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16 Kettlebell Exercises For Weight Loss (That Actually Work)

12 mins read
Taisiia Dobrozorova
Written by Taisiia Dobrozorova on January 25, 2022
Davi Santana, M.Sc.
Fact checked by Davi Santana, M.Sc.
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Kettlebells have been an effective tool for keeping the body shape. Continue reading to discover collected fat-burning kettlebell workouts to help you get rid of excess weight.

Table of content

A kettlebell is sports equipment that consists of a cannonball-like cast iron or steel ball with a flat base and a handle at the top.

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Athletes use kettlebells to perform multi-joint ballistic exercises (explosive and dynamic movements). Using this simple equipment, they work out strength-resistance, flexibility, agility, stability, balance, and the cardiovascular system.

Sport kettlebells or dumbbells?

Many beginners are sure that kettlebells are almost the same as dumbbells, so they try to do exercises mixed up. However, there is a significant difference between them.

With the help of dumbbells, you can work out small isolated muscles and perform the exercises at a slow speed. A set of workouts with a kettlebell is more suitable for developing muscle groups at high speed, increasing body endurance.

Dumbbells are good for building muscle mass. Due to their stable weight, training with kettlebells helps strengthen the body, increase coordination of movements, and develop the speed of exercises.

Overall, both have many benefits and can be used for weight loss. So, think about your priority, and choose the tool that fits your needs.

Why are kettlebells so effective?

Kettlebells promote a solid effect on the body. They:

  • combine cardio and strength training, which means you will train less, but more efficiently.
  • allow you to work qualitatively on all muscle groups without exception: shoulders, arms, chest, back, abs, buttocks, and legs.
  • exercise heart muscle and develops endurance.
  • are a durable and wear-resistant equipment that will last a very long time.
  • build a lean, muscular body with firm muscles and minimal body fat.
  • involve many muscles of the whole body simultaneously, which means you can get in shape as quickly as possible.
  • help strengthen the core muscles that stabilize your spine.
  • help to improve mobility and range of motion without static positions and prolonged stretching.

Kettlebells for weight loss and muscle growth

Kettlebell training is efficient for weight loss and fat burning. According to the research, a 20-minute workout with kettlebells burns about 272 calories.

So, if you want to reduce the percentage of fat and strengthen the muscles, you can do weight training 2-4 times a week for 20-45 minutes. Since kettlebell lifting already includes cardio and strength training, you may not need to add other activities to your plan.

But for muscle growth, training with a kettlebell is not the best option. Kettlebell exercises help develop functional fitness and explosive strength, but it’s better to use dumbbells and a barbell for muscle growth.

However, kettlebell exercises help to avoid stagnation in strength training and accelerate muscle growth. Thus, you can include kettlebell training in your plan once every 7-10 days.

How to pick the right kettlebell weight?

You should consider your power capabilities to choose the right kettlebell weight, like with any other sports equipment. In terms of weight, five groups of kettlebells are suitable for a certain level of physical development:

Female

  • beginner athlete with average muscles: 18-35 lbs (8, 12, 16 kg)
  • professional athlete: 26-44 lbs (12, 16, 20 kg)

Male

  • beginner athlete with average muscles: 35-44 lbs (16, 20 kg)
  • professional athlete: 44-88 lbs (20, 24, 32, 40 kg)

After finding the weight group you belong to, pay attention to some more helpful tips before making your final choice:

  • Beginners can start with standard weight. For women, it is equal to 8 kilograms; for men - 16 kilograms.
  • If a man bench presses more than 100 kg, you can use a heavier kettlebell, 24 or 36 kg.
  • It is best to have two sets of weights, 16 + 24 kg. For example, you start with 16 kilograms. After that, you can increase the weight to 24 kilograms. When you can work with a heavier weight, then in total, using two types of weights, you will get 40 kilograms.

When buying a kettlebell, make sure that the handle fits securely in the palm of your hand. Also, pay attention to the handle's surface: it should not be too smooth (it can slip out) and not too rough (it will quickly rub painful calluses).

To find your weight, try doing 5 reps of one exercise. If it's easy, take heavier weights. If you can't finish the exercise, you need less weight.

When you find your weight, you don’t have to perform all the exercises with it. Some of them you can do with heavier weights; others will require lighter weights. Check the weight for each activity separately.

What muscles work during kettlebell workouts?

Large muscle groups are activated during kettlebell exercises, especially the back and legs. The muscles of the arms and shoulders, chest, buttocks, and abs also work. 

Kettlebell training is ideal for general physical fitness. Basic kettlebell exercises help develop all major muscle groups at the same time.

