This Beginner Kettlebell Workout Breaks Down the Basics of Building Strength and Endurance

Photo: Stocksy / Guille Faingold
If you've ever stepped foot at a gym, you've probably seen someone performing a kettlebell swing. Even though kettlebells are consider a basic "must" in almost every weight room, the versatile tool often gets confined to a handful of moves. And that's a shame, because according to Alexandra Sweeney, NASM, a trainer with JAXJOX, the bell-shaped tool is one of the most versatile weights the gym has to offer. So if you're looking for a beginner kettlebell workout that will pave a foundation for a lifelong relationship with this multitasking tool. Watch out dumbbells.

According to Sweeney, kettlebells are a great addition to your strength training toolkit because they can be used to isolate specific muscle groups or to create a full-body kettlebell workout. "Kettlebells are great for total body conditioning , meaning that so many kettlebell exercises use your entire body," she says. Plus, while dumbbell exercises tend to be static, kettlebell movements are often dynamic, challenging your body in new and unique ways. "Kettlebell workouts also do a fabulous job of combining strength and cardio. The ability to swing and incorporate other explosive, powerful movements—such as cleans and snatches—makes the kettlebell stand out from dumbbells and barbells," adds Sweeney.

Experts In This Article

Another big benefit of kettlebell is simply that they're easier to hold than dumbbells. The rounded shape of the kettlebell allows you to distribute weight more easily in your hands, which makes a huge difference as you start to pick up higher and higher weights.  For example: Imagine performing a squat while holding a heavy dumbbell at your chest versus holding a kettlebell. The latter seems a lot easier on your hands, right?

"Kettlebell workouts also do a fabulous job of combining strength and cardio." - Alexandra Sweeney, NASM

Finally, Sweeney adds that one of her favorite thing about kettlebells is that they're friendly to every age group. "Anyone can train with a kettlebell. Just like any other exercise program, it's safest to start at a beginner level and learn the basics," she says. That said, you will need to make sure you're selecting an appropriate weight that challenges you without increasing your chance of injury. "I always recommend starting simple and starting light just to get comfortable holding and moving the kettlebell. Find your form first. Then, over time you can increase the weight once you've set a solid foundation and feel comfortable in your kettlebell movements," she explains.

That said, you're ready to jump in to Sweeney's full-body beginner kettlebell workout. Grab a towel and your water bottle—let's get swinging.

30-minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout for Strength and Endurance

"This 30-minute beginner workout will be focused on building strength and cardiovascular endurance through three basic kettlebell exercises," says Sweeney. This workout includes a warm up, a strength training set, a 15-minute "every minute on the minute" (EMOM) workout, and a foam roller cool down. So don't worry: Sweeney's going to be with you from start to finish.

Warm Up (3 minutes)

Upper Body

1. Armless prayer: Come into child's pose and bend your elbows, bringing your palms as close as you can to your shoulder blades. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

2. Arms crossed behind the back: Bring your left palm along your side, palm facing backward. Bend your elbow and begin to slide your palm as far up your back as possible without straining your neck. Bring your right arm over your hand, bend the elbow, and try to clasp your right hand with your left. If you can't quite reach, grab a towel to close the gap. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and switch sides.

3. Arm circles: Bring your arms along your sides and draw wide circles with your arms. Make sure to reverse your circles when you're half way through. Complete 30 seconds total.

Lower Body

1. Butterfly: Come to seated and bring the soles of your feet together, knees apart. Gently fold your upper body forward and hold for 30 seconds.

2. Hamstring stretch: Still seated, stretch your legs out in front of your and fold over them while keeping your back as straight as you can. Bend your knees, if necessary. Rest here for 30 seconds.

3. Full T hip rotation: Come to standing and find a wall. Shift your weight onto your left foot and bring your right leg straight behind you as you reach both arms forward. You should be. in a T shape. Bring your right hand to the back of your neck and place your left hand on the wall. Open your chest to the right, allowing your chest, abs, hips, and legs open up as well. Repeat for 15 seconds and switch sides.

Strength (10 minutes)

Now that you're warmed up, it's time for some tempo strength training. "Tempo training is a great way to build strength while using lighter weights," says Sweeney. "It helps stimulate your whole body and ensures you focus on deliberate movements."

1. Kettlebell goblet squats: Choose your kettlebell and safely bring it to your chest. With your feet wider than your hips and your toes turned out, squat down, making sure to keep your knees directly over your ankles. Push through your heels to come back to standing. For the tempo of this move, lower down for 3 counts, hold at the bottom for one, and then come to standing before immediately starting your next rep.

2. Kettlebell palloff press: Stay standing and keep your kettlebell at your chest. (You can kneel with one foot forward if that helps you keep your lower back stable.) Extend the kettlebell straight forward without locking out your elbows, then bring them back to center. The tempo goes like this: two counts as you push the weight away from your chest, two counts coming back in.

Complete 10 reps of each workout per set, performing three sets total. Between each set, take the same amount of rest it took you to complete the two exercises. 

HIIT (15 minutes)

1. Burpees: From standing, move into a squat, moving your hands down with your hips as you prepare to jump back into a plank. Shoot your legs back into a plant. From the plank, complete a push-up, a knee push-up, or simply stay in plank for a beat. Jump your feet back into your squat. Press yourself back up into a full squat jump with your arms overhead. Land softly. You can make this step easier by keeping the moves static: Step your feet forward one at a time and simply press through your heels to come to standing. Complete 10 to 15 reps, depending on your skill level.

2. Situps: Lie down on the floor and bend your knees. Place your hands gently behind your neck. Engage your abs to sit up, keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground as you do. Return to the floor and complete 15 to 30 reps.

3. Kettlebell swings: Grip the kettlebells between your hands so that it sits right below your hips. Squeeze your shoulder blades, engage your core, and soften your knees. Lower your glutes back towards the wall behind you. Drive your heels into the ground and swing your hips forward to bring the kettlebell up to shoulder level. Your elbows are straight, but not overextended, throughout the entire movement. Repeat the move 15 to 30 times.

Complete each exercise for 40 seconds, leaving about 20 seconds of rest before you start the next exercise. After completing all three exercises, you have just done round one. Continue this workout for a total of five rounds. 

Cool Down (5 minutes)

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