Woman doing an intense kettlebell workoutWoman doing an intense kettlebell workout
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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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How to Design Kettlebell Workout Plans for All Experience Levels

So, you’re thinking of investing in a kettlebell. Good call! Kettlebell exercises offer something for everyone. They work several muscle groups at a time, giving you a full-body workout that helps you with strength training and cardio. That means kettlebell workouts can both help you build muscle and burn fat. Plus, you’ll look like a boss carrying that kettlebell around. 😎

But how do you exercise with a kettlebell? Read on to learn what kettlebell training is, who can benefit from kettlebell workouts, some popular kettlebell exercises, what a sample kettlebell workout plan looks like, and how a personal trainer can help.

What Is Kettlebell Training?

Man doing kettlebell squat

Short answer: any workout plan that involves a kettlebell and your bodyweight. 

A kettlebell is compact, and much easier to transport than dumbbells or a barbell, making it an ideal piece of equipment to add to your strength training workout routine.

Kettlebell workouts also raise your heart rate and benefit your cardiovascular system. A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found a four-week kettlebell workout plan involving high-intensity kettlebell snatches significantly improved cardiovascular fitness in female soccer players. Kettlebell routines can be low-impact, but they are generally high-intensity. 

Who Can Do Kettlebell Exercises?

Couple doing in-gym kettlebell workout

While pretty much anyone can benefit from kettlebell training, it might suit those with osteoporosis or low bone mineral density who avoid working with free weights due to a risk of injury.

Some preliminary evidence suggests kettlebell workouts may actually help improve bone mineral density in those with osteoporosis, according to a study. The results also suggest kettlebells and other free weights can be used safely in those with low bone mineral density, as long as the exercise is low-impact.

That said, this study has yet to be peer-reviewed, and more research is needed. Talk to your doctor as well as a physical therapist or personal trainer if you have osteoporosis and would like to work with kettlebells. You may be able to get similar benefits from safer strength training exercises such as push-ups.

Kettlebell Safety Tips

Whether or not you have osteoporosis, kettlebells can cause serious injury if used improperly. To ensure your kettlebell workouts are safe, keep the following in mind:

  • Learn the proper form of each exercise. Online videos can help, but online personal trainers are even better.

  • Choose a weight you can handle relatively easily. Don’t use a heavy weight you can only handle for 1-2 repetitions (reps) before losing your form.

  • Add more weight/reps slowly and incrementally, only after you no longer feel challenged by a particular kettlebell exercise.

Good form is absolutely essential for beginners to master in order to prevent injury down the road. Work with an online trainer from Kickoff to find the right kettlebell workout for you and learn how to do it with great form.

Best Kettlebell Exercises

Gif of singing "You're simply the best"

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular exercises you can do with one kettlebell. Some of these exercises can be modified to use two kettlebells at once (similar to dumbbells), but start with just one if you’re new to kettlebell exercises. Each exercise is given as one set of 10 reps, but adjust the number of reps and sets to your ability level.

1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Kettlebell goblet squats target the quads and glutes, making them a great low-impact lower body exercise.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell at your chest with each hand gripping one side of the handle. Keep the kettlebell close to your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades inwards.

  2. Squat downwards, as though performing a regular squat so your waist is just below your knees.

  3. Engage your lower body to lift yourself back up to standing.

  4. Repeat for 10 reps.

2. Kettlebell Deadlift

This exercise engages the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and lower back as well as many muscles in the arms and upper body.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the kettlebell on the ground between your legs.

  2. Squat down to pick up the kettlebell with both hands, keeping your back in a straight line.

  3. Engage your lower body to bring yourself back up while carrying the kettlebell.

  4. Squat back down until the kettlebell touches the ground again.

  5. Repeat steps three and four for 10 reps.

We recommend viewing a video for further instruction. These are tricky!

Modification: Instead of bringing the kettlebell to the floor between reps, lower it to just below your knees before coming back up.

3. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell workout from Broad City

This classic low-impact exercise targets the shoulders, lower back, glutes, hips, and hamstrings. 

Be slow and careful with this one: Swinging a heavy weight around too fast can cause all sorts of damage. 

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and the kettlebell on the ground just in front of you.

  2. Squat down.

  3. Bending forward with your back in a straight line, pick up the kettlebell with both hands.

  4. In one explosive movement, stand up and extend your arms in front as you swing the kettlebell forward until it’s level with your shoulders.

  5. Swing the kettlebell back down in front of you between your legs.

  6. Repeat steps three and four for 10 reps.

Modifications: The single-armkettlebell swing uses one arm at a time, so you could do a set of left-handed kettlebell swings followed by a set of right-handkettlebell swings, further challenging your strength and balance. Or, for a greater challenge, switch hands during the forward swing.