You can use a kettlebell instead of dumbbells for training isolated muscles. However, the true purpose of the kettlebell is to promote a full-body workout.

Anyone training with a kettlebell at least once can feel the peculiarity of the load during the exercise. The unusual shape of the kettlebell increases stabilizer muscles6 activation . For example, exercises with dumbbells and a barbell affect the stabilizing muscles to a much lesser extent. Weak stabilizing muscles cause poor posture, discomfort, and pain in the neck, back, and lower back since the back muscles cannot properly hold the spine.

So, during training with a kettlebell, these muscles work especially actively:

  • leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks and adductors);
  • muscles of the back of the body (back and lower back);
  • core muscles (abs and spine stabilizer muscles);
  • shoulder girdle muscles.

To make kettlebell training effective, you should learn how to distribute the load between the back and legs muscles evenly.

Kettlebell abs workouts

1. Kettlebell sit and press

  • Take the kettlebell in your hands and lie down on the gymnastic mat. Bend your legs, then fix them on a full foot along the line of the collarbones. 
  • As you breathe out, lift the body perpendicular to the floor at the peak point.
  • After a short pause, slowly return to the starting position. Keep a small distance between the kettlebell and the chest throughout the entire range of motion. 

Also, avoid jerking while lifting, do not overload the lower back. This exercise with a kettlebell on the core perfectly works out the rectus abs and the entire muscle corset.

How much to do: 8-16 reps.

Kettlebell sit and press
Kettlebell sit and press

2. Kettlebell pistol squats

  • Stretch one leg forward and bend your toes back.
  • Hold the kettlebell with both hands, lowering your shoulders.
  • Keep your weight on your heel and midfoot.
  • Squat down as if doing a regular squat.
  • Get down slowly.
  • Pause for 2 – 3 seconds.
  • Return back to the top position.

Pistol squats are very difficult for a beginner, and even experienced lifters may find them challenging.

You must be able to perform at least 20 bodyweight squats and have the strength and balance to complete 10 lunges before attempting pistol squats.

How much to do: 8-16 reps.

Kettlebell pistol squats
Kettlebell pistol squats

3. Kettlebell Russian twists

  • Sit on the mat and place the kettlebell in front of you, grasping its handle with both hands. 
  • Next, bend your legs and push your body back. Keep your back straight, do not slouch. 
  • After that, turn the body and place the weight on the floor on each side. Try to work at an average pace and without jerks. 

How much to do: 8-16 kettlebell reps in total.

Kettlebell Russian twists
Kettlebell Russian twists

4. Kettlebell plank drag

  • Get into a high plank position with the kettlebell to the right of your body. Reach for the kettlebell with your left hand, while keeping your back and torso straight.
  • Move the kettlebell to your left and return your arm to the plank.
  • Repeat the same with the right hand. 

How much to do: 8-16 reps.

Kettlebell plank drag
Kettlebell plank drag

Kettlebell back exercises

5. Kettlebell deadlift

  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell handle in both hands.
  • Slowly push your pelvis back as you breathe in, bending your knees and tilting your torso forward. At the bottom point, touch the floor with the kettlebell.
  • As you breathe out through your back, straighten your torso and fully straighten up.

How much to do: 8-16 reps.

Kettlebell deadlift
Kettlebell deadlift

6. Bent over kettlebell row

  • Lunge forward and bend your supporting leg. With the same hand, rest on the front thigh, and in the second, hold the weight, hanging it in a straight hand.
  • Tilt your torso forward, about 45 degrees.
  • With an exhalation, stretch the weight to the belt, feeling the work of the back muscles. In this case, the shoulder is slightly retracted. Don't round your back.
  • As you inhale, slowly extend your arm.
  • Repeat the same on the other side.

How much to do: 6-8 reps.

Bent over kettlebell row
Bent over kettlebell row

7. Kettlebell two-handed swing

  • Grasp the kettlebell handles with both hands and tear it off the floor, holding it with straight arms in front of you. Place your feet slightly wider than your pelvis.
  • Bend your knees and swing the kettlebell back. While breathing out with the help of the pelvis, push your hands with the kettlebell up, bringing it to a horizontal position, no higher than the shoulder joints.
  • While breathing in, take the kettlebell at the bottom point by sitting down and pushing the kettlebell up due to a powerful impulse.

How much to do: 8-16 reps.

Kettlebell two-handed swing
Kettlebell two-handed swing

8. Shoulder kettlebell lift

  • Place your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, take the weight, swing back, and push it up with inertia.
  • Bend your elbow in the middle of the amplitude, pulling the weight to your shoulder. Thus, the weight should be at the top point on the back of the forearm.
  • Extend your arm, lower it down again, swing between your legs, and repeat the movement.

