One major advantage that kettlebells have over dumbbells is that you don’t need a wide range of weight increments to create a workout with them. One 16 kilo weight if you’re a man, or 8 kilo if you’re a woman, will get it done for most people. The following workout requires just one kettlebell and works the entire body. Note that, unlike what you see in most kettlebell workouts, we’re not having you do the Turkish getup and full swing—even though we’re well aware that they’re two of the most popular kettlebell exercises. Rather, we’ve modified these exercises to more user-friendly—but still supremely challenging—versions that will allow someone of any experience level to train safely and with optimal form.
Use this routine to build strength and burn fat now, and develop the requisite stability and mobility to graduate to more advanced exercises at a later date.
Perform the exercises as a circuit, completing one set of each in sequence without rest in between. When you’ve completed the entire circuit, rest 1–2 minutes, and then repeat for 3 total rounds.
Duration 20-25 minutes
Frequency 1-2x per week
Exercise strength training
Rest 1-2 minutes
Hold the kettlebell by its horns and drive your shoulder blades together and downward so your chest is open (think “proud chest”). Tuck your elbows in so your forearms are vertical.
Stand with feet a bit wider than hip-width apart with feet turned out slightly. Take a deep breath into your belly and twist your feet into the ground (imagine screwing them down without actually moving them) and squat, keeping your torso upright. Go as low as you can without your tailbone tucking under your butt.
2. Kettlebell One-Arm Row
Reps: 8 (each side)
Place the kettlebell on the floor and take a staggered stance with your right foot in front. Your foot should be planted just outside the weight. Dig the ball of your left foot into the floor behind you and bend your hips so your torso is angled about 45 degrees to the floor. Rest your right elbow on your right thigh for support and reach for the kettlebell with your left hand. Keeping your shoulders square, complete all your reps on one side and then repeat on the other side.
3. Kettlebell One-Arm Press
Reps: 5 (each side)
Stand tall holding the kettlebell in one hand at shoulder level. Root your feet into the floor as if you were preparing for someone to push you. Take a deep breath into your belly and brace your abs and glutes. Pull your ribs down and think “proud chest.”
Press the weight overhead with a vertical forearm. Note that your chin should be pulled back so that weight has no trouble clearing it. To lower the kettlebell, pull it back down into position—as if you were performing a pullup. Complete all your reps on one side and then repeat on the other side.
TIP: “Don’t get fixated on achieving a full overhead lockout right away,” says John Wolf, Onnit’s Chief Fitness Officer. “Just going to where your elbow is bent 90 degrees and holding it isometrically is a ton of work for most people.” If you need to arch your back, causing your ribs to flare in order to lock out your arm overhead, you’re not training the shoulder effectively. In that case, you may need to regress the movement to a floor press—lie down on the floor with your triceps against it and press upward from there (think of it as a bench press with a shortened range of motion).
4. Kettlebell Chest-Loaded Swing
Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell by its horns, pulling the bottom of the bell into your lower sternum. Draw your shoulder blades together and down (“proud chest”) and cast your eyes on a spot on the floor approximately 15 feet in front of you.
Take a deep breath and root your feet. Then bend your hips back, imagining being able to touch your butt to the wall behind you. Keep a long spine with your tailbone tilted slightly up. When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, extend your hips and squeeze your glutes, tucking your tailbone under as you lock out.
5. Kettlebell Shoulder Halo
Reps: 8 (each direction)
Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell by its horns upside down—the bell should face up. Screw your feet into the floor and draw your ribs down. Think “proud chest.”
Begin moving the kettlebell around your head, being careful to maintain your posture and not bend your torso in any direction. Move slowly to avoid whacking yourself in the head. Make full circles and alternate directions on each rep.
6. Kettlebell Hip Halo
Reps: 8 (each direction)
Set up as you did for the shoulder halo but hold the kettlebell by the handle at arm’s length and make circles around your hips. Hand the kettlebell off from one hand to the other. Perform eight reps in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.
7. Kettlebell Around the Leg Pass
Reps: 5 (each direction)
Perform halos as you did around the hips but with your hips bent back so you move the weight around one knee at a time. Keep a proud chest—ribs down with a long spine. Perform five reps in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction. Switch legs and repeat.
8. Kettlebell Chest-Loaded Swing
Repeat the swings as described above.
9. Kettlebell Single-Arm Squat to Press
Reps: 8 (each side)
Hold the kettlebell with one hand at shoulder level. Tuck your elbow in so your forearm is vertical. Perform a squat as described above, and then come up and press overhead.
10. Kettlebell Chest-Loaded Swing
Repeat the swing a final time.