.
Key training points
Complete the five 2-minute AMRAPs (increase intensity each time): 2-minutes rowing (metres: ……) → 2-minutes KB swings (reps: ……) → 2-minutes rowing (metres: ……) → 2-minutes under the leg pass (reps: ……) → 2-minutes rowing (metres: ……).
Assuming that you’re warm and ready, and not yet fed up with AMRAPing, set a 5-minute repeat countdown timer ensuring to factor in the desired rest duration.
Begin at the first exercise – alternate arm clean & jerk – and attempt to amass as many reps as possible.
Take your rest before moving on.
Best kettlebell workouts #4: 300 K-bell swing circuit
Our final best kettlebell workout was one of the first to feature on the Hungry4Fitness website. It was created for the dual purpose of providing kettlebell enthusiasts with a fuss-free whole-body workout.
Due to the design of the session plan, there are literally hundreds of possible permutations. Keeping the basic structure intact, you could replace the exercises each time you come to do it.
Also, though the plan follows a kettlebell/bodyweight exercise order, there’s no saying you couldn’t include other resistance exercises or cardio stations.
Related: 500 Kettlebell Swing workout
Key training points
Complete the suggested warm-up: 5-minutes airdyne cycling (or rowing) → 10 down to 1 rep KB swings into air squats (ex: 10 swings, 10 air squats . . . 9 swings, 9 air squats . . .) → 3-minutes airdyne cycling (or rowing) → 10 down to 1 KB squats into press-ups.
The session plan is comprised of six exercise pairings – kettlebell swings and a bodyweight exercise. Swings feature throughout all six pairings, but the body weight exercise changes each time.
Performing 25 reps at each station, progress through the workout as per the plan.
Take rest as and when you feel you need to.
Best kettlebell workouts hints and tips
If you encounter an exercise that may present a technical problem, replace it. Remember, training safety comes before fitness gains. (Need some exercise ideas?)
It’s helpful to have a selection of kettlebell weights to hand during a workout. This way you can quickly move up or down the weights should you wish to modulate your training intensity.
Consider focusing on one workout a week before changing. Aim for three run-throughs – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This approach will provide you with a lot of training (four weeks). Plus, you’ll be able to refine your performance each time you complete a workout.
Enjoyed these workouts?
Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.