How much to do: 10-12 reps.

Shoulder kettlebell lift
Shoulder kettlebell lift

Kettlebell arm workouts

9. Biceps kettlebell reverse grip curl

  • Standing, knees slightly bent, keep your palms on the sides of the kettlebell handle.
  • Hands start moving from below the hips. You can also turn the kettlebell upside down, holding the handles on the sides from below. This technique will turn on the brachialis.
  • Breathe out: without leaning back, keeping the elbows motionless, we bend the arms, bringing the weight to the chest. In addition to the biceps, feel the work of the upper chest.
  • Breathe in: Without dropping, slowly lower the kettlebell, keeping your elbows bent to prevent injury to your ligaments.

How much to do: it’s enough to do 5-6 reps.

Biceps kettlebell reverse grip curl
Biceps kettlebell reverse grip curl

10. Kettlebell farmer's walk

  • Pick up 2 kettlebells.
  • Keep your back straight and your arms strong.
  • Take quick and small steps forward.
  • Turn back and walk the same distance back.

How much to do: 8-12 times.

Kettlebell farmer's walk
Kettlebell farmer's walk

11. Pistol curl

  • Standing, take the kettlebells with both hands. Raise the kettlebell so that the arms are perpendicular to the floor. 
  • Hold your arms outstretched for a couple of seconds in front of you. 
  • Lower the weights down and repeat the movement.

How much to do: 8-10 reps.

Pistol curl
Pistol curl

12. Overhead kettlebell extension (French press)

  • Sitting, take the weight with both hands and bring it above the head. 
  • The downward movement begins on inhalation. Done slowly and with concentration. 
  • Bend the elbows until you form a right angle, after which you can straighten them on the exhale.

How much to do: 10-12 reps.

Overhead kettlebell extension (French press)
Overhead kettlebell extension (French press)

Full-body kettlebell workouts

13. Figure-8s

  • This exercise is similar to dribbling between the legs in basketball. 
  • Take the weight in your left hand and stand in the starting position - feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, bend at the waist. 
  • The weight must be held by the left leg, intercepted with the right hand and returned to the position between the legs. 
  • Then do the same on the other side. Such a continuous movement will look like figure 8-s.

How much to do: 10-15 times.

Figure-8s
Figure-8s

14. One-arm kettlebell jerks

  • Grab the kettlebell with one hand and hold it between your legs. 
  • Bend at the waist, and keep your back straight. 
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly.
  • Push the kettlebell over your head and straighten your whole body.
  • Repeat the same with a change of hand.

Remember that the movement should be natural and smooth when performing this exercise.

How much to do: 6-12 times.

One-arm kettlebell jerks
One-arm kettlebell jerks

15. Kettlebell Romanian deadlift

  • Stand up straight and lift the kettlebell off the floor while keeping your back straight.
  • Then straighten your back and stand in the starting position of the Romanian deadlift.
  • Don’t move the pelvis forward at the top point of the lift. 
  • Keeping the shoulder blades all the time brought together, take the pelvis and buttocks back, bending over.
  • Then repeat the exercise.

How much to do: 8-16 times.

Kettlebell Romanian deadlift
Kettlebell Romanian deadlift

16. High pull with kettlebell

  • Take the kettlebell with both hands, lower it between your legs and do a squat. 
  • When straightening the body, raise it to the level of the chest. The shoulders should also rise. 
  • Performing this exercise, swing your legs and your arms.

How much to do: 10-15 times.

High pull with kettlebell
High pull with kettlebell

Note: before you start training, be sure to do a preliminary whole-body warm! Never underestimate the importance of light stretches and exercises before weight workouts.

General recommendations

The most essential thing to remember is safety. You can use magnesia powder in case of excessive sweating of the palms to avoid accidentally dropping the projectile. 

Another important aspect is proper nutrition. Athletes need to consume large amounts of protein to increase muscle mass rapidly. Complex carbs (cereals) and natural vitamins contained in vegetables and fruits are no less important.

If you play sports, you should drink more water than a sedentary person. The Institute of Medicine defined the norm as 2.7 liters of liquid for a middle woman and 3.7 liters per day for an average man.

The bottom line

Kettlebells are simple but very effective sports equipment for increasing endurance and strengthening the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. 

Kettlebells ideally develop muscles, making the body stronger, more resilient, and more prominent. With kettlebells, you can perform various exercises to pump any muscle.

Kettlebell training is an excellent addition to your workouts, whether you're trying to lose weight or build muscle.

Sources:

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Sources:

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