4. Kettlebell Snatch

This whole-body exercise challenges the glutes, hamstrings, core muscles, and shoulders.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the kettlebell on the ground just in front of you.

  2. Squat down to pick up the kettlebell with one hand.

  3. Stand up while bringing the weight overhead as quickly as you can so that your arm is fully extended above your head. If using your right hand, push firmly with your left foot, and if using your left hand, push firmly with your right foot.

  4. Swing the kettlebell back down in front of you between your legs.

  5. Repeat steps three and four for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

5. Single-arm Kettlebell Overhead Press

Young woman lifting a kettlebell

The kettlebell press targets the triceps, upper back, and core muscles, just to name a few. It’s a great upper-bodystrength-training exercise.

  1. Begin in the same starting position as the kettlebell swing.

  2. Squat down to pick up the kettlebell with both hands.

  3. Bend forward while keeping your back in a straight line.

  4. As you stand up, raise the kettlebell with both hands so it’s on top of one of your shoulders, and let go of the kettlebell with the opposite hand.

  5. Raise the kettlebell overhead so that your arm is fully extended above you.

  6. Lower the kettlebell so it’s just on top of your shoulder again.

  7. Repeat steps five and six with this hand for 10 reps, extending your other arm for balance as needed. 

  8. Repeat the whole exercise with your other arm.

Modification: If you have two kettlebells, you can use both at once, similar to the barbelloverhead press but requiring more balance. Instead of picking up the kettlebell with both hands in step two, pick up one kettlebell in each hand, and then raise and lower the kettlebells simultaneously as in steps five and six.

6. Kettlebell Clean

The kettlebell clean, like many other kettlebell exercises, targets multiple muscle groups in the upper and lower body and provides a great full-body exercise.

  1. Place a kettlebell on the floor. Stand with feet hip-width apart about one foot behind the kettlebell.

  2. Squat down to pick up the kettlebell with one hand, keeping the back in a straight line.

  3. Raise the kettlebell until it’s just between your legs.

  4. Engage your lower body to help propel the kettlebell upwards until it’s shoulder height, keeping your elbow bent.

  5. Lower the kettlebell until it’s between your legs once again.

  6. Repeat steps four and five for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Modification: If you have two kettlebells, you can use both at once, similar to the barbelloverhead press but requiring more balance.

Full-Body Kettlebell Workout Plans

Bedroom kettlebell workout

Any of the above exercises (and more) can be combined to make an effective home workout. You can also include kettlebell exercise as part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Here are three full-body workout plans to give you some ideas. 

But first, some tips:

  • Choose a weight you feel comfortable working with for 10-15 reps per set.

  • Do a short cardio warm up (like knee lifts or jumping jacks).

  • Take a short break between sets and exercises.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Do a short cool-down at the end, focusing on stretching the muscles you used.

Beginner Kettlebell Workout Plan

  1. Kettlebell deadlift: 1 set of 10 reps

  2. Kettlebell goblet squat: 1 set of 10 reps

Intermediate Kettlebell Workout Plan

  1. Two-handed kettlebell swing: 1 set of 12 reps

  2. Kettlebell goblet squat: 1 set of 12 reps

  3. Single-armkettlebell overhead press: 1 set of 12 reps (left arm)

  4. Single-armkettlebell overhead press: 1 set of 12 reps (right arm)

Advanced Kettlebell Workout Plan

  1. One-handed kettlebell swing: 1 set of 15 reps (left arm)

  2. One-handed kettlebell swing: 1 set of 15 reps (right arm)

  3. Kettlebell snatch: 1 set of 15 reps (left arm)

  4. Kettlebell snatch: 1 set of 15 reps (right arm)

  5. Kettlebell clean: 1 set of 15 reps (left arm)

  6. Kettlebell clean: 1 set of 15 reps (right arm)

How a Personal Trainer Can Help With Kettlebell Workouts

Video call with a trainer

As we’ve seen, kettlebell exercises can be incredibly beneficial. They provide both strength training and cardio, target all the major muscle groups of the body, and are often low-impact. Kettlebells are conveniently compact and need no additional equipment.

However, you only benefit from kettlebell exercises if you do them safely and with good form. Otherwise, you risk serious injury. 

Personal trainers can help you safely work with a new piece of equipment, coach you on proper form, and give you personally customized workout plans.

With Online personal trainers, you can get expert instruction while in your living room. Plus, you’ll save a good amount of money. For just $3 per day, online trainers from Kickoff can help you create and stick with a manageable kettlebell workout plan (or any type of workout plan). Take a short quiz to see which trainer is right for